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Staffer Race Recap: My PR at the Philadelphia Rock 'N Roll Half-Marathon!

Doesn't a start like this inspire you to run? (Photo courtesy of Competitor Group, Inc.)

Last weekend in Philadelphia, I ran my first Rock 'N Roll Half-Marathon (my fourth half-marathon race!). It was a perfect day weather-wise and I was psyched to be running on a new course. With my marathon training, long runs do get a little l-o-n-g when I'm running multiple loops around Central Park. (See our tips for marathon training blues if you're training is getting a little ho-hum.) Although Central Park is one of my favorite places to be, with it's many different fields and gardens making it feel like you're not in the middle of Manhattan, I'd prefer variety on my runs so I never know what hill or turn is coming next.

The race through Philadelphia started at the "Rocky" steps (aka the popular Art Museum) and looped through the city for a few miles, then wrapped around the Schuylkill River and back to Rocky's famous steps. Before heading into this race, I had the attitude that this wasn't a race for me but another long run I'd be checking off my calendar of marathon training. However, being a competitive person that I am, lining up in the corrals, I knew I had to put my game face on.

Before marathon training began, I had always considered myself a 10-minute miler, running along in a nice, steady pace, not exerting myself too much so I could log the most miles. But since training, I've realized I can get my butt in gear and take things up a notch after all. I used to think that I'd burn out if I ever tried to go much faster than the 9- or 10-minute pace. This race really proved me wrong! I started out with a quick pace of 8:30-minute miles and kept that up, give or take 10 or 15 seconds, throughout the first 10 miles. Around the 10-mile marker, things always seem to go wrong for me. My somewhat injured right hip started aching, then pain in my knees said hello. I took it easy for another mile then realized where I was: Way below two hours, and if I kept at it or picked up the pace, I would actually finish with a PR of under two hours! And I did it, finishing with 1:58, a lovely two whole minutes to spare and 12 minutes knocked off my previous race record.

That's me! Proud to be a runner. (Photo courtesy of Competitor Group, Inc.)

The bad hip and bum knees have been addressed this week—doctor appointments for the hip, sessions with trainers at Equinox to strengthen my butt, and a lovely massage. I'm working my nutrition—Gus, Chomps, Gatorade—into my long run (18 miles!) this weekend to practice what I'll do come race day.

Ten athletes qualified for the Olympic trials at this race, including New Zealand's Kim Smith, who was the female champ and finished with a course and American-soil race record of 1:07:11; which is the fastest womens half-marathon time run in the USA...ever!

I interviewed Kim a few days after the race to find out what she wears, listens to, and what goal is next on her list!

What did it feel like to have run the fastest women's half-marathon in America?

It's exciting to break records, so when I crossed the finish line and saw a pretty big chunk of time was taken off the record, it was just an overall great feeling. My goal was to win this race. I tried to run an even harder pace to wear  [second place finisher] Kidane down. I was getting pretty nervous as she was hard to shake, but I finally dropped her in the last mile which was a relief!

Kim hits that mark with a record-breaking race! (Photo courtesy of Competitor Group, Inc.)

Congratulations—I'll think of you to get through my long runs! Now that you've conquered this, what's next?

I'm running New York on November 6th and I hope to make top three.

What do you do during training or a race when you start to feel discouraged?

I try to relax because if I push too hard I end up struggling even more to accomplish what I'm trying to do.

What inspiring mantra keeps you going?

"Don't believe in good luck, believe in hard work."

What advice would you give to someone who is training for their first half-marathon or marathon (like me!)?

Don't overdo things..this is your first time! It's better to be undertrained than overtrained.

What are your pre-race rituals?

I have to have coffee before a race. I would feel very weird if I didn't!

So you're one of those coffee drinker runners. I love coffee, but just can't do it before I run! So what are your three favorite songs on your iPod right now?

I don't have any of those. I'll definitely download them for my long run this weekend! So what sneakers do you wear for training and for race day?

I'm a Reebok girl! I wear the Reebok Verona for my training and the ZigTech Racing Flat to race in.

Who is your fitness icon?

Paula Radcliffe. She is the world record holder for the marathon.

So where can we see you in the near future?

Hopefully in the marathon at the London 2012 Olympics!

Interested in running a Rock 'n' Roll Race? Check out running.competitor.com for race info!

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