The Half Marathon Moment of Truth

moment of truth, half marathon

(Photo: Darnok/Morguefile)

This is it. It all comes down to one moment: 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 22. It’s my half marathon moment of truth—the time when I’ll cross the finish line of the DirectEdge Newport Liberty Half Marathon in Jersey City, New Jersey under 2 hours …or the time when I won’t.

This is what I’ve been training for all these months. Yes, the Soctiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon still lies ahead for me on October 20. But breaking 2 hours in the half marathon is what has haunted me as a runner. It’s the goal I’ve most wanted to achieve. And the one that has continued to elude me.

Staten Island Half-Marathon, Staten Island Ferry Terminal, half marathon

On my way to the Saten Island Half Marathon in 2012. I missed sub-2 by 31 seconds. (Photo:

Last year I came this close. At the 2012 Staten Island Half Marathon, I ran 2:00:30. I gave it everything I had and came up 31 seconds short. It was still a personal best by nearly 5 minutes, but I really wanted my time to start with a “1.”

In January, when I laid out my 2013 goals, I made a bold pronouncement: “This is the year,” I wrote. “Those 31 seconds are toast.”

I hope so. I’m going to toe the line at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and give it everything my body has.

What are my chances? I know I am capable of this. I can run a mile in 6:46. I can run 3 miles in 23:22. Every running calculator on the planet says I can do this handily.

But for some reason this goal has eluded me. Sometimes I’d like to think that maybe I’m just more of a speedster than an endurance monster—to borrow phrases from Greg McMillan’s book, “You (Only Faster),” which I’ve been using to train. (Full review coming soon!)

Wild Dog Triathlon, half marathon

On my way to a 3-mile PR at the Wild Dog Triathlon. (Photo: Phil Hospod)

But I also think that maybe I just didn’t do enough training in the 10-15 mile zone in years past. So this year, I took a two-pronged approach that seems obviously simple:

1) Train for speed

I worked on getting my 5K time down so that my legs are used to running faster. Mission accomplished. I threw down a huge 3-mile PR in August, running 23:22 and shattering my previous best by 3 minutes. And it was at the end of a triathlon too. A week later, I clocked 24:26 at a 5K, though I suspect the course was short. Speed? Oh, I’ve got speed.

2) Train for endurance

I realized that speed over distance is what I need. Duh!

So starting in May I began hitting longer distance runs earlier in the season.

Kauai Half Marathon, half marathon

Running the Kaua’i Half Marathon (Photo: Sport Photo)

I book-ended my summer with two half marathons as training runs—the UnitedHealthcare Providence Half Marathon in May and the Kaua’i Half Marathon in September. (Race report still to come! It’s taking me a while to wade through all my Hawai’i photos, videos, interviews, etc.)

Running those two half-marathons and two triathlons this summer gave me confidence in my ability to push myself as hard as possible for up to 2 hours. I ran disciplined, ran calmly and ran negative splits at both half marathons, nailing my training paces. I know I can knock out 13 miles in my sleep thanks to steady efforts at those races and long runs up to 18 miles.

Now the question is, how fast can I race 13.1 miles?

I pulled out my training log from last year and compared my training from then to now. On runs shorter than 10 miles, I’m definitely running faster than I did last year. But on runs longer than 10 miles, I’m running slower now. That worries me a bit.

I’d like to chalk it up to the fact that my training this year is happening a full month earlier, so more of my runs have been in summer heat and humidity. Last year, I was training for a November 18 marathon. This year, my race is a full month earlier on October 20. But if that was the case, you’d think all my runs would be slower, not just my long runs. It could also be that since I started serious training earlier, I’m working on a shorter base phase. Who knows?

At this point, there’s not much else I can do than slip on my shoes, pin on my bib and run like I’ve never run before. The clock will be ticking.

Here goes. Deep breaths.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a regular contributor to, the host of NYRR's On The Run web + TV show, and a race announcer at events like the TCS New York City Marathon. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now she freelances as a running reporter. She's run 7 marathons, 20 halves, 6 triathlons, sings in an '80s cover band, spoils her dog + travels compulsively.

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09 2013

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