Diva’s Half Marathon 2016 Recap

This past weekend, I ran my 9th half marathon, the Diva’s Half Marathon in Peachtree City!! I had high expectations for this race, as it is a great mid-training cycle tune up race! I ran it last year and hit a big PR

Prior to the race, I talked to my coach about strategy.  I told her that while I thought that I was capable of running a fast time, that wasn’t my primary goal of this race.  I really wanted to practice pacing for the marathon, as I’m super terrified of going out too fast in Richmond (more on that in another post).  I told my coach that a PR would be nice, but what I really wanted was some lessons coming out of the race!  Well, I got them, as it definitely did not go as planned! Read on for how race day went!


(By the way, my coach wrote a whole post about different ways to use a race as a mid-training cycle tune-up, you can read it here.)


We stayed at the host hotel, which was great because they had a shuttle to/from the start and finish areas! We got up early, did all our pre race fueling and potty-ing, and then it was time to go down to the start!


Ready to run! Well, almost.

Ready to run! Well, almost.


We got there early so took some time to warmup and enjoy the pre-race atmosphere.  There was a LOT of pink!


So. Much. Pink.

So. Much. Pink.

Diva's Half Marathon and 5K Recap and Review

Ready to run, for real!


The forecast was calling for 65 degrees, but it was well over 70 at the start with high humidity.  I knew that this race could get tough really fast.  We lined up, and then we were off!


Miles 1-3: 10:15/10:12/10:10


Mile 1 felt a bit fast but not terrible, I was just trying to get into a rhythm like I usually am during the first mile.  When it clocked in at 10:15, I decided to see how the next mile felt holding that pace.  The strategy I went into this race with called for my first miles to be between 9:50-10:15, so I was at the slower end of that.  The next mile felt hard, much harder than it should, and at this point I changed my strategy and knew I wasn’t going to be gunning for the 2:05 at all.


Mile three felt hard still, but it was uphill.  I really felt like perhaps I should slow down, but I knew miles 4 and 5 were mostly downhill, so I talked myself out of it using this logic.  When I hit mile 4, I decided to pick it up just a little bit and see if I could get myself into a good rhythm.


Miles 4-6: 9:59/10:02/10:02


Miles 4 and 5 were downhill and even though I picked up the pace, I felt a little better, though my heart rate was still a lot higher than it probably should have been at this pace.  My legs were tired though and I was feeling off.  I took my first gel at the end of mile 4.


Mile 6 started getting a little hilly but I held the pace, and I started feeling like I was working too hard.  Somewhere at the end of this mile, or in mile 7, there was a water stop and I walked through it briefly to get some Gatorade.



Miles 7-9: 10:39/11:44/11:47


Also known as “the dark miles”. Things got hilly in mile 7 and I decided I needed to back off the pace…but I honestly had a hard time doing so.  My body was in the rhythm of the pace and I kept having to pull back.  My breathing was getting really labored and my heart rate was getting more elevated.


Mile 8 was more hills and pretty quickly into this I started having a really hard time breathing. I decided that I was working wayyyy too hard for this race and what my goals were for it.  I knew that I needed to dial it back and who cares if I walk? I took a walk break and tried to catch my breath.  I had a really hard time catching it and then started dry heaving.  What was weird about this is that my stomach felt fine….it just felt like my airway got tight and then I had a reflex from it.  I don’t really know how to describe it, it’s never happened to me before!  I walked for about a minute and then started again.


This mile and the next I took many walk breaks and just tried to get my heart rate back down.  I took my second gel at the end of mile 8.  Honestly, I was pretty angry during these miles and ready for the race to be over.  I really had to pep talk myself.  I told myself that I would NOT be defeated by another hot half marathon, and then I asked myself what I would do if this happened with 6 miles left in Richmond.  I obviously had to find a way to finish.  I knew if I could just get through the hilly miles I could maybe salvage the end of the race.  I just did what I could here and walked when I needed to.


Miles 10-13.1: 10:52/11:13/10:45/10:17


Mile 10 was flatter and I was able to maintain running for a longer period of time.  I walked through the water stops.  My iPod died during the 11th mile (I forgot to charge it AGAIN…UGH!!!! What is wrong with me?! This same thing happened in Savannah), so I took a longer walk break to get my phone set up with music.


At the end of that walk break I was feeling a lot better.  I managed to run most of the last two miles, only stopping at the water stops for walk breaks. I knew that if I kept myself on track I could finish around 2:19 which is where I finished Savannah and Hotlanta earlier this year, and that kept me pushing.  The hill right before the finish made me want to cry, and I was soooo relieved to cross the finish.  I was not happy with how the race went but was glad it was over and that I managed to pull myself out of those rough miles and find a way to finish.  My average pace was about a minute faster than my long run paces have been recently, and even though it was the WRONG pace, I was able to maintain consistency in the beginning.


After crossing the finish, I met up with Angie (who hit a HUGE PR, yeah!!) and waited for Christina, and then we took a picture with the hunks they had handing out medals!


Diva's Half Marathon and 5K Recap and Review

The best way to get a medal!


Lessons learned: 


Now I’ve had time to process the race I am glad the race played out the way it did.  I had one bigggg lesson coming out of this race: listen to my gut!! The first miles felt fast and during the entire third mile I was debating if it was TOO fast and if I needed to re-strategize.  I chose to press on and that was not the right decision.  I know now what it feels like to run too fast, even when I was supposed to be flexible on the pace.  I’ve obviously gone out too fast before in races, but this time it was different.  I was consciously thinking about it being too fast and ignored it (whereas before I was just hell bent on hitting a pace and wasn’t listening to my body at all)


Other lesson: charge my iPod the night before the race!



I’m very much a person that needs to understand why something went badly.  My nutrition, rest, and hydration were all normal.  I just felt “off” right from the beginning, running felt hard.  It was definitely hotter and more humid than I was anticipating, though not different than what I’ve been running in all summer (and less hot/humid than that 5k I ran).  My resting heart rate was a bit elevated on race morning and I don’t know why.  I woke up the next morning with terrible allergy symptoms, and it turns out ragweed season is here and it gets me every year…so there is a good chance that was a factor on race day.  But that wasn’t the reason for the bad race – I definitely need to use my watch to help me be consistent, but listen to my body to set the actual paces.  It was an important lesson to learn and I’m honestly really glad I did.


Would I do this race again? Maybe.  I like that it’s small and women focused, and the course is scenic and relaxing.  However, it is quite a challenging course and it required driving about 45 minutes outside of the city.  I could probably be talked into it again, but wouldn’t mind finding a course that more closely mimics my goal race for next time.  I would definitely recommend this race to other women (and men), I think it’s worth doing and is so fun!


59 days until the Richmond Marathon!


Still had some energy to take a jumping pic!

Still had some energy to take a jumping pic!


Tell me – what are some big lessons you’ve taken from a race?

Like what you see? Share it!



  1. Initially coming out of Emerald I was disappointed despite knowing it wasn’t going to be a PR day. However, talking to my coach he put things into perspective – I hadn’t tapered for the race so I was running on 11 weeks of training and had done a scheduled tempo run the day before. The point was for me to go in with tired legs and push through the fatigue which is what I was able to do. The huge learning for me was that the rigor of my current raining schedule has helped me gain the mentality to focus and push through. Your breathing thing sounds like you panicked and your HR was likely elevated in the morning because of adrenaline so I don’t think that’s anything to be concerned about. While it was hot out, it has been hot all summer and the conditions you describe are actually better than most days you’ve been training in. You had also tapered for this race. You describe the course getting harder in the middle section, but you have run this course in the past (and got a PR!). It feels like the learnings you talk about are all based around race-day strategy in conjunction with uncontrollable factors, but I encourage you to reflect on your training so far and talk to your coach. Are there adjustments that need to be made for your final few weeks of training? Are there workouts you can do that will help you with pacing so you don’t give up after 3 miles? Is there things you should be adding to your training to get you used to being uncomfortable during runs? Switching up these final few weeks may put you in a better place physically and mentally for your marathon.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Ariana. I agree that the mental side of training is really important, and learning to balance that with the physical side is something a lot of less experienced runners (and even more experienced runners) have room to improve if they are racing for their “best time”. That’s one of the best things about having a coach – having someone who knows the intimate details of my training, workouts, and races that I don’t share here and can coach me on how to think through things in the moment and adjust my training accordingly. I’m glad your training has been so successful, good luck with the rest of the cycle and I hope your marathon goes well.

  2. Jess, congratulations on your half-marathon finish! Sounds like it was hard-earned. We definitely learn more from the difficult/bad races than the “I felt awesome when I finished/could have kept running” races.
    Here’s my recently learned lesson; on Labor Day weekend we had a 12-mile race here in Baltimore that has a really fast course as the final 6-miles are nearly all downhill (about a 300 ft. descent). So I started the race really fast (on a 70 degrees morning w/80% humidity) thinking that I would crush the first 6 miles that were mostly flat with a few hills thrown in, and then “cruise” the final 6 miles downhill. Well, I can’t begin to describe how painful the final 3 miles were on tired legs, pounding the downhill asphalt. Everything hurt, especially my feet/toes, and my heart rate skyrocketed. Some of the hills were so steep that I found myself trying to slow down so that I didn’t wipe out. Not good! Miles 10 thru 12 were dreadful and I just wanted it to end! I now have an entirely new appreciation for running downhill. It is, in some respects, more difficult than running uphill, especially late in a race on worn out legs. I’ll take an entirely different approach to next years race.
    Thank you for sharing your race experience. While it didn’t sound ideal, it’s comforting to know that there are others in the running community that occasionally struggle even when the best plans are made to do otherwise. Only 58 days until Richmond. Woo Hoo!!!

    • Thanks for stopping by James! I’ve heard that downhill races are VERY challenging, I bet you quads were unbelievably sore the next day. My friend recently ran a downhill marathon (!) and while she BQ’d, she said the same thing…her quads were trashed in the later part of the race, and she had specifically been trying to build strength. Good luck on the rest of your training, the hard(er) work will start soon!

  3. Congratulations on your finish time! I think you did great, even though you were not happy. Maybe you just had a bad day? It happens. I am like you that I want to know WHY something went bad, but sometimes it’s nothing in particular… just not my day.
    I hope you can put this one behind you and look forward to the Richmond marathon! 🙂

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