I have been pursuing a big goal in the last nine years: the half-marathon of less than two hours. It is a remarkable standard for every woman. Only 30 percent of all runners achieve this, according to the results of 800,000 runners at Marastats.com.
But for a woman whose age begins with a "4"? Only 25 percent can hope to do the trick. I was 40 years old at the beginning of this year and, despite all the resistance, decided to make another attempt.
Six years ago I came so close that only 30 seconds were missing. In the years that followed, I crashed and burned myself on every attempt, to the point where I thought this could be a goal I would never achieve ̵
As I mean this year at the Wineglass Half Marathon I was skeptical Yes, I bought the magical Zoom Vaporfly shoes from Nike for 4% and hoped they could give me an advantage. (Read my thoughts on Nike shoes here.) Yes, I have the race because of the good reputation of the course – the Wineglass Marathon ranks 57th in the 487 races at FindMyMarathon.com, just behind Chicago Marathon and just ahead of Walt Disney World Marathon, both popular, fast tracks that I've run myself but myself was still doubtful due to years of failures.
I told myself just did it although I did not really believe I had it in me. I should at least give the stuff ance i thought h.
So, I came up with a strategy: Go to step 2 (9:09 per mile) for the first 5 miles, then check how I felt. I did not want to crash and burn, as I had done in so many races, gone too fast in the early miles, and felt totally burned in the last few miles.
Unlike previous races, I kept my inner monologue entirely positive, going through a series of self-proclaiming mantras: I'm fit. I am wild I am fast. I am strong. I am a warrior.
Mile 5 came and I still felt great. I checked in at Mile 6 again, then at Mile 7, and looked in disbelief at the gap of my watch. I kept my pace at 9:09, although I felt like I could fly. My doubt soon turned into an emotion that I had rarely felt in the race: excitement. At mile 8, when I saw my family cheering on the roadside, I knew this was the day. "I do it!" I called.
I changed my mantra. Why not today? Today is the day. Today is the day of greatness I said to myself. That happens today. Exactly here. Just now.
I repeated these sentences over and over as I slowly pushed the tempo to make a negative split, and the second half of the course went through faster than the first one. (P.S. Here's how you can do negative splits at the next race.)
I saw my family a few feet from the finish line and gave them a big thumbs-up. The forty-year-old did something I could only dream of. I was shocked with 1:58:49 when there was still gas in the tank.
When I crossed the finish line, I nearly collapsed in an ugly scream. I could not breathe Not because I was spent, but because I cried so much. A volunteer hurried to see if I was okay. "These are, happy tears," I managed to torture myself among sobs. The reality of achieving a decade-long goal was overwhelming. I had imagined this moment so many times, but I had begun to believe that it would never succeed.
Why? I am older and heavier and have a 1.5 year old toddler. This was just my second half marathon after the baby. I am busier. I drive fewer days a week and fewer kilometers. Conventional wisdom says I should be slower. (Training in the first year of my motherhood made me a better runner.)
But destroying the goal that I could only dream of made me rethink my notions of fitness as I move into my 40s Years in advance. Instead of swinging by hand at my age, I celebrate the fact that my years on Earth make me a stronger, wiser runner. I am more patient, realistic and focused. All this helped me to get faster. Experience beaten youth in my search for sub-2.
Most importantly, I realize that on many levels this is the only physical limit we are the ones we put on ourselves. No, I'm probably not 80, throwing half marathons in less than 2 hours. But now I know I can throw in a way I probably do not know yet. And, hey, my age bracket – a way to compare mileage regardless of age and gender – 1:53:57 is something that I, as a 1945 runner, could not even fathom  . Champions athletes like Dara Torres, who won three silver medals at the 2008 Olympics as a 41-year-old, continue to challenge the aging conventional wisdom. And a growing body of research shows that exercise can actually slow down the biological course of time.
Once I've learned something from my amazing accomplishment, I can never figure it out, especially because of a preconceived notion of my age that allows me to do I want to tell my younger self that fitness, like life, is what you do make of it. And I count every minute.