Last year, David and I signed up for the Houston Marathon thinking we might do another full marathon in hopes of PR. However, once we’d finished the half ironman, we were pretty tired of training and decided timing wasn’t right for a full marathon. For $15 extra, I downgraded to the half. I’ve been pretty happy with my decision, and continued running with Houston Fit and my girlfriends, Amanda and Caitlin over the winter.
David thought he had downgraded to the half as well, but somehow he didn’t do it correctly online and ended up still being in the full. We found out at packet pick up and he said “well, I might just run the full if I feel good.” Is he crazy?! Yes. Luckily the weather on race day was uncooperative enough to convince him to decide against a full and not hurt himself.
I’ve done the full before and I really enjoy this race; it’s very well-organized and supported (I’m not just saying that because Chevron is a sponsor), and it’s a flat, fast course that starts only 5 minutes from my house. And if you’re into expos, their expo is Texas-sized.
I’d done a lot of training runs over November and December, but had a pretty long “taper” period over the Christmas holidays, so I came into this race not expecting much. Usually I’m immediately up and excited for races, but I rolled out of bed race morning thinking “why are we getting up so early today? Oh yeah, I have to race…” I soon snapped out of it and got my race bib on, but wasn’t nervous since I was considering this a “for fun” race. I do like that the personalized bibs have your name on it; it’s great to hear the crowds say “Go Brittany!”
We got to the convention center around 6:10 AM. I’d checked the weather and it was 5-10% chance of rain and in the 50’s, but I underestimated the wind chill! I was wearing just a running tee, but wish I’d brought gloves and ear warmers. Since it was so cold that morning, the convention center was packed with people trying to stay warm!
We bag-dropped, hit the port-a-cans (of which there were plenty – awesome!) and found our friends. Pre-race:
We went made our way outside, and were hit by huge globs of rain and cold wind – it was freakin’ cold! I guess that 5% chance of rain happened after all. Why am I plagued with cold, rainy half marathons?? We had to wait in our corral and got rained on for about 15 minutes before the start, which was the worst part of the race. We just stood and shivered; I was just happy to be wearing a old, gray throw-away shirt (all thrown-away clothing on the course is donated to charity).
Amanda, Caitlin and I planned to run together; Caitlin had hopes of a sub-2:00 hour PR and Amanda and I were just running without any specific goals. We were far up in our corral, but I never saw any pacers which would have been nice. Our first few miles were at a 9:30-ish pace, just trying to get around everyone and forget about the cold rain hitting you.
By mile 4.0, I shed my top and the 50-deg weather was actually feeling like great running weather. Around mile 5.0, Amanda stopped for the port-a-potties and planned to catch up with us, then around mile 7.0, I did the same. I‘ve never stopped for the restroom during a race, but I figured it was worth it this time. Only problem was that my hands were so cold I could hardly get my shorts back up!! It took about an extra minute, then it was time to catch Caitlin (and hope that Amanda would catch up too). For the next few miles I ran much faster than usual that early in the race and was in the lower 8:00’s – I need to chase people more often!
By the time I caught Caitlin, we only had 4 miles to go. It was still nice and cold and they flew by pretty quickly. For being as dreary and rainy as it was, the crowd support was great! My favorite quote from a spectator was “those miles aren’t gonna run themselves!” It was also inspirational to run under a huge American Flag on Allen Parkway and the wind was at our backs. I was also seeing people I knew from swimming, biking, and work which was pretty cool; yeah for hometown races!
At mile 12 I realized, whoa, I could PR, so I pushed up the pace and finished with a 1:54:43 (official time & new PR), with a 8:45 min/mi average. That’s over 2 minutes off my previous PR of 1:56:51!
I really surprised myself with this PR since I’ve had little training, I took it easy on the first few miles, and I stopped for a port-a-potty break. The cold weather helped, but it’s kind of ridiculous my splits range from 7:40 to 9:40!
You know what this means right? I’m not even close to what my real PR could be! I have more work to do…
David did well with a 1:41 total time, but thought he was too conservative at the start. Really he was very close to his 1:39:53 PR. Unfortunately he won’t get official results for this race since he ran the half with a full bib.
Though not particularly epic, this is a great race that’s well-thought out and is a fast course if you want to PR.
- Great organization – efficient packet pick-up (nice bibs, instructions, gear drop bags, directions), frequent course markers & aid stations, good post-race layout and signage
- Convention center is easy to get to
- LOTS of port-a-potties at start and during race
- Nice, early 7 AM start to get things over quickly and take advantage of cooler weather
- Flat course – great for PR’s!
- The half course is not very exciting; the full course is much better
- Very unpredictable weather in January in Houston
- Did not see an pacers / pace groups
- Don’t like the cap-sleeve women’s finisher tech tees
- Lottery system to get in (you can qualify based on half/full marathon times)
After a quick chocolate milk, banana and chat with friends, we braved the cold back to the car and zipped home for an awesome scalding hot shower!! We napped a bit then David picked up Pho so we could veg out the remainder of the day. Downton Abbey anyone? I’m addicted.