Friday, January 23, 2015

An Annual Tradition: the Aramco Houston Half

It's probably a fair assumption that many runners have favorite races that they do year after year. For some it may be an annual Thanksgiving turkey trot, for others a local charity 5k. In some cases it may be a bigger race, like a local half or even a full marathon. I definitely have races in those categories--well, I still haven't found the perfect annual turkey trot--but a few of my annual traditions are a bit further afield.

Once of my favorite races each year happened last weekend, the Aramco Houston Half.* I first went to the Bayou City race back in 2012 when it played host to the USA Olympic Marathon Trials. It was supposed to be a big weekend with friends who ended up not being able to make it. Instead, I stayed with a law school classmate's aunt and uncle, neither of whom I had met before, and had a great time.

Since then, my January trek to Houston has become an annual tradition. It's the perfect time of year to visit Houston--where the weather is mild--and escape New York--where the weather is frigid and demoralizing. Even better, it serves as something to look forward after Christmas and New Year's have come and gone.

I also view it as the start to my spring marathon training. After my fall marathon each year I take some time off of serious training. Houston serves as a perfect reminder that it's time to start preparing for my spring marathon. I come into the race without any lofty time goal and treat it as a hard training run. Let me be clear, I run as fast as I can, but I expect, given my lack of recent speedwork, that the resulting time won't be as fast as later in the season.

In 2012, while battling a cold I ran the race in 1:24:37. The next year, we had terrible weather--freezing rain and gusting winds--and I battled my way to a 1:28:17. Last year, the weather was good and I managed a 1:25:21, a time I was happy with given all the time off I had taken after proposing at the New York City Marathon.

So how did it go this year? I had one of my most consistently paced HMs in a while with 5k splits of 20:15 (6:31 pace), 20:06 (6:29 pace), 20:11 (6:30 pace), before speeding up to 19:58 (6:26 pace) with a final .67 miles in a 6:13 pace. It paid to start conservatively because I felt pretty good in the final miles. In retrospect, could I have run faster? Maybe, but I'll have other chances to do that this year (as of now, I'm already signed up for three more over the next five months). This was just a great way to start the year on a confident note.

Now to start marathon training...

*I use the race's full name here to distinguish it from the Houston Half Marathon and 10k put on by the Houston Striders in the fall. The Aramco Half is run in conjunction with the Chevron Houston Marathon every year in January--usually over MLK Weekend--and put on the Houston Marathon Committee. 

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