Flats on, fast on.

After a great year of racing in 2016 that culminated with one of those mana-from-heaven type races at Monumental, I was left thinking, “What next?”

I knew — and coach knew — that I needed some downtime mentally and physically before making any decisions. It had been a big year of training with a lot of successes, but I knew I couldn’t expect this year to look the same (although that would be cool). There’s a great bit in Once A Runner

“People conceptualize conditioning in different ways,” he said. “Some think it’s a ladder straight up. Others see plateaus, blockages, ceilings. I see it as a geometric spiraling upward, with each spin of the circle taking you a different distance upward. Some spins may even take you downward, just gathering momentum for the next upswing. Sometimes you will work your fanny off and see very little gain; other times you will amaze yourself and not really know why.”
― John L. Parker Jr.Once a Runner

So instead of focusing on PRs like I did in 2016, Coach and I discussed 2017 being about improving my racing chops. After a couple of top-5 half marathon finishes and a top-10 at Monumental, getting up in the mix and competing could pull me to fast times.

Coach also wanted me to find races that I was excited about. After signing up for the American Development Program at the Chicago Marathon, a spring full wasn’t doing much for me. And, coach and I agreed a season away from the marathon would be good mentally and physically, and this is a great season to do it.

So this spring, my A race is a half marathon. I’m working on not saying I’m “just” running a half, because racing a half is hard work. It’s going to be damn uncomfortable for something like 85 minutes (hopefully less!). I just want to remind myself, and everyone else, that not running a marathon doesn’t make you less of a runner. It might mean you’re a smarter runner, not getting locked into the 2-a-year grind. And, if you’re approaching the half distance as a competitive athlete looking to run your best, your training won’t be that much different than a full, anyway. Heck, my weekly mileage is already higher this January than it was leading up to my spring marathon last year.

With that settled, we had to decide where. I’m proud and excited to announce I’ll be representing my hometown in the elite field of the Kentucky Derby Festival mini Marathon! I’ll probably run the Louisville Triple Crown of Running along the way.

This course is blazing fast, super flat and highly competitive. Last year 115 people ran under 90 minutes; the top 10 women were under 1:27:30 — and the top 5 1:18:23 and under.

There’s prize money if I can fight my way into the top 5 (haha, it’s going to need to be a lot slower than 78 for that to happen!) and a cool Louisville Stoneware julep mug.

Before my first-ever half marathon.

It also represents a homecoming of sorts. This was my first half-marathon, 10 years ago this year. I had just started running the summer before and largely ran the race with friends for fun, finishing in 1:46:36. I was proud of that race, proud of myself. I still am. (Also I had to go straight from the race to be a bridesmaid, which a crazy idea.)

To be invited to the elite field a decade later is special. It’s recognition of the work I’ve put in, and my opportunity to give a little love back to the city where I run most of my miles — but none of my A races since that first mini, unless you count my marathon DNF here in 2015 (I’d rather forget it). It’s a chance to run through familiar streets, see familiar faces, and hopefully raise some hell. To scald dogs. To fly. To believe. To dream.

Here’s to Louisville, the Possibility City, and to another season of working hard and dreaming big.