Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon – St. Paddy’s Half, IA

Goal – run a sub 2 hour time for my first half-marathon.

I have been sticking with my training from Hal Higdon thus far and seems to be treating me just right. Finding time to run the distance runs has been challenging with the weather. Running for 6 plus miles on a treadmill gets a bit devastating…yes that is the only word I can find for it. Watching Netflix while running helps ease some devastation. But there is a silver lining here…

For centuries the weather changes around this time of year – or so I am told, not to sure if Mother Nature passed this info along to Iowa or not.

First Half Marathon Destination

So I gave myself about 2 and half months to train for my first half-marathon. I picked a race a little closer to home this time. Des Moines Iowa was the destination of my next goal. I wanted to tackle this with the entire family so I knew picking something a bit closer would work best.

I registered for the race in late January. I knew by registering early it would again – hold me accountable and get my ass in gear to start training. Signing up early has many perks I have noticed as well. You get a cheaper rate and usually you get more “swag”. I didn’t really care much about that stuff. The idea of running 13.1 miles without stopping was daunting enough.

Setting Yet another Lofty Goal

So the point of me doing this running is to get out of my comfort zone and more importantly get to a healthier state mind and body. Those seem like pretty attainable goals for anybody with a bit of will and principles. I wanted to set a goal that was possible yet possibly out of reach.

I started asking “the Google” things like “beginner goal for half-marathon” and “benchmarks for half-marathons”. What I found is that the sub 2 hour mark for a half-marathon is a pretty decent achievement for a novice. Since I despise running and find it only satisfying knowing there are goals, which I can set for myself – that is what I went with.

I wanted to run a sub 2 hour half-marathon. I figured no sense in “just finishing” that would be a waste of a race and if that was my goal… I probably should stick to 10k’s. I put together a regimen with running (obviously) and some agility drills. I also started to focus on belly breathing and pace setting. This type of training was much different from that I did for my 10k a few weeks prior. Getting a little more serious than “let’s try this out”.

Whole New Ball Game

When I committed to running this half it was a different feeling, a much more nerve wracking feeling and not for the reason one might think. Yes, I will be running 13.1 miles – which is double the distance I have run in any race before. Yes, I was nervous about finishing let alone going sub 2 hours and yes I was worried about injury. But that wasn’t what I was most “uncomfortable” with.

This was going to take a lot of my time. I was going to be away from my family for more than I wanted to be. I was going to have to put more time in than just a few miles on a treadmill per day. If I wanted to train for this right and continue on my “embracing the hate” I was going to have to embrace how uncomfortable it all was and completely commit to this.

Tara has been my biggest supporter aside from my two little ones of course and that makes this much easier. Once I could get over these hurdles, it was all up to the training now. The issues didn’t stop there however…

Training and Nutrition

Training commenced. I was full force into sticking with a schedule and getting my workouts in (even if they were o

n a treadmill). I was putting in the miles and felt good. Then I hit a wall…hard. I was feeling sore, feeling worn down feeling like I didn’t have what it would take to run a 10k again let alone a half-marathon.

I found out quickly that my nutrition was an enormous part to my training. When training for a 10k I thought I was eating right and getting appropriate nutrition, which I may have been but for this goal – I knew my body was telling me something.

I needed to lose a little weight, eat a little better and take control of my diet. For me it was eating around my workouts. I don’t mean not eating at all, I just mean more like treating the meals as fuel for my workouts. Going from fasting for 10 days and being a huge believer in Keto (I still am by the way) that just isn’t very sustainable for the amount of calories and type of exercise I was doing.

After cutting out bad habits (most of them) and eating right. I was back on track and felt great. It also worked out that the weather had a few nice days prior to my race and I was able to run outside…that was glorious.

Race Week

I was nervous all week for the race and knew it was a bit of a tapering week. So there was a lot of time to think and think and think. I put myself in every scenario on the course. “What if it rains”, “what if I sprain my ankle 2 miles in”, “what if the flooding changes the course” – just a bunch of “what ifs”.

All of those things were out of my control. I just had to tell myself that I had put in the work, put in the time, ate right and that I was prepared to run a sub 2 hour half-marathon…all I had to do was execute – just run.

Race Weekend

The start to a fun family weekend was all but that. There was a stomach bug that was going around the week of race and low and behold my daughter got it. Bless her heart she is as tough as they come, but when you gotta t

hrow up…well – you throw up.

So a 3-hour road trip with Tara holding a bucket for the poor girl was a great start to the trip. I am sure Tara was just pumped to ride along and do that…all to watch me – well run.

We arrived in Des Moines late that night and went straight to bed. We were all pretty exhausted and we had to get up early the next morning to trek downtown. I didn’t sleep well at all. I was up by 3 am and coul

dn’t get back to sleep. So I had an early start to the day to say the least.

Race Day

Race day was here. I was nervous. It was early. Kids were cranky – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The day started with a kids fun run, which my daughter was more than excited to participate in it…my son – not so much. She ran the 100-meter race with a huge smile on her face and when she was done she said “Daddy – I won. Now it’s your turn”.

It was about 28 degrees at the start of the race and the sun was shining. The high was 45 for the day – so in my opinion pretty perfect conditions considering. I managed to find the 2:00 pacer and snugged into the pack near her. The race was about to start.

Started out of the gate in the mass of people. I bought this water bottle that fits around your hand for the race thinking it was a “necessity”. From the first minute in, I absolutely hated the thing – I should’ve known better, Tara told me not to take it. Minor setback.

I was cruising along. Was a little a head of the pace I wanted but with adrenaline and all the other racers this is pretty normal. After the first 3 miles I settled in and settled down a little. I was keeping pace with the 1 hours and 40 minute crowd. I was feeling great.

I was listening to music, jamming to The Dirty Heads and keeping a pace that my heart rate was OK with. I started thinking about mile 7 – “maybe I can go 1:40 or 1:45?”. That thought last for about a quarter mile more. I noticed the 1:40 pacer was “speeding up”. I thought “hey man, you should keep the pace that your stick says”. Then I looked at my watch and believe it or not… I was slowing down.

I didn’t hit a wall…yet. I was just coming back to reality. I was on a bit of a high for a few miles and was really feeling it. I wasn’t upset, I knew my goal was sub 2 hours and I was still on a pace that would get me there. The pace I trained for.

Mile 9…

holy shit

mile 9

Mile 9

Mile 9 I started envisioning the finish. Seeing my family waiting for me at the line. Seeing the clock blinking 1:50 something. Mile 9 was also the mile where I started falling a part. My side started ever so slightly aching, the ache turned into a piercing and then a full-blown stab wound (that what it felt like anyway).

I was pissed more than anything because this was the end, this was the part where I can gain some ground on my goal. The part where I fly by everyone else because I was “prepared” for this. Well this couldn’t be more opposite. All the way to mile 9 I was running negative splits, spirits were high and I was pumped.

I had one choice to make. I either stop and get this ache to go away and keep on, or I fight through this however I can think. It was an easy decision… I wasn’t going to stop. I began breathing in a pattern that allowed me to run hard for a few seconds, then grimace and jog through the stabbing taking place on my side.

The last mile was brutal.

The streets were lined with people cheering you on, screaming and ringing cow bells. And all I can muster is a defeated face and terribly formed run. I had to look like a zombie. But the last few meters, I saw Tara and the kiddos. It hurt like hell but it was just the boost I needed.

1:52:05 was my official time. I went sub 2. It was a success.

I guess a Marathon is next?

Thank You, Des Moines Support Crew

I have to thank Bryan and Britt for hosting me and my family overnight. I know our kiddos can be a bit overwhelming but you guys handle it and that is all one can ask…training right? It couldn’t’t of happened without you guys. I love how


much you love us and our kiddos. Friends like you guys are family, we love you.

Thanks to Luke for hooking the fam bam with a sweet room for the next day. The pool was nice and relaxing. Need to see you more often man.

And always thank you, Tara. You keep me inspired, you keep me loved and you keep me dreaming.

I hope you enjoyed the read. Leave a comment if you have any questions or a story of your own.

If you want to follow the training progress for the next big race follow me on Instagram @acrossthecriknic


Thanks for reading and have a pleasantly uncomfortable day


Nic Chiri


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