On a weekday I only rely on one alarm to wake me up. On a race day I set at least two….and I hardly ever need either one. And yesterday was no different. I woke up early….before the alarm and the back up alarm.
The day had finally arrived….the second time in my life I would attempt to run 13.1 miles. I wasn't sure if I was ready but I was sure that I was going to get up and try it anyway.
I slowly got moving while completely stressing out about what to wear. It was in the low 40s out and it was raining. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the rain while I was getting ready. I decided to wear a typical winter outfit minus the hat and gloves. I wore my summer hat to keep the rain out of my face. I took my wind breaker and figured I would decide at the last minute whether or not I would put it on.
My buddy who has been extremely sick decided he was well enough to go with me…..so he slowly got moving.
When I opened the garage down and looked out all I could say was “this was not what I was expecting….” It was pouring! I thought it was just going to be light rain. I dashed over to the car and hopped in quickly. It was a short drive over to the race location. When we got there the parking lot was still pretty much empty….yup, we were way too early like always. I rather be early and not be rushed. We hung out in the car for a bit.
As it got closer to the race time I decided we should head inside the school. It was really nice to have a warm and dry place to hang out before the race.
I even did a few warm up runs in the long school hallway. At 7:15 I downed my first GU. I usually do the first one 45 minutes before a race. Right after that the group running the marathon headed out to the start line. I went outside to watch them start. The field was small….only a couple hundred people. While I was out there I decided I would wear the windbreaker. It was still raining really hard and at least it would give me a little bit of protection for a few minutes.
I took my second GU at 7:45 and then it was time to head out to the start line for the half marathon. It was still pouring and the parking lot was filled with puddles. A group of us found a small overhang near a door to another building and hung out there until the race announcer called us and out and said we better get to the start line. There was the national anthem and then a few announcements….and then we were off!
It was official…..I was running my second half marathon. In the rain and the wind and the cold….but I was happy. All of my training has been for this. And I didn't have to run laps around the hospital. I was on a real course….with real people.
As I ran around to mile 1 my buddy took a shortcut so that he could see me there. The start was really slow which was really good for me. I need that kind of control in the beginning of a race. In the beginning most people were still in puddle avoidance mode which honestly was a lost cause. All of us were going to end up soaking wet.
Somewhere around mile 3 my buddy was out there cheering me on. I was feeling pretty good still. My first goal was to make it to mile 4 with a good time and no walking. I did just that. I didn't want to stop….so I kept going for a little bit but I knew it was time to take my next GU. I walked for just a few seconds while I took it and then I kept on moving.
The middle of the race was in and out of trails that run through some neighborhoods. There were no flat sections….just rolling hills. Also no straight sections….just winding curves.
Around mile 6 I realized that I had not been passed by anyone running the marathon yet ….but I knew they were chasing me. Their race was two loops….slightly different to make up for not crossing through the finish line twice. They started 30 minutes ahead and I knew they were fast and would have a chance to catch me. Knowing they were chasing was motivating. I kept moving as fast as I could.
The volunteers were amazing. They were standing in the rain pointing us in the right direction and motivating us the whole time. And many of them loved my skirt…..
I knew there was a split in the course coming up and I was seriously hoping it would be well marked. If I accidentally turned on the marathon course I would be running a lot extra. Well all my worries were for nothing. There were at least 10 volunteers and 20 signs telling me which way to go. They were so well organized. I yelled out half just to make sure and they kindly pointed me in the correct direction.
I made it to mile 10 and knew I only had a 5k left….it was time to start pushing but I was pretty dead. From mile 10 to 11 was a pretty tough uphill stretch.
In that section I heard a motorcycle and turned around to see a police officer….finally the winner of the marathon was catching up to me. At mile 10.8, in a tunnel, he passed me. I clapped and screamed and cheered for him. He was soooo fast. And then I just kept running….but I was looking behind me wondering where the rest were. Some how I was on an island….the people ahead created a big gap and the people behind were way behind.
After the tunnel I made my way back up to one of the main roads…..only a couple miles to go. I picked up the pace but kept looking for more marathoners…..but they never came. At mile 12 I saw my buddy. I yelled that I had been passed but only by one person. And I kept moving.
As I turned the corner I realized that I was actually lapping a couple of people doing the marathon….they were just finishing the first lap and were headed out for the second lap. I was being directed back towards to the school to head to the finish.
I turned in and an awesome volunteer told me not to quit and that it was all downhill. I made my way through some turns and then hit the track…..it was the longest track I've ever seen. I had to 3/4 of a lap….and I didn't think I would make it. A big wind gust hit me and I didn't want to lose my hat so I ripped it off and carried it to the finish. As I got close to the finish they called my name…..I could only raise one arm. I just kept slogging along until I crossed.
I yelled to my buddy that I had just PR'd …..and then I grabbed a medal. Someone offered me chips but all I could say was “water.” She helped me get a bottle of water and then someone pointed me in the right direction to get off the track. As I was walking off I started to drop to my knees and a volunteer quickly came running over to make sure I was ok. I was fine…..just tired. I left everything I had on the course.
I was directed inside to get warm and get food. When I went inside the building there were stairs…..like a sick joke. I just stood there and looked at my buddy wondering how I would ever get up those stairs. He said “take your time.” And I did.
I made my way to the food and filled a plate. There were so many wonderful choices. I picked a random table that looked empty.
Another runner came and sat down…and I said …hey, congratulations you just won right? And yes, it was the marathoner who had passed me. He turned out to be really awesome and humble. We talked while I ate….apparently he is so awesome that he does not eat.
While I was sitting there I realized how wet and cold I was. I ate some food and then asked my buddy to take me home. As we drove away I cheered for those who were still running.
It was amazing. I finished a half marathon. I met my goal. I ran in the worst conditions and didn't let myself stop.
I'm not sure I want to do another long race this year but I don't have to make that decision today. I do know I want to work on speed and do some short races. Which is good….because I have one in a few weeks. I hope I can convince myself to train for it.