I’m not even sure where to begin with this… On Friday, I did everything backwards/wrong/the complete opposite from everything everyone on the Runners World forum said to do them. I had a beer while packing because my anxiety was through the roof (ask my mom, she had to listen to me freak out for a few minutes,) my dinner was a quick slice of Ray’s cheese pizza while we dropped Chino off, and I didn’t get to bed until around 1:00 am because we got a later start on our drive out to the Hamptons than intended.
Surprisingly, I slept pretty well - not soundly, but well enough to feel rested when I woke up at 5:45. I had laid out my clothes the night before, but made a last minute decision to wear my favorite gray Merrell hoodie because it was cooler than expected.
After the alarm went off I got up and started to get dressed and eat. I had a Clif bar (of the Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch variety) because anything too heavy makes me feel pukey and it’s really the only food I ate frequently before my training runs. I downed a few bottles of water and a few sips of Gatorade. I also took a second to snap this picture because the sunrise was beautiful.
I got to the starting line at 7:00 and made a beeline for the bathrooms. I was told numerous times that the first thing every runner should do before a race was get in line to use the port-a-potty. This was something I took to heart, because I know what it’s like to be mid-run and decide that you really need to use the bathroom. With running, things like that come on suddenly and without any notice. It doesn’t make for a comfortable or pleasant experience. The lines were actually not the nightmare I expected them to be, so when I finished, I walked around a bit and wished that I had gone to park the car with Drew so that I wouldn’t be standing alone in a sea of runners with their teammates and supporters. It was a little overwhelming and my anxiety began to rise. After a quick lap of the area, I decided that I should get in line to go to the bathroom again, you know, just in case. This time, the line was horrendous. After I finished I started walking toward the tents they had set up and my heart leapt when I saw Drew! What. A. Relief. We chatted while I stretched and then the horn for line-up sounded and we walked over together. I placed myself in the 10+ minute pace group because I don’t have any delusions of grandeur about the kind of runner I am. Drew stayed close and he chatted away the mounting nervousness and wished me well and gave me a smooch when the siren signalling the start of the race sounded.
Everyone surged (ok, slowly plodded) forward and before I could second guess what I had gotten myself into, we were off into the cool, sunny October morning! I started off at a really conservative pace because I remembered the numerous warnings about going out too hard too early. It was actually hard to restrain myself as I watched people passing me, but I told myself that for at least the first 3 miles, I needed to stick to an 11:00 mpm pace. The first 3 miles went by fairly quickly and I was happy to be sticking to my early plan. The other part of my plan was water every other station and Gatorade at miles 4, 8, and 11. The community was amazing, and there were residents in their driveways cheering runners on as they passed. Around 2.5 miles, I noticed a few of the people who had passed me earlier were pulled over stretching or walking, and I gave myself a little pat on the back.
The course to this point was absolutely gorgeous! It actually reminded me a lot of Northern Michigan. Miles 4-6 were pretty smooth, I started to feel a dull ache in my left knee, and by mile 5.5 a dull ache in my right knee, but I kept on moving along, and with each mile marker, I glanced at the clock and noticed that I was keeping up with my quicker pace. At mile 6 I decided to pull over and use the bathroom, but after standing for a minute and deciding that I really didn’t have to go that badly/didn’t want to wait for the 4 chatty girls in front of me, I got out of line and back on track. The 6th mile was pretty hilly and was on a dirt road. The road was made a little swampy by this week’s massive amount of rain, so I spent a good deal of the time reminding myself to keep pumping my arms and to take shorter strides up the monster hill. The other thing I occupied myself with at this point was avoiding the deep, muddy potholes. I think this was one of my “oh shit” moments. I was tired from the hill, I was second guessing my training (why, oh why didn’t I train more for these damn hills?!?!?) and really needed something to pick me up. As I passed mile marker 7, I was on the verge of tears, but I heard distant cheering and bells. I forced back the tears, swallowed and hoped that Drew was near. I rounded the corner and saw the water station first and then I looked to my left and there he was! My heart soared! Drew’s encouraging words and some water were just what I needed to get me focused and back into my positive, can-do frame of mind!
Still on cloud nine from my Drew-sighting, mile 8 passed without incident and I stopped to pee as I reached mile marker 9. The ache in my knees was becoming a little more uncomfortable, but I told myself that all that was left was the same distance as my favorite route along the Hudson River. (I appreciated being able to compare it to a familiar run.) I also reminded myself that the brief run near the water was approaching, and that there was no time to be a Sad Sally or an Achy Agnes. Suck it up buttercup! Seeing the 10th mile marker was such a relief, but I quickly hit a wall after reaching it. (A straw wall, or maybe a stick wall, but nothing I couldn’t huff and puff and blow right down.) Another major blow to this “wall” was the universe’s wonderful timing. No sooner had I set my sights on mile 11 and the fast approaching finish line, than my iPod decided it was time to break out the big guns - the University of Michigan fight song. (It was Football Saturday after all, why shouldn’t I be excited?) Now, I was unstoppable. I was hail-ing my way toward the finish line and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me! Before I knew it, I was passing the 12th mile marker and oh my god, I only have 1.1 miles left! Another runner and I both heard our Nike+ software inform us of the 1 mile remaining and we both yelled “woooo” at the same time.
One mile, and it’s time to give it everything I’ve got. Turn it up a notch, but not too much because I didn’t want to peter out just before the finish line. With aching knees, burning chest, and each quarter mile, I turned it up a little more, until I could hear the crowd at the finish line. I started to sprint and I was conscious of the awkward/kind of pitiful noise I was making each time I exhaled, and how awkward I probably looked as my brain took over and insisted that my worn out body just finish it, but I didn’t care. I crossed the line with the official time of 2:23:12 and at that moment realized that I could do anything. Maybe this is a little delusional, but runner’s high, much like alcohol, clouds your judgement a little bit.
The first person I looked for after I finished was Drew. I showed him my finisher’s medal and gave him a big, sweaty hug. He walked with me over to a clearing where I sat down to rest my screaming knees and stretch my legs. I tried to give him a quick recap of everything that I had been through during the previous 2.5 hours, but words failed me and all I could think about was how happy and lucky I was. I was officially a half marathon-er and none of it would have been possible without the amazing support of all of my friends and family. The facebook messages, blog comments, phone calls, cards and text messages were more meaningful than I can even begin to explain. Thank you all for holding me accountable, and keeping me honest and motivated.
So is anyone interested in running the New York City Half Marathon in March?