The morning of the Atlantic City Half Marathon was beautiful. Right outside our window, I could hear the quiet bustling of the volunteers getting everything ready for the day. The medals were being hung up, the food was being organized, and sleepy runners emerged from their rooms. I stayed up in my room until 15 minutes before the race, because it would take me about 30 seconds to get down there to run.
I prepped myself, wore my compression socks, and matching outfit. I was a bundle of nerves but was so glad I could have a piece of Jeff with me. “Stay positive!” and the timer on my bra strap. That beeper was going to be a mental reminder to stay in the human brain, keep with it, and focus on what I learned the day before.
The race was bigger than the 5k and 10k. Few people had the bibs stating that they were doing the challenge. I thought for a moment, what have I got myself into? Then I remembered all I learned, and how Jeff even run walk runs at a :15 run :15 walk pace. I thought, if all else fails, I’ll slowly drop down my run times and offset them with more walk breaks. I planned to run a 1:30 and :30 walk as that’s how I trained and didn’t want to try anything new on race day.
The sun was up, it was warm, and people were hopping over the barriers to get into the corral to race. I took my time, being a back of the packer, I didn’t need to rush up front to take off. I hugged and high-fived the only two other people I met at the workshop the day before that planned to race and wished them well. One was doing the half, the other the full marathon. I loved Mark’s comments when I asked what his goal was and he said, “To finish with a smile on my face.” He was running the full marathon.
We took off, and I kept to my run walk run ratio. It was hard to not just go with the flow, but it was also fun to leapfrog people for miles at a time. Passing them, then walking, then passing them again. I noticed there were a lot of people around me doing a run/walk/run of sorts, whether I heard or saw their Galloway timers, or they just needed to walk based on their own level of fitness in a less organized manner.
I picked out a few people to keep my eyes on and see where I finished in relation to them. Then I looked up the road a little as we ascended an entry ramp to the highway and I saw Jeff Galloway and his wife, Barbara, running just up ahead.
We were on a similar pace and I wanted to catch up to him to snap a picture, but to my surprise even though I was running 1:30 r :30 w, and he always does :15 r :15 w, he was pulling away from me!
So, I just watched him run/walk/run. I had never tried or seen a 15/15 ratio before and thought it seemed a bit crazy to do. Until I saw it in action by the man himself! A few people who knew him realized he was running, they chatted and wished each other well. I was in awe, it was so fun to watch him run/walk/run like that. It was clearly a great strategy, as the race went on he kept getting further and further away!
Side note: A funny thing happened on my run. I only recently got an iPhone, so I normally ran with my iPod. My dentist called me twice and the Library to tell me a book was on hold. I pushed the Library to voicemail and the dentist wasn’t having it. They called back twice until I finally answered and said, “Can’t talk, I’m running a race!” Running with a phone is proving to be odd. I think I have to figure out the do not disturb next time!
I held to my 1:30 r :30 w for most of the race, feeling a bit run down, but didn’t change my ratio until about mile 10. At the 10th mile, I dropped for a short time to the 1:00 r :30 w, but then went all the way to the :30 r :30 w. Thank goodness I had his timer, this way I didn’t have to reset my watch constantly!
Once at the 30/30 ratio, I felt ah-mazing. Yes, ah-mazing running in the 11th, 12th, and 13th miles! Each run portion was so easy and comfortable.
The race had port-a-potties all throughout the course. I waited in line at the first area of some but realized I should’ve just waited to come upon others that were empty. I stopped about 3 times to use the potty throughout the race and probably could’ve skipped that but my nerves got the best of me. There were many water stops, and the course was through AC from the boardwalk, out to Borgata, and all the way back and down the boardwalk again.
Along the course, we were stopping traffic left and right. It was kind of fun to have police directing traffic jams that were just at a standstill until us runners went by. The only downfall of the course was in the 2nd mile. We went through a tunnel on a highway and my GPS was lost. I no longer knew my pace or distance, so I had to reset my watch at mile 3 to get a gauge on my pacing at least.
Thankfully, a good portion of the course, up until mile 8, was in shaded areas all around Atlantic City. We went through neighborhoods and around the back areas of casinos. I didn’t even know half of what existed around town!
The boardwalk portion of the run was difficult. Not only was it hot at that point with full sun shining down, but there was no clear running path for racers on the boardwalk. A lot of people were all along the boardwalk walking around, cutting right in front of you. At certain points, as we had to run past the finish and out again, I almost couldn’t get through. I would like to see them correct that section at the very least going forward! Spectators filled the raceway watching for finishers!
I never caught up to Jeff after I saw him around mile 7 at a turnaround. I did feel like he was with me though, in my heart and on my mind. I kept his words, his ideas, and his teachings with me the whole race. I wish I could’ve given him one more hug at the end to say thank you!
Throughout the end of the race, the best thing happened. I started passing people. Those people I marked at the start to keep an eye on, I picked them off one by one. I passed about 20-30 racers in the last two miles of the race (and we were pretty spread out). All 5-10 of those I picked out, I passed. I lost no steam, my pace stayed steady and I finished strong.
As I finished, another runner came up behind me as we were closing in and started to race me. So, we both sprinted to the finish and I was amazed I had anything left. I beat him, just for the record. Then we high-fived and said, “Now, that was fun!”
I walked away from this weekend, running the longest distance I’ve ever run in a weekend, 16.2 miles, pushing myself and being undertrained with… no injuries! If I had not used Galloway’s method, I am confident I would’ve dropped out or ended up badly injured. The fact that when we got home Sunday afternoon and I was able to go food shopping with Monkey instead of lying around for days on end was huge for me.
I remember a time when I would run 5 miles and lay on the couch the rest of the day, before kids. I remember a time when I did my first half marathon and didn’t run for weeks after because my knees were so badly in pain and discomfort.
Now, here I am, 10 years later, 30lbs heavier (I’m working on it) and went into these races undertrained and was able to finish with a decent time of 2:53 (my goal was under 3 hours for where I am this stage of life) and a pretty good pace 13:10 for the half… and absolutely no injuries. Just some muscle soreness that within two days cleared up.
In future races, I already know how I will improve my times with this method, too. I definitely think a PR is in the cards (my first half was a 2:27).
If my story tells you anything, you should give Galloway’s method a try. If you’re elitist about running and the purity of non-stop, then it’s probably not for you. But if you want to run for the rest of your life and enjoy it I say, give it a shot. What’s the worst that happens? You actually like it and then want to tell other people about it?
I don’t plan to return to any other method of running. Instead, I have bigger plans to accomplish and all I’ll say to you is…
Galloway made me do it!