What an awesome race weekend. I signed up for the Houston Aramco Half Marathon back in May after my stint at the Philly Love Run. I knew I wanted to do another and having lived in Houston for years both in college and out of college, I decided to go back to my old stomping grounds. Plus, my college roommate was also planning on running so it was perfect. When I made the decision that I wanted to run a full marathon, racing this one wasn’t in the cards, but I knew it would serve as a solid training run and I’d be able to test my fitness and judge how truly difficult some of these longer runs were going to be.
I flew into Houston late Friday night after spending a couple of days in Memphis for a work trip. I hadn’t slept well on Wednesday or Thursday, so I was making a point of really getting in some solid sleep on Friday night. A lot of the readings I’ve done on running and from my own personal experience, I can say that the sleep the night before the night before a race is just as important if not more so than the night before a race. I went to bed at almost 11 and got up at 8:30 so a solid 9 hours was just perfect.
Saturday was spent walking around downtown Houston and exploring the expo for the race at George R. Brown Convention Center. I chose this race because I love Houston. It’s a quirky city, but it’s one that I know well and spending some time visiting old locals was nothing but a good time. The expo was massive and very well organized. In comparison to the Philly Love Run, which is a much smaller race, it blew it out of the park. I received a packet with my bib, a Houston Half Marathon sticker, and some pamphlets as well as a pre-race day shirt. I liked this because even if you didn’t finish, you still got something for your $100+ sign-up fee.
The expo consisted of all kinds of vendors, some I had heard of and others that were completely foreign to me. There were running stores that all had booths, Clif was passing out tons of samples of all of their new products, there was a both for compression gear, massages, races coming up in the future, a spot where you could meet Meb (a famous American long distance runner), and also a little booth for a book I started reading recently called Run the World which was written by a fellow Rice alum who is currently an elite marathoner (she came in 3rd in the Houston race. Super. Human.) and the book is about her year spent on the Watson Fellowship where she traveled around the world learning about and running with other cultures. The book is already fascinating and I’m just a couple of chapters in.
After the expo, I spent the rest of the day trying to stay off my feet and to keep hydrated. I have to say, I did a bang up job haha. I even got to have a pre-race meal at one of my favorite Houston eateries, the Hobbit Café.
My friend, Emily, who I was running the race with and I went to bed pretty early after pinning our bibs to our shirts and laying them out with our shoes for the next morning. The alarm went off bright and early at a cool 4:15am. I was up, dressed and ready to call an uber by 4:30. We wanted to get into the city early so there was no room for error and I’m pretty happy we did. Her parents were staying in a hotel a couple blocks from the starting line, so we met up with them to rest a little bit, wake-up some more and have some pre-race fuel. I had a Honey Stinger Waffle and a whole lot of water and felt pretty good. We walked over to the race with my friend’s uncle who was joining us at about 6:15 so we could stake out a good starting spot and get ready to go. My bib and his bib both had corral A on it because of our previous times, but her’s was for corral B. We all wanted to start together, so we after a little finagling and being sneaky, we popped into corral B. The race started right on time and by the time our group got to the starting line, we were about 7 minutes behind the clock.
The course was flat. Pancake flat. And I was all for it. It was also shockingly well attended. There was only one stretch of land right where the marathoners split from the half marathoners around mile 8 that was silent. Other than that, there were people all over trying to hand out everything from beer to tacos to gummy bears. I loved the energy and even though it was a super humid, overcast day the supporters still came out in droves. It made the race even more fun and made the time go by even more quickly.
This race was just fun. I’m going to be honest. I went at paces that are much slower than what I normally train, so I was able to talk the whole time and my legs felt good. I didn’t listen to music once because I just ran with my friend and we swapped stories about places we passed and memories we had from each place. The time went by much faster than expected and I couldn’t be mad about it at all.
Here are my splits:
The other .36 was in 8:36 time and included my finish and walking to the expo after crossing the finish line before I remembered watches were a thing.
We were at about mile 10 when a friend from Rice came running up behind us and asked me if I was trying to go “sub-2” aka finish the half in under 2 hours. Honestly, I didn’t have a single time goal, I just wanted to eventually finish it and get brunch, so I said no and that I was just running it with my bud, Emily. He kept going and I watched his blue compression calf sleeves trot away and then I couldn’t get it out of my head. “are you going sub-2”. At mile 11, Emily was slowing down a little bit, but I felt really good. Like, I can’t believe I have already run 11 miles how is this possible good, and she told me that if I wanted to pick up the pace and leave her I could. I asked and made sure that was okay and she said it was perfectly fine. So I gunned it. At 11.5 I decided to finish this baby strong and see how many people I could pick off. My 11 mile split was 8:30 and my mile 12 split was 6:43. I told you I gunned it. I finished in 2:00:35, 36 seconds away from sub two which is more than fine with me since I wasn’t running for time at all. The best part? I beat the kid in the blue calf compression sleeves by 5 seconds.
If you’re thinking about running Houston, here’s what you need to know:
- It’s flat. That’s awesome.
- Even though it’s flat, all parts of the road are not created equal. Stay towards the middle because the sides slant down for water drainage and this will eat up your legs if you stick to only one side.
- The Houston crowd is constant and SO helpful
- Houston weather is unpredictable at best. It was about 30 degrees warmer this year than it was last year. The humidity was 96% so it was no joke. But it stayed nice and dry until after I was off the course. The marathoners weren’t as lucky.
- Houston is a sprawling city, make sure you know where you’re staying in relation to the start and book your hotel early because there are not that many downtown.
- Have fun. Where else can you run a pancake flat course in warm weather in January?!
- It’s not particularly scenic, but it is well attended and a larger race. If people get you pumped, this is for you.
I would recommend the Houston Half to anyone. It’s a smoothly run race on a very flat, fast course.
The half rounded out my training for this week which consisted of 25 miles total:
- Monday: 5 miles tempo. 1 mile w/u 3 miles at 7:40 pace 1 mile cooldown
- Tuesday: SPIN
- Wednesday: 4 miles at 8:09 pace
- Thursday: Crosstraining, elliptical for 55 minutes
- Friday: 3 miles at 9:12 pace
- Saturday: REST
- Sunday: 13.1 in 2:00:35
- Total: 25.1