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 race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


09 2013

23 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I know you can do it! You definitely have it in you. Take a deep breath, believe, and run fast and steady.
    Elle recently posted..Review: Body Mechanics NYC, Where Runners Go to Tune UpMy Profile

  2. 3

    I don’t doubt for a moment you can do this. Just go out and let your legs take you there. I will look forward to all the upcoming race reports!
    Susan recently posted..Kaleidoscope 10k Sept 14, 2013My Profile

  3. 5

    You look so fit and happy in that Hawaii pic! Don’t let the negative thoughts creep in. You’ve trained well and can certainly do it. (And send the same good vibes my way when I push for my half marathon PR on Oct. 20!)
    Sadye recently posted..Third-period goal: Shake up my race routineMy Profile

  4. 7

    I totally feel you, the sub-2 hour was my goal for this year too! I surprisingly got in earlier this year, but since then it’s felt like it never really happened and I’m still not sure how I managed it! It’s back on my list though and after I get through MCM and Dopey I’m out for another 1/2 PR next spring!

    You’ve worked hard, your 5k times kick butt and it looks like you’ll have some good weather – you’ve totally got this! I’ll be cheering and checking in on twitter so please let us know how it goes!
    Danielle recently posted..The 5 Year Plan: FrustrationsMy Profile

  5. 9

    You totally have this, no doubts! Go in with a clear head, happy heart and eyes up and open- you can do this!!!
    Laura @losingrace recently posted..Article Reaction “The Slowest Generation”My Profile

  6. 11

    You got this! Will the race have pacers? If so, start 10 seconds behind the 2:00 pacer, and make sure you finish in front of her/him. The pacers usually come in early, but that will give you a couple more seconds of buffer.

    Best of luck!!!

  7. 13

    You definitely have this in you! Run, Karla, run! :)

    During my run last night I started thinking about seconds. How prior to developing a love for running I never thought about mere seconds as being a significant period of time, but now I know just 1 or 2 seconds can mean the difference between a PR and a GREAT day or just a really good day. The whole thing is a little bit funny (and yet so important) … and naturally I missed hitting a new four-mile PR last night by 18 seconds, hah.


  8. 15

    My gut says you’ve got this one. Go for it and have a blast!

  9. PV #

    It’s got to be a mental barrier. That’s what is found in my running. I’ve done 13.3 in under 2:00 without pushing, but when I did the actual race it was still over 2 hours (granted, I have a foot injury, but still, it felt hard).

    You can do it!

  10. 19

    Can’t wait to hear how it went this morning! I hope you hit your goal!
    Beth @ Miles and Trials recently posted..I Won the Klean Athlete Oath Challenge!My Profile

  11. 21

    I would LOVE to be able to have a sub-2 hour be a realistic goal! Maybe someday…and by day, I mean year lol. Good luck! There’s no doubt you can get it! Can’t wait to hear how it went!
    Kellie recently posted..Week in Training (and I actually Cooked More than Trained!) 9/16-9/22My Profile

  12. Karla Bruning

    Thank you, everyone, for the words of encouragement. They mean so much to me and are so helpful. Unfortunately, I had a tough go of it out there. But I’m gonna get this one next time!
    Karla Bruning recently posted..Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half MarathonMy Profile


  1. Race Report: Direct Edge Newport Liberty Half Marathon | Run, Karla, Run! 23 09 13