The Race in Which I Ran a 20 Minute PR

My apologies.

I taunted you with a 20 minute PR on Saturday and then disappeared! I guess that’s what happens when something big happens in your personal life, but your professional life doesn’t care. ;)

Anyway, I’m still somewhat in shock. I keep waiting for an email saying,

Hey—you cut the course! You really only ran 9 miles . . .


Whoops! Our timers were waaaaaay off!



It’s nearly 96 hours later, and my official time still stands


Did I actually do that???


How on earth did that happen???

But somehow it did.

I have to admit, I’m somewhat superstitious when it comes to racing. Silly things, really, but they seem entirely relevant to me. For instance, if I have a good hair day the day before, I will have a good race. And it’s ok for me to have a goal in mind, but I don’t like to say it out loud. Also, eating pasta as a pre-race meal will inevitably lead to stomach issues (this one may have some merit). Good hair!

Friday, I felt pretty relaxed, but a tiny bit nervous. Danielle and I did some shopping, perused the expo (which was a little bit of a letdown), picked up our shirts (meh), and lounged around in the afternoon.

Around 5, I started to get a little tense. I wanted to run to Dick’s to grab a shirt for the race (I hadn’t packed one because I wasn’t sure what the weather would be). We waited for Bryce to get home, then headed over to the mall so I could find what I wanted. It didn’t take me much time to pick out an Under Armour Cold Gear long sleeve. Danielle and Bryce opted to get a drink while I shopped, so I joined them after, sipping on water and hoping we’d have dinner soon.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I don’t like to eat late the night before a race. I kind of took it for granted that Danielle got that, but apparently she’s not quite as high strung as I am. I let her know that I was starting to freak out, and we went to get dinner, but we ended up not eating until almost 9, which totally and completely stressed me out. Even not before a race, 9 PM is pretty late for dinner. I scarfed down my pizza, pinned my bib on my new shirt, and headed to bed pretty soon after, not too cranky, but still a bit tense. Honestly, I’m surprised I was as calm as I was at that point.

Luckily, I slept well and felt fresh when I woke up at 6. I quickly dressed and put on a little makeup because it’s what Michelle does, and I wanted to be awesome like her. :) I ate a few Clif Shot Bloks to get something in my system, but I really can’t stomach a meal before I run, so I stuck to what I know works. Nothing new on race day, ya know? (Yeah, except for my new shirt and shoes. No biggie, right?)

We were supposed to leave around 6:15, but didn’t actually get on the road until closer to 6:40. Again, communication breakdown. This girl likes to get to the start a little early, jog a bit, have a chance to take it all in. Well that was not happening on Saturday morning. The race started at 7:30. At 7:10 we were still in traffic on the exit ramp. I was pretty much freaking out at this point. Luckily, we got off soon after that, and Danielle and I hopped out to walk/jog to the start. People were already lined up, so I deposited her in her corral and headed to mine.

At that point, I was over being late. The energy and excitement of the crowd transformed my mood in a second. Music was blasting, people were everywhere, and the general buzz of the race swirled all around me. Suddenly, I wasn’t nervous or anxious, just excited. I chatted with the gal next to me about her Garmin and why I must must must get one (yes, I am finally sold!), and with another girl about the course—she was worried it was hilly. I assured her that it is most definitely not.

And just like that, we were off.

I jockeyed around a few people for a position, but the staggered start really seemed to work, and I didn’t have to slow down too much. In fact, it seemed like I was passing a lot of people . . . but I didn’t feel overly fast, so I just went with the pace that felt comfortable.

As I approached the one mile marker, I realized that I was only at the end of the second song on my playlist. How could that be?? I checked my time a few yards after, 7:36. Whaaaa? I ran a 7:36 mile??? I had a momentary freak out that I had gone out too fast. But, I felt great, so why not go with it?

The next 5 miles flew by. I didn’t check my time or worry about my pace. Hills were a fun challenge. Reading people’s signs was entertainment. I sang along to my playlist like a crazy lunatic. I passed a girl with a cool shirt and chatted with her about how cute it was. Yeah. SO not my racing style—or maybe it is and I’ve just been doing it wrong all along? (Leaning towards that.) At any rate, as I approached the clock timer at the 10K mark, it was only around 45 minutes. Again—whaaaa? I ran a 45:11 10K??? That couldn’t possibly be right. Couldn’t possibly. Could it?

I zoomed through the next 2 miles to the 8 mile mark where they had Accel Gel, water, and Powerade. I grabbed a chocolate gel and managed to get most of it down with some water, barely slowing my pace.

For the next few miles, I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out. I kept waiting to get tired. I kept waiting for knee pain or muscle fatigue or a side cramp. I kept waiting for an asthma attack or a stomach emergency or a fall on my face. But none of that ever happened. I just kept feeling great.

I checked my time again at mile 10. 1:12:55. And again, I couldn’t believe it.

I knew at that point that I was running really fast. And still, I didn’t believe it. I thought, well, if I run 10 minute miles for the last 3 miles, I’ll still PR. By a lot. Or I might just keep up this pace and finish under 1:40:00. Is that possible????

Despite the voice in my head that was entirely unconvinced that I was actually doing this, I simply kept going.

I remembered from last year that there was no 12 mile marker, just 11 and 13, but I knew the course well enough that I knew when I was getting close to the finish. And then a little pain behind my knee started to creep in. Slow and sharp—and of course, never where I’ve felt it before.

And you know what? I told that pain to get the EFF out! My specific thoughts were these:


You are doing this!

Banish self-doubt.

Banish pain.

Banish that voice in your head that says this isn’t real.

You are doing this!!!

I rounded the corner to the final stretch ready to crush it. The finish was ahead of me at the bottom of the hill. I was running so fast I felt like I was literally going to fall down. I haven’t had that feeling since high school. Like, I could run even faster, but if I did I would be eating pavement. We’ve all seen this movie before. :) But I knew I wasn’t going to fall. I was going to finish.

At the 13 mile mark, I could see the clock.

Was that 1:34 in the distance? REALLY???

Within steps of the finish, a huge grin spread across my face, and I threw an arm up.



And still—I couldn’t quite believe it.

I grabbed my medal, a bottle of water, a blanket.

Got my picture taken.

Chatted with the other runners.

Double-checked the clock.

Double-checked my Nike+ for my time.


All signs still pointed to the impossible:

I had just run a personal best.

A 20 minute personal best.

And I felt fantastic the whole time.

I was in total shock.

Bryce found me pretty quickly after that. It was so nice to see a friendly face and have him there to celebrate with me! I snuggled up in my blanket, and we walked up the hill to stand in the sun and wait for Danielle to finish.

I was still in shock at that point. We goofed around, cheering for the finishers and occasionally yelling ridiculous, inappropriate and sometimes non-running related things like, “Get in the hole!” or “You look fresh!”

We also people watched. This little girl was really upset. I would be, too. Identity crisis, what?!?

And it was really nice of Santa to come out for the races, too!

I also saw a girl I worked with at a restaurant in Michigan during college. She was finishing the race and was totally surprised to see me. It was really fun!

When Danielle finished, we stocked up on pizza, bagels, and other free stuff and headed for the car.

My phone was buzzing with texts, tweets, and voicemails from family and friends who had tracked me online. It meant SO much to have so much support! And I know I’ve said this a gazillion times already, but I still couldn’t believe it.

Did I actually do that?

Run 13.1 miles at 7:13 pace?

Surely, there must be some mistake.

And yet, I still haven’t gotten an email telling me otherwise.

I think, friends, that my time is legit. Oh, and did I mention that I qualified for the New York City Marathon in 2012? Surreal.

1 hour 34 minutes 38 seconds

13.1 miles

7 minutes 13 seconds per mile

9 weeks of training

301 miles

52 miles of speedwork

10 yoga workouts

8 long runs

1 miserable 13 miler

27 “easy” days

13 hatedeverysecondofthem strength workouts

1 fall on my face



believing in myself . . .


53 thoughts on “The Race in Which I Ran a 20 Minute PR

    • Thank you, doll!!! I love you, too!!! I have no idea how this happened. I’ll think about it and do a follow up, “How To Run a 20 Minute PR.” :)

      I think I have to do the NYC marathon. How can I not???

  1. Jill says:

    Congratulations – whoot whoot!!! I love how in the first two brightroom pics your feet are not even touching the ground!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • I am! I’m actually really emotional about it. Just thinking about the fact that I did this makes me get all teary–weird!

      Seriously, if I can do this, ANYONE can! I never thought I’d run this fast in my entire life!

  2. Yay! I’m so proud of you! You did AMAZING!
    And random thought, but I can TOTALLY see the difference in your ridiculously happy smile (race photos) compared to when you are just smiling for a picture. Totally different mood there!

  3. Kira says:

    I’ve been waiting for this post!! Loved hearing about your race! Makes me excited to start running again after baby is here. :) You rock!

  4. Wow! This was so fun to read! I loved it. And, I love your race photos — you look genuinely happy (not near death like I tend to look). Congratulations! (And, I just found your blog, and I love it!)

  5. Congrats on an absolutely fantastic race! I can’t believe that you PR’d by so many minutes…it’s amazing! This weekend I PR’d on my little 5k race by 2 minutes, which was exciting for me. I hope one day to run a half… we’ll see. Do you think that you’ll decide to do New York?

    • Hey, 2 minutes in a 5K is HUGE! Way to go!!! And if I can run a half, anyone can! Go for it!

      I think I probably will do NY. I have no desire to run a full, but I feel like I can’t pass it up. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!

  6. I loved reading this….it might be my favorite race recap ever. It gave me chills of happiness and inspiration. Love the arm-up finish….you look so joyful and proud (as you should be! So, so proud!!)….well, I just think you are amazing!

  7. AMAZING girl! That is awesome and a true story about how things can happen when you prepare, train and put your mind to something! You are officially a rockstar! SO happy for you! Enjoy every second….. SO COOL!

    xoxo from Trinidad

  8. Amy says:

    Hi Melissa — I’m a long time lurker, first time commenter. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile and I just wanted to say congratulations on such a huge, amazing PR. I hope you feel amazing about it!

  9. I’m sitting at my desk crying because the thing in life I most want for my daughters is for them to experience their strength and talent and to celebrate their accomplishments with wild abandon! Those photos are priceless. This was YOUR RACE, girl, and I am so proud and thrilled for you! NYC HERE WE COME!!!!!
    P.S. No wonder you’re part of the FABULOUS CLUB!

  10. Melissa I am SO PROUD of you. You NAILED it! You were fearless out there. You totally had that in you and you let yourself do it, which many people would have second guessed themselves and held back.

    You MUST run the NYC marathon now!! I’m going to look for a half and try to qualify soon because they’re going to make the qualifying time something insane next year, like 1:27, which is WAAY out of reach for me.

    • Thank you SO SO much, Katherine! I tried to comment on your post marathon post when I was traveling and I see now that it didn’t go through–grrr! Anyway, you were super tough on Saturday, too! It’s a lot harder to dig down and finish when you’re hurting than it is to just feel great. You kicked some serious booty out there!

      I think I have to do NYC. That would be amazing if you did it, too. Then maybe we could actually meet! :)

  11. Danielle says:

    You did AMAZING!!! So proud of you!! Now just think…if only you had dinner at 6 pm…you totally could’ve finished at 1:30!!!!! Next time…next time…. ;-)

  12. Renee Byard says:

    I think the panic of eating late and arriving late is what cruised your running gear into high gear. You need to make these practices new rituals! lolol ;)j/k! I am SOOOOOO darn proud of you AND my lovely daughter for completing the race two years in a row and your time was truly AMAZING, OUTSTANDING! Maybe Danielle and I should plan a girls trip to NYC to cheer you on~ Congrats on qualifying too! The pictures spoke many thousands of words….VOLUMES! YOU . ARE . AWESOME .!!!
    Love, Momma B

  13. Rachel says:

    Hey! I’ve spent the whole of today in bed after my final long run for my very first half marathon next weekend reading bloggers HM race recaps to try to ease my nerves a tad and to pick up some last minute tips and I stumbled upon your blog, I’m very glad I did! You killed that race and now I’m so excited for mine (although there’s no way I come even dream of coming close to your PR!) and I hope I too cross the finish line with such a huge grin on my face. Belated congratulations and I’ll now be following your blog to keep me inspired :)

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