Best race experience? Maybe somewhat predictable, but the Philadelphia Marathon was definitely the highlight of the year. It was the perfect running weekend and I couldn't have asked for anything else for my first marathon. Honestly, I still cannot believe I actually RAN A MARATHON!
Best run? It's almost too hard to pick just one for this. If we're going by technicalities, then I'd have to say the B.A.A. Half Marathon. It might also have been the most difficult race I did this year. I really pushed myself in this one and was able to PR by 3 minutes.
Worst run? I've decided that I am changing this the most memorable run. One of my longest training runs ever, and one I won't soon forget. Maura, Drew and I spent 3 and 1/2 hours trudging through the pouring, cold rain all over the greater Boston area. Never in my right mind could I have imagine myself doing that unless I were being chased by a pack of angry wolves. And yet, I did it! And proceeded to spend the rest of the day inside on the couch.
Best new piece of gear? It's a tie. Either my Garmin (which I need to stop forgetting every time I head out for a run) or the Saucony Kinvara discovery I made back in May. During this race, when I had not yet discovered the wonderfulness of Kinvara, I had pretty intense knee pain for the last couple of miles. Enter: Kinvaras! Exit: Knee pain! What more can you ask for in a piece of gear?
Best piece of running advice you received? "Start any race at a pace that feels almost uncomfortably slow." I know everyone has different pacing strategies and what works for some doesn't work for others, but I am happy to say that this year I figured out what type of pacing (at least mentally) works best for me. I try to run the first couple of miles of any race at a very, very easy pace. After that I gradually increase until I am running a little faster than comfortable (ideally at the half way point). After this I run based on my breathing. If I'm breathing way too heavily, and still have more than 3 miles left, then I back off a bit. If I can hear my breathing but it's not very labored then I know I'm running a good pace. I usually try and finish the race faster than I ran at any point during the race. During this race, that was particularly difficult (since the last 4 miles were crowded hills through Franklin Park, and the rest of the race had been either downhill, mostly flat and not so crowded). However, in most races this strategy has worked really well for me. It has helped me to negative split on more than one occasion! I guess I'm adding on a little of my own advice to this question.
Most inspirational runner? Since entering the blogosphere last April I've come across a lot of running bloggers that inspire me at different times in my runs/training/life. A few of note are Dorothy, Laura and Kristin.
If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? This year running became a much larger part of my everyday life than it has ever been in the past. As a result, I have gotten faster, fitter and more confident in many aspects of my life. I am so grateful for all the support, friendships and experiences that have come along with such a great year of running. Here a few favorite photos from a truly unforgettable year of running!