I did it! And I LOVED it!
After 20 weeks of training, I ran my first official half marathon yesterday. That’s *FIVE* months of my life; five months of 5:30am (or earlier) wake up times; five months of preparing myself for what would be my biggest physical achievement.
The Smuttynose Rockfest Half-Marathon was in Hampton, NH – one of my favorite beach towns where Eric and I spend each 4th of July with his family. I had run around the beach a little, and knew the area (and had also been told it’s the flattest half-marathon in New England). We drove up to Hampton Saturday morning, and spent the morning driving around the neighborhood in search of yard sales – which proved to be excellent practice for Sunday since we drove along many of the streets I ended up running.
A little after 1pm, we drove to the Sea Shell Stage to pick up my bib. I loved my bib number – 5286 – because not only did it include my birth month and year (5/86) but it also had my lucky number. I took this as a very good sign. I also got a fun shirt, and purchased a 13.1 sticker for my car. PS I made sure to paint my nails to match my shoes.
After bib pick-up, we drove north to the Kittery Outlets to kill some time and do some casual shopping. Knowing that it was going to most likely rain Sunday morning, I looked for a lightweight rain jacket that I could wear during the race, but instead ended up with a warm fleece to run in during the winter. For dinner, I had a delicious meal of Shrimp and Lobster Scampi and one of the best dinner rolls ever (if ever in the Hampton area, check out Tavern 401 – Great Food!!).
I woke up Sunday morning at 6:55 am (getting a hotel room down the street from the race start and finish lines was the best decision I’ve ever made). I usually eat a low-cal fiber bar before runs, but I knew I was going to need something a little heftier than that, and on a whim ate a Powerbar. I wore my favorites – black capri-length spandex shorts, orange/pink tank-top, pink longsleeve zip-up, and my trusty Saucony shoes. My poor shoes got me through those five months of training, and the half-marathon was going to be their shining moment too as they have officially been retired for a newer, shinier pair (SORRY SHOES, I LOVE YOU!). It was C.O.L.D. Sunday morning, and I was a little worried about how I would fair in the low temperature.
I lined up in the 10:00-10:59 pace group, since that was what I hoped to accomplish. Everyone seemed pretty chilly and we all seemed to be bouncing around, trying to stay warm. The race started at 8am but we didn’t get across the starting mats until about 8:15am. The views were gorgeous. We were either running by the beach, overlooking the ocean, or running along the back roads of Hampton with great foliage. After a few miles, I realized that I was running at a solid 10:00 pace and that I was feeling awesome. Nothing hurt, breathing was good, wasn’t a snotty mess like I am on some cold runs. It was turning into a perfect run. Except that I needed to pee. And stopping at one of the port-o-potty’s wasn’t an option because they always had lines and I wasn’t willing to give up those precious minutes.
Eventually, by mile 8, I was still cranking out 10:00 minute miles and decided that I would follow in the footsteps of my male running counterparts and jump into the woods for a quick pee break. I’m pretty sure that everyone saw my bare bum, but oh well! As I scampered back into the group of runners, a girl smirked at me in solid recognition of sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…
And that’s when I started flying. I had been running side by side with a girl wearing a bandanna and a guy wearing all black, and I wanted to catch up to them. So I started running faster. And I started passing people. And the running continued to feel good. Now that I wasn’t so focused on the needing to pee, I started looking at the other runners and the spectators who had come to cheer us on. One guy had a bowl of Munchkins that he was passing out to runners and I grabbed one (although I was only able to eat a couple nibbles). I started waving at spectators. Like the guy dressed as Gumby. After mile ten, we turned and were all of a sudden on a hill, overlooking the ocean and on a steady downhill towards the last couple miles. At a water stop, I saw my favorite police officer friend who had told me his wife was running the race too. I shouted a hi at him, and I think he may have recognized me (or may have been terrified that I am at this point stalking him). At mile 11, the marathoners split away from us half-marathoners, and I yelled a “GOOD LUCKKKKK” to the few that started to turn behind me. I may have also joked with one of the volunteer officials that I’d like to switch to the marathon.
At mile 12, I started to really feel it. My legs were slowing down. An icy rain had started falling sideways. But I also knew that I was slaying my timing goal, and that I had to keep going to keep it up. So I did. Every time someone tried to pass me, I ran faster. When I saw our hotel, I looked for Eric, wondering if I might catch him heading towards the finish line, blissfully unaware that I might beat him there.
Then I saw the corrals. And the lines of people cheering on the finishers. I turned on my powersong – that popular Macklemore song that was all over the radios this summer – and ran as fast as I could. And ran through the finish line mats. And was handed a medal. And all of a sudden, it was over. Everything I had worked for, had trained for, for the last FIVE months, was over. And I wanted to cry. And when I think about that moment, I still do. Not only was running the half-marathon an enormous physical achievement, but it was a huge emotional one as well.
I staggered over to our pre-arranged meeting spot, and Eric wasn’t there. I called him and he couldn’t believe that I was done. He had only just left the hotel. I finally looked at my ipod and saw that it said 2:09:51. My goal was to finish the race in 2:10-2:25, and I had beaten that. When Eric finally found me, he helped me get my sweatshirt and vest on, as I was freezing, and snapped a picture of me and my first medal. It was too cold to drink my two free beers, so after grabbing my lobster roll and clam chowder, we walked back to the hotel, where I showered, we packed up, and we headed home.
Running the half-marathon was an amazing experience, and I wish I had taken out my phone and snapped pictures while running. I’ve started looking up what race I should do next. There are two on October 20th, my next day off, in Newburyport and Fall River. But maybe that’s too soon. I’d like to do one in California when I next visit my mom so that she can see me race. There’s the February Ragnar Relay in Phoenix that I’m also considering. All I know right now is that this was definitely just the first of MANY half-marathons.