Its been a whole day since I completed my first half marathon race and I still feel like it was a dream.
I ran 13.1 miles.
My day started bright (well, dark) and early at 5:30 a.m. when I got up to the sound of the Ohio State fight song from Lori’s phone and the xylophone tone from my phone for our alarms. I didn’t sleep well during the night, waking up at 1 a.m. after hearing people talking outside the motel room and waking up in a panic wondering what time it was. After that, I kept waking up paranoid that my alarm wouldn’t go off in time. But, I popped up right out of bed at 5:30 to get ready to run. I was feeling good after having a long, crazy day before having to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready to make the early trip to Columbus to photograph the OSU game for work and not eating dinner until after 9 p.m. Saturday. I got dressed, strapped my d-tag to my right shoe and had Lori help me pin on my bib. We left a little after 6 to head to the Pilot gas station to pick up some food for my pre-race breakfast since our motel was pretty much just a place to rest our head. I picked up two bananas, a Power Bar and a bottle of water. After that, we made our way to Brandywine Ski Resort where the half marathon and 10k race started. Not only was it still pitch black out, it was very chilly. Even in my long-sleeved shirt from the North Coast Challenge I was cold. Once I got to Brandywine, a little after 6:30, I had about an hour and half wait to until it was go time.
The time past pretty quickly. I ate a banana and my Power Bar. I stretched and moved around to keep warm and loosen up my muscles. Also, waiting in a pretty long, slow moving line for the bathroom, and then in line to drop my bag helped the time pass quicker. After I dropped my bag, it was time to line up and wait for the signal to start. By this time, I had met up with Jill and her boyfriend Steve so I had people to chat with and occupy my mind from getting nervous for the race. All of my races prior to this one, I had nerves and butterflies filling my stomach. Prior to the start of this race, there were a few butterflies, but mainly just excitement to get started on this journey. And before I knew it, the crowd of heads in front of me started bobbing and we starting jogging towards the start line. Next thing I know, I’m crossing the start line and beginning my 13.1 journey.
Running down the drive from the Brandywine parking lot to the road was not as bad as I thought it would be in such a big crowd. I was able to keep a good, steady pace and stayed to the outside of the drive so I wouldn’t get run over. I was able to stay among a pack of people for the first three miles, which was the part of the course that was on the road, and for the majority of the first half of the race. Around mile 4 (by this point I am running on the Towpath), pain in my left hip started to develop followed by pain in my right ankle. I figured the pain in my ankle intensified because I was putting more pressure on my right leg to compensate for the pain I was experiencing in my hip.
I’m not gonna lie. The pain sucked. But I knew I just had to push through it because I wasn’t going to let it stop me. I knew if I just kept going, the pain would subside. Two miles later, the pain was still there. The intensity of the pain varied, either my hip or ankle would hurt more. It was the worst when they both hurt a lot But just past mile marker 5 as I approached a road to cross with supporters and a water station ahead, “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas came on. I started singing to myself, using the energy from the song and from the supporters along the road I picked up my pace grabbing water and pede through the aid station. I forgot about the pain at that point. I sipped the pede, which was a light yellow color, got the taste of a bad banana flavored electrolyte drink. I swallowed what I had sipped and launched the cup and switched to the water. Note to self: don’t drink the pede. They should have gone with an orange flavored electrolyte. Banana? Come on.
Also, at that aid station I took a Hammer gel. I had not ever used a gel on my long runs before and didn’t plan on using one on this race because I didn’t know how my body would react to it. But, I decided to at least try it. After fiddling with the package to get it open while running, I managed to get the damn thing open and I sucked a little amount out just to try it. The gel was vanilla flavored, and tasted and had pudding/gel like texture and taste. It was tolerable. I took another little suck then chucked the remaining package into the woods off the trail. I just wanted a little engery boost to help with the pain I was still experiencing.
Between mile 6 and 7 a park ranger came flying down the trail in the opposite direction saying to move to the right because there are now runners on the trail in both directions. Seconds later a guy, I’m assuming the race leader, sped past me, then another. I thought, good I’m getting close to the turn around.
Ha! Not so much.
The more I kept running, and the more runners that past me, I thought “the turn around point HAS to be coming up.” Finally, around mile 8 I pass through an aid station and under this tent with Halloween decorations. Luckily, there were supporters through this station because it was definitely encouraging to keep going and knowing that the turn around spot was just ahead. Here is the thing about supporters at races: even if you don’t know a single person, their enthusiasm and support gives you that extra boost of energy and motivation to pick it up and keep going. Once I saw an orange construction cone in the middle of the trail signaling the turn around point, I knew this last part of the race was all a mental battle until the finish line.
Almost a mile after the turn around, I pass Jill and her boyfriend. Seeing a familiar face was such a relief. It was a good mental boost. I cheered them on, and gave Jill a high five.
Now from this point until mile 12, everything is kind of fuzzy yet surreal. I know during these miles by the time I reached the aid stations I was wanting the water badly just to stay hydrated. At times I felt like I was a little light headed. There were times I felt like I was running backwards. This was a weird feeling because I knew I was making forward progress and not running super slow, but for some reason it felt like I was moving backwards.
I do remember that once I passed mile marker 10, I told myself that I was now in uncharted territory since I had only run 10 miles in my training. I reminded myself, the remainder of the race is a 5k race. Easy peasy. You’ve run several of those. Yeah, the longest 3.1 miles ever.
I think it was around mile 12, this older gentleman ran up beside me and said “We’re almost there.” I chirped “yup.” I didn’t get a real good look at him, but I wondered if he was the older gentleman I passed during my five-mile race in Westlake Labor Day weekend who congratulated me after the race. We paced together for a while, but he pressed on as I tried to keep a pace going still pushing through pain trying to avoid a state of delirium, and not stop to walk.
Throughout the entire race, I had run not knowing a time or my pace. After passing the 12-mile marker, I pressed the center button on my iPod to tell me my time and distance completed. It was at 2:23 and around 12.4 miles. .7 of a mile to go. I can do this. At this point I just wanted to see a crowd of people and be done. I had to just keep going. I had come this far, it was just a little further.
Before I knew it, I could see Boston Mills Road and the crowd of people lining the towpath. I immediately began flipping through the songs on my iPod to find “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus so I could finish to the song. After flipping through five songs with no luck, I settled with “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train as a good up beat song to finish the last couple hundred meters of the race.
As I moved closer to the road and surrounded by people, I remember hearing one lady yell “You’re so close, keep pushing.” An anonymous person’s words boosted my pace along with the fact that I knew I was close to the finish line. As I crossed the road to the path on the other side running as hard as I could at the point and as I ran past the house on my right and noticed the finish line off to my right, I started getting choked up. I tried to look for Lori and Nick in the crowd, heard Lori then whipped my head to the clock. As I approached the finish line, I raised my hands above my head Rocky style so the race photographers could get me crossing the finish line proud. I crossed the line in 2:28 with tears coming down my face.
I did it.
Not only did I accomplish my goal of finishing the race running, I finished within my goal time, actually two minutes faster. And 50 minutes faster than my original goal time of 3:20.
After I crossed the finish line, a lady handed my a medal congratulating me and “awing” me for crying. Lori made her way to me through the crowded finish area and gave me a hug. I lost it and cried harder. I was so proud of myself for what I accomplished.
Now, while I may have physically run this race alone, I had many people with me in spirit along this 13.1 mile journey in different ways. I had my mom with me in spirit through the beauty of the fall foliage and setting of the course and her ring I wore on my right hand. I had my step mom with me in spirit in the bracelet worn on my right wrist. Tasha ran with me as “Dance, Dance” by Fall Out Boy played. Lori ran with me in spirit when “Eye of the Tiger” blasted through my ear buds. (Lori was suppose to run this race with me, but the race sold out before she got to register) And a former friend ran with me as The Eagles told me to “Take it Easy.” This moment was especially symbolic because it allowed me to let go and leave this person behind in my past as I move forward in my life by taking this journey.
After a full day after my race and having time to reflect, I feel like completing this race has helped me close a chapter in my life and start a brand new one. Especially, in the final four weeks of my training, I have accomplished a lot in my training. But in other areas of my life I have learned a lot about people in my life. Now matter how hard it maybe to let a person go and say good bye to them, it is for the best. It has allowed me to restrengthen friendships and appreciate the people who truly care and support me in my life. It also has allowed me to meet new people, open up more and let them into my life.
This race has allowed me to become a better person inside and out. And for that I am truly thankful!
By the numbers:
Weeks of training: 12
Miles run during training: 324.83
Total miles run in 12 weeks: 337.93
Races run (in 12 weeks): 6
5k BP: 32 minutes
1-mile BP: 9:55
Half marathon: completed in 2:28