This year marks the second annual Run for Parkinson’s. Over a decade ago, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson ’s disease, an extremely debilitating neurodegenerative disorder.After going through the difficult journey that comes with such a scary diagnosis, my mom and I felt channeling our experience into something productive for the cause would be the best way to focus our energy.
The story really begins with a run Beth and I did a few years back on the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath. After the run, while we were engaging in all that post-run good stuff (photos and free bananas!) I struck up a conversation with the run’s organizer, John Brathwaite. John has a non-profit called DC Running Club which partners with organizations looking to host active events and helps them plan and execute their event from start to finish (pun intended).
His business model is to take half of the registration fee to cover the cost of the race and his personnel who handle all of the logistics. The other half is donated to the partner organization’s cause. It seemed like fate as I had been dying to plan a run but had absolutely no clue where to start.
We met a few months later to start planning the first Run for Parkinson’s, which was held last April on Hains Point. John took the reins organizing the event while I followed him around trying to absorb all of the details that go into the planning process. The first step was filing for the permit with National Park Service and learning how much police detail is required per number of runners anticipated at the event. We had to carefully choose the start and end times based on the distance of the run and requirements of NPS. Then we had to figure out all of the other nitty-gritty details – such as accessibility via public transportation and parking, placement of trash receptacles, and how many volunteers we’d need to set up on time and hand out bibs.
Marketing the event was up next. John has an account with Active.com, which is very helpful for registration. We had a really tiny budget for marketing, so we had to get creative! Many of last year’s participants were from our various networks, and I have to say it was a very powerful feeling to have that kind of support from so many people. Friends, family and colleagues were quick to sign up and get involved. So out went the mass email blasts, Facebook invites, blog articles, and any other free advertising opportunities we could get our hands on, such as a digital ad donated by Bisnow.com (thanks, guys!).
This is always the most stressful aspect for me because so much goes in to the organization of the event, to the point sometimes you forget you actually have to get people there! Our first event came and went with great success. We attracted close to 500 runners and raised almost $10,000!!
I anticipated the second time around would be easier after the know-how I had gained from the first event. However, it has proven to be full of new challenges on top of the same marketing dilemmas and logistical mishaps. Just when we thought we had things under control, we got a call from National Park Service last week saying that our location was double-booked with another run and we would have to change the location, even though our permit was filed almost a year ago.
Alas, having the backing of DC Running Club has saved us again. John scrambled to work his connections with the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath and we were confirmed two days later at the new location. Now the run is just a couple weeks away and we’re working hard to get everything ready for the big day. We hope that with some help from the race Gods all will go smoothly, and of course we would love to see you there! April 13th at 8am at the Capital Crescent Trail Towpath.
The Chicago Marathon was the most fulfilling day of my life. It was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication to changing my life and being healthy. But truth be told, I was disappointed in myself after that race.
Minutes after crossing the finish line, I knew I could have done better. Both the physical and mental breakdown I had during that race were a product of my lack of training. Granted, I had some setbacks along the way, but I knew in my heart I was under trained. I decided I wanted another shot at the marathon to redeem myself, which came in the form of the Rock n Roll USA Marathon this past weekend.
To prepare for this race, I decided to use a significantly different training plan than I did for Chicago. It had me running six days a week and included weekly speed training sessions and tempo runs. I knew it would be difficult, but I was up to the task. Starting on November 15, I spent 18 weeks training my butt off. Over that time I ran a total of 622 miles, dropped 23 pounds and 4% body fat, and saw my average pace drop by 45 seconds per mile.
Race weekend came and, once again, my mother was here to support me. She has been there for all of the most significant moments in my life and she did not want to miss this one either. We both awoke at 4:30am on race day morning and got everything we needed together. I had a light breakfast, got dressed and collected all of the gear I had packed the night before. We set out at 5:30am to catch the metro to the start area, which was right by the Washington Monument.
I had never felt so calm before a race. Despite knowing I was about to run 26.2 miles, I felt so good about the shape I was in and the training I had done that nothing made me nervous. My running buddy Rachel met us outside of my corral about 10 minutes before race time. I hugged them both and went into my corral, and twenty minutes later I was off and officially running my second marathon!
Start to 10k
After crossing the start line, I immediately felt a tad emotional. I had to make sure not to start off too fast, so I kept checking my Garmin to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it. After my usual three miles to feel fully warmed up, I really started to feel good. I ran with a fluidity that I hadn’t experienced in the past. I was smiling, taking in the sites of the city, and actually having fun. The hill just before we hit Mile 6 looked to kill most of the other runners, so I just put my head down and charged right up it, my quads burning the whole time. I knew my Mom and Rachel would meet me around this part of the course, but we missed each other. I didn’t let it deter me and hit the 10k mark at 60:43. I was pumped.
10k to Half Marathon
This was my favorite part of the run and I was now keep a comfortable pace of 9:30. To say I was in a zone would be a complete understatement. During this stretch I knew I had a couple groups of friends who were cheering on runners. I saw my friend Caroline around Mile 7 and then a group of friends at the water station near Mile 9.5. I was so pumped to see them I actually ran UP their stairs to give them all a high five. Here I was running a full marathon and I did some steps along the way.
Ten miles is my favorite distance to run and when I passed the 10 mile marker I looked at my watch and saw that I had PRed! I then picked up the pace a little more and charged toward the halfway point. The marathoners split off from the half marathoners and the road became like a barren wasteland. I saw my Mom and Rachel for the first time on the course, gave them a high five, said “Gotta go!” and hit the half marathon marker at yet another PR of 2:05:54. I was on a roll!
Half Marathon to Mile 20
During my first marathon, I had a physical breakdown just after passing the half marathon mark. This time was so much different. I continued to barrel through at a 9:30 pace and just felt like I could do anything. 13, 14, 15, 16, the mile markers just kept ticking away. However, there comes a time during the course of running 26.2 miles where your body just runs out of energy and that time finally came for me at Mile 17. I had run without stopping for seventeen miles in a time of 2:43:34. At that point I knew that I was already a shoe-in to beat my Chicago time, the thought now became “by how much?”. Over the next 3 miles I took a GU and walked a short portion. I knew a person in the band at Mile 20 and he gave me a high five as I passed. I then saw my Mom and Rachel for an embrace and another pair of high fives. 20 miles down in 3:16:54.
Mile 20 to the Finish
This was the most difficult portion of the race for me. My pace slowed significantly but I still did not let that break me. I ran the majority of the way and took a GU at Mile 21 to give me the extra energy I needed to finish strong. I dug so deep to keep pushing forward. There seemed to be more hills during this portion of the race than the rest of it. That seemed so unfair! With less than a mile to go I came into what seemed like a straight away portion of the highway. I saw RFK Stadium in the distance and knew it was only a matter of time before I would cross the finish line. I ran as hard and as fast as I could the rest of the way, never stopping. I managed a 9:00 minute pace the last half mile and burst across the finish line giving it every last ounce of energy I had to give. For the second time, I became a marathoner.
I was winded, I was hurting, but nothing could have dampened just how good I felt about what I had just done. I collected my medal and gave it a big kiss. I had earned that piece of hardware and it felt so good to feel it around my neck. I walked very slowly through the finish area festivities, seeing all of the elated runners along the way. I knew many of them had to be feeling as amazing as I did. As I met up with my Mom and Rachel, finally, we all embraced in a moment I will never forget.
They were both so proud of me and it felt good to know that I had that kind of support, not just for that day, but in my life in general. My mother’s presence in my life has allowed me to grow into the person I have become and without her support I really don’t know where I would have ended up in life. I certainly would not be a two-time marathon finisher without her that is for sure.
Having had some time to process the entire experience I came away with a few thoughts. First, no matter how hard you train, running a marathon is hard. There is no getting around it, but completing it will change your life forever. Second, the marathon is so much like our lives. You have ups and you have downs, but you ultimately learn how to get through all of those times to come out better when all is said and done. Lastly, and most importantly, it taught me that I am STILL capable of so much more than even I think I am. That applies to all of you reading this too. It is so important to always believe in yourself and never sell yourself short. Ever.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read another of my stories for you. I truly appreciate all of the comments and support. In closing, I will let the numbers speak for themselves:
Life has been a little on the hectic side lately, but I wanted to stop by quick to share with you all that I did run my fifth half marathon yesterday morning in Philadelphia, and spoiler alert, I finished despite being injured!
And, not only did I finish, I PRed by almost 4 minutes, finishing in 2:05:08. Wahoo!!
Hello readers, this is Matt writing to you again. You may remember my In His Words story featured in back in September. In that story I spoke of my intention to run the Chicago Marathon on October 7, 2012. The responses to my story and the requests to hear about my marathon experience were enough that I asked Beth if I could do a follow-up piece for you. She was more than happy to feature it and here I am again.
There are many experiences in life that no matter how prepared we feel, we cannot be 100% prepared for. The marathon and its 26 miles and 385 yards is most certainly one of those experiences.
Race day is always such a special day for so many reasons. No matter what the distance or how many races I have done, my emotions always seem to be all over the map. The marathon was no different for me. My 4:45am wake up call came and I jumped out of bed. I was so excited to run my first marathon.
I had my pancake breakfast, showered, stretched and got dressed to leave.
The Chicago Marathon is a very well-oiled machine I’ll tell you. It was nearly a 2 mile walk to my gear check area because there were three different gear check areas depending on your starting corral. My mom came with me as I got my things in order, stretched a bit, and dropped my gear off. She gave me a big hug and off I went into Corral L around 7:45am.
It was time.
Standing in my race corral, surrounded by 45,000 other runners was really a breathtaking sight. As we inched toward the start line I found myself becoming more and more serious. Gone were the days where I could train. Gone were the days where I could daydream about this moment. And gone were the days where I was not a marathoner. The moment had come to actually do it. At around 8:15am, I blew a kiss to the sky (something I do at every race for certain loved ones no longer with me), started my Garmin, and was off. It was official, I was running my first ever marathon!
Start to 10K
As I began to run, a huge smile crept over my face. I just kept thinking “I am running the Chicago Marathon. This is so cool!” The 10K distance went by in a blur. The streets were lined with thousands and thousands of spectators. That, coupled with adrenaline, had me feeling so good. I hit the 10K mark in 1:05:48, feeling fresh and confident.
10K to Half Marathon
This might have been my favorite stretch of the race. I knew going into the race that I would see my friends Jon, Steph, and baby Samantha (people I consider true family) at the Mile 7 marker. I saw them right where they said they would be. They jumped up and down and screamed when they saw me and we shared a hug. I gave baby Sam a kiss, took a photo with Jon and Steph, and was off and running again. It was such a boost to see them. Miles 7 through 10 flew by as I was feeling great and knew my Mom would be waiting for me around Mile 10. As I approached I saw her and my friend Jillian. My mom started jumping up and down like I knew she would. I got a hug from both of them and a “You got this.” from my Mom and off I went. As I crossed into double digits and hit the half marathon marker I felt so good. I passed the halfway mark at 2:20:19, ahead of my projected finish time, and figured if I kept at this pace I would be just fine.
Little did I know…
Half Marathon to Mile 20
This was, by far, the most lonely and challenging part of the race for me. As I passed the Mile 14 marker my body began to do something it had never done in two years and nearly 1000 miles of running … it began to breakdown. My quads began to violently twitch and spasm. At first I thought it was a temporary setback and pushed through it the way I had pushed through everything else along the way in life. The pain became so intense that it forced me to begin walking and, eventually, come to a complete stop. I was so unprepared for something like this, as I had never experienced it before. To look down and actually see my muscles spasming to the point that it nearly buckled me was scary. I did what I could for the next two miles knowing my Mom had said she MIGHT be at Mile 16. Well, Mile 16 came and went and I couldn’t find her.
At the time it was crushing. It may seem odd for me to tell you that in a field of 45,000 runners and almost 2 million spectators that I was lonely, but I truly felt that way. For a split second I thought “I still have ten more miles to go.” but immediately stopped that line of thought. I made a tough decision and decided to lay down the fierce competitor in me. The race became about finishing and not about time anymore. When I finally got to the Mile 20 marker I saw my Mom and she knew something was wrong. She gave me a tight hug and said exactly what I needed to hear. “Do what you have to do Matthew. I love you.” It was then I decided not to seek medical attention because I knew there was a chance they wouldn’t let me back out to finish. I was willing to risk permanent injury to make this dream a reality. I was finishing this race … by any means necessary.
Mile 20 to Finish
They say the real race begins at Mile 20. I can’t really vouch for that, but I can tell you I learned a lot about myself during those last 6.2 miles. My quads were still spasming but I began to figure some things out. I shortened my running stride and was able to run easier than walk. I ran/walked (more like a shuffle) the rest of the way. I was able to put together a 10:45 pace when I did run and felt pretty good. I saw the the “1 mile to go” sign and decided to run that last mile. As I turned the corner past the Mile 26 marker and saw the finish line it dawned on me … I was about to finish. After 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 45 seconds, I raised my arm to the sky and crossed the finish line. It was official. Matthew Frates had become a marathoner.
In the weeks since then I have had some time to really think about the whole experience. While training for this took place in 2012, the real journey toward this moment started back in 2010 when I decided to get my life together. As much as this race for was for me, I realize now that it was as much for those I hold close as it was for me. I received an overwhelming amount support along the way and I know I would never have achieved all that I have without it. I was fortunate to not only have my Mom there, but four of my closest friends as well.
I will never be able to truly express what that meant to me and I know that no matter where my life takes me I will never forget this experience and everything they contributed to making it such a success. 26.2 miles is a humbling distance and the experience of running it taught me many things. The most important thing it taught me is that no matter what life throws my way, I will never again think or feel that I cannot do it. I am a marathoner and no one will EVER be able to take that away from me. Thank you so much for reading my story.
Yesterday I did something that I never thought in a million years I would do – I ran more than a 5k BEFORE running a race. The Boo! Run for Life holds a special place to me because it was actually my first ever 10k in 20 and my 10k PR in 2011 (before last weekend’s 10k), so when I got an email about it again this year, I signed up immediately.
I had 9 miles on my half marathon training schedule for this past weekend, and since I’d already signed up for the 10k, I decided to just run the extra distance before the race since I knew I would not be interested in running more after the race, and so yesterday marks the day I turned into a crazy runner, in my book anyway.
Per usual, I set up my race gear the night before, including a Peanut Butter GU which I’d never tried before. It was alright, but I still favor Vanilla Bean.
This time I decided to do the run to the race site with a light backpack so I could bring something to change into after the race because I knew I’d be sweaty after clocking in 9+ miles. I got all geared up
Self portrait #2340872349898 taken in my bathroom.
And knotted the backpack around my chest so it wouldn’t bounce around:
And it actually worked out great.
I ate my standard pre-race breakfast:
A toasted english muffin with banana and chocolate peanut butter with some coffee on the side, and then was out the door.
I’d mapped out a route to run before the race of about 3 miles, and I can say that those were the worst 3 miles I’d run in a while. I was out to dinner the night before for a friend’s birthday, and while I only had a couple glasses of wine, it turns out oysters aren’t the best pre-race dinner. That’s all I’ll say about that but my stomach was not feeling the best.
Mile 1: 9:09
Mile 2: 9:08
Mile 3: 9:05
Before too long though, I was at the race site so I got to stop running while I waited for the race to start.
I picked up my bib
Checked my bag, and then met up with one of my best friend’s Lianne who was also running the 10k.
Before long, we were lining up at the start line and the gun went off!
The first mile or two was tough because I didn’t really know how to time fueling since I’d run 3 miles, then waited around for 40 minutes before starting again. It was also cold and windy and my body was confused why I was making it run again so soon right after I’d stopped.
Mile 4: 8:43
Mile 5: 8:40
I decided to take a GU after 2 miles of the race (which was 5 miles into my total run) and it worked out perfectly because there happened to be a water stop right after. The GU definetly picked me up a bit and miles 6-7 were pretty uneventful.
Mile 6: 8:56 (included walking through the water stop)
Mile 7: 8:29
Once I passed the 7 mile mark (which was mile 4 of the 10k) I got kind of annoyed with the signs that marked the miles. Obviously that is completely illogical, but I just wanted to shout IT’S NOT MILE 5 IT’S MILE 8 FOR ME! But, I resisted. The next 1.5 miles went by pretty uneventfully, but once I was around mile 5.5 of the race it was HARD. I kept looking for the Mile 6 sign and it came way later than I was hoping, and of course the finish line was much further after the 6 mile mark than it should have been.
But eventually, I made it.
Mile 8: 9:01
Mile 9: 8:43
Crossing that finish line felt SO good.
I’m still awaiting my official 10k time and will update it when I have it, but I think it was around 56 – 57 minutes, so a bit slower than last week, which was to be expected.
Even though the run was frustrating in some ways, I will say it was pretty awesome breaking down a long run like that. The 3 mile pre-race felt like no big deal since I’ve been running so much lately, and then the last 6 of the 9 miler was part of a 10k so there were tons of people around and cheering and adrenaline. It was also awesome to have a timeframe in place since the race started at 8, so I was done with 9 miles by 9am, which I definitely wouldn’t have been if I was just running it on my own! It also just made the distance feel more manageable, and it’s something I won’t rule out doing again if it works in my schedule!
How do you define a crazy runner? Have you ever run extra before or after a race to meet mileage goals? Would you?
This past Sunday, I ran my fifth 10k! I love the 10k distance – 6.2 miles is far enough that I feel like I’m getting a really solid workout, but short enough that it doesn’t take too much out of me and doesn’t require much training as long as I’m running regularly.
Before Sunday came, I was really hoping to PR, or finish the distance faster than I ever have. Lately, as I mentioned in my half marathon training update last week, I’ve been running more mileage and covering it faster than I ever have, so I figured it would be no problem. But then as race day drew nearer, some circumstances made me readjust my goal and just want to finish the race strong.
Last week I ended up getting super sick and was out of work for two days, completely knocked out from a cold! Because of that, I hadn’t run since Monday by the time race day came (so almost a full week), and then, to boot, the weather ended up being very cold and drizzly on the morning of the race. Good conditions to run in when you’re getting over a cold, I’m sure.
Saturday during the day, I went and did my packet pickup to get my bib and was THRILLED to see the jackets we got for the race instead of t-shirts:
How nice is that!?
I laid all my stuff out the night before, per usual:
And then woke up in the morning and made a standard pre-run breakfast:
A cinnamon raisin whole wheat English muffin toasted with 1/2 a sliced banana and chocolate better ‘n peanut butter.
I made myself some coffee and got a water bottle, and then headed to get in my car. When I got down there, I realized that overnight someone had decided to park right next to me and essentially blocked my car into the space so I couldn’t move it. I was glad I’d left enough time and surprised myself by not freaking out at all, and (calmly) ended up walking to the race site, which was about 2 miles. I could have biked, but it was raining, and I get nervous biking in the rain so I just used my feet instead.
Walking to the race site kind of threw off my game-plan. I couldn’t bring my coffee or water bottle, and I just hadn’t planned on walking 2 miles before the race, so I wish I’d have brought more fuel with me for the race itself, buuuut I didn’t. So I dealt. Plus, the views weren’t too bad on the walk there…
The other issue was, when I got to the start area, there was a HUGE line that I figured was for on-site registration and was glad to not be standing in.
But then, I looked around and realized the line was actually for bag check (that little blue tend towards the left side of the above photo), so I needed to get in it after all. It was pretty much a cluster, so I just waited and hoped for the best, and then 5 minutes before gun time, they yelled “BAGS” and everyone just charged the tent and somehow I ended up checking my bag and getting to the start line in time.
I met up with my friends who were also running the race:
Me, Stacy, Rhea, Caroline and Amber.
And off we went! The course itself was fast and flat, and an out-and-back. When I passed the mile 2 mark, the runners leading the pack were running past me in the other direction, already passing the 4 mile marker. They were going SO fast! It’s always fun to cheer for the people leading the race and get that extra pep in my step.
Miles 2-4 were pretty uneventful since before long I saw the 3 mile mark, and then it was time to turn around at the 5k mark, and then the 4 mile mark came and went.
Once I got past that marker, I started to struggle a bit. I was cold, wet, and was feeling pretty hungry because of the extra unplanned 2 miles I tacked on beforehand. I had to dig pretty deep to keep going, and just kept picking runners that were ahead of me to try to keep up with and follow their pace.
Before long, I saw the 5 mile mark, and then after what seemed like a VERY long mile, I saw the 6, and was almost there. I didn’t have it in me to sprint much for the last .2, but I knew I was cutting it really close to PRing so I just tried to go as fast as I could. And then, I crossed the glorious finish line and was DONE.
I waited and cheered for the runners after me while I waited for a few of my friends to finish, and then went and checked the time reports to see if I had PRed.
And, despite the rain, despite the cold, despite the sickness, and despite the extra 2 mile walk, I did it! I finished 20 seconds faster than my fastest time yet, for a final time of 55:21, which is an 8:54 pace.
I was SO HAPPY to be done, to have a new PR, andddd to get out of the rain. This race left me feeling really confident with where I am with running, and that’s what matters the most.
Yesterday I participated in the “happiest race on Earth” also known as the Color Run 5k. I will say it was super fun and definitely the most unique race experience I’ve ever had, and this was race number 23 so I feel qualified to make such a statement.
The day started the same as any other race with a wakeup call far too early for a Sunday of 6:45am. I laid out all my gear the night before to make the morning easy on me.
Bib w/safety pins
Color Run Headband
Old running sneaks
Plus, special for this race:
A change of clothes
a garbage bag for all my clothes post-race
a ziplock for my phone
I quickly got geared up:
Made a quick pre-race mini-meal of an english muffin toasted with smashed banana:
And then I was out the door to meet my friends. I drove the 25 minutes from home to the site of the race with these ladies:
Me, Lianne, Jess, and Amy.
The ride itself was easy peasy, and the race logistics were very smooth for such a big race. We hung around and waited for our other friends to meet us, and before too long the 7 of us running the race were together at last.
Jess, Lianne, Amber, Me, Elena, Caroline, and Amy.
We headed to the start and MAN it was crowded.
I thought the Color Run handled the logistics of the race REALLY well. The race wasn’t timed, it was just for fun, so they let groups of people go every 5-10 minutes. This allowed us to get off without a hitch and, besides a few small aprts of the course, to avoid overcrowding.
The weather itself was PERFECT and the scenery along the harbor was beautiful.
Our pack in action:
Before too long, we spotted the first color area. I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly, but it basically consisted of volunteers standing on both sides of the color area, holding clear plastic bottles that might be used for condiments otherwise, with chalky paint in them. They squirted out the paint as the runners went by, so your clothes got covered. Each of the color stops along the race was a different color, so the first one was yellow, the second red, the third orange, and the last one blue. I might have made that order up.
But here’s a close up of the orange color stop:
Since the paint was powdered, it got all up into the air and you had to be careful not to breath too much while running through. One of my friends was lucky enough to have the paint squirted DIRECTLY INTO HER MOUTH by one of the volunteers, but that luckily didn’t happen to me.
Since the run wasn’t timed, it was just a really chill run and wasn’t too stressful. It was supposed to be a 5k and I didn’t clock it or anything, but I think it was more like 2.5 miles rather than 3.1 judging by how fast we were running/how much time it took/how long I felt like I was running for. Before long, we spotted the finish line and were done!
Paint covered, but it wasn’t so bad yet.
As part of your race packet, they give you packs of the powdered paint to toss in the air after the race. We spotted a group congregating across the way and saw the powered paint clouding the area above them, so over there we went.
This part was just ridic. If you go to spectate a color run OR you run and don’t want to breathe in/get covered in paint, I’d say avoid this part. It was nutso.
Action shot of Lianne and I:
After that whole thing, that is when we were all COVERED in paint.
And what’s a fun run with a group without a jumping picture at the end?
No fun at all.
So, would I do it again?
Totally. I think if you’re looking for a low pressure race, this is the one you should do. A few of my friends who did it don’t love running, but loved this race and said they had so much fun. When I suggested we do more 5ks together, I got a few sideways glances that told me not to get my hopes up.
What’s the most unique race you’ve ever done? Does a race like this sound like something you’d do?
Half marathons are a pretty big deal for most people. I’m not sure why I felt like that no longer applied to me just because I had three under my belt, but I majorly slacked during training leading up to my fourth half, which was this past Saturday in Philadelphia. I wrote about my bad “long” “run” the weekend before, which was a 7.2 mile walk/run instead of a 12 mile run, and I’m sure that didn’t help much leading up to the race considering it was my last long run.
On Friday, I headed up to Philly to stay with my sister since the race started early Saturday morning. The first big mistake I made (besides the lack of training) was wearing my flip flops to the race expo.
I didn’t realize the expo was 2 miles away, aka 4 miles round trip, and by the time I got back to my sister’s house after 4 miles of walking in the flip flops, the bottom of my feet felt RAW. Not a smart move the day before a half marathon. But, I did get a good bib number for the race.
The next morning, I woke up around 6am and got geared up for the race. I had my standard pre-race breakfast – an english muffin toasted with peanut butter and half a banana.
My first time ever having Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter and omg was it good!
So we leave for the race at 6:45, and its about a 15 minute drive. We thought the race time was 7:30am, so we left with plenty of time to get to the start and get situated. My plan was to get in line for the porta potty immediately because my stomach was feeling kind of off, so once we parked we headed towards the start. It was around 7:05am, and we saw a few runners going by us pretty fast.
At first, I shook it off thinking the elite runners were just warming up and we kept walking. But then, more and more runners ran by us, and we realized something wasn’t quite right. Wendy asked some of the runners if the race had started, and they said yeah – turns it out was a 7am go time, not 7:30am like we thought! Yikes.
We were told we had one minute to get through the start line, so we sprinted across the green and were literally the last runners to go through the start. No time for the portapotty or anything really – we were running a half marathon – the fourth one for both of us.
Wendy and I decided to go our separate ways because I wanted to run fast and PR, so we wished each other luck and off I went. The first couple miles were uneventful and I was passing runners left and right since we had started so late.
Mile 1: 9:19
Mile 2: 9:20
Mile 3: 9:43
Mile 4: 9:53
After Mile 4, I took my first GU and kept on trucking. In the car on the way to the start, the temperature said 74º, so by this time it was about 8:00am and it was HOT. I started to slow down a bit because the heat was really getting to me, and the bottoms of my feet were not feeling so good either. The next 2 miles were fine, but then things started to slow down quite a bit.
Mile 5: 9:43
Mile 6: 9:55
Mile 7: 10:26
Mile 8: 10:45
After Mile 8, I took a second (and the last) GU, and then things started going downhill pretty quickly. My feet were killing me, and my stomach was in knots since I hadn’t gotten to use the bathroom. I didn’t feel like I had to “go” right then, but I just felt really uncomfortable, and I think the heat was just making the situation much worse than it would have been otherwise. I ended up run/walking the last 5 miles and would pick landmarks to run to and then walk for a bit, before starting to run again.
My pace obviously drastically reduced when I started doing this, and I readjusted my goal from PRing to just crossing that finish line, which honestly felt a bit lofty at a few points along the course.
Mile 9: 11:31
Mile 10: 10:41
Mile 11: 10:52
Mile 12: 10:54
After the 12 mile mark, the course did something just plain mean. There was an extremely uphill part from miles 12.5 – 13, and basically everyone was walking up it because it was so steep. This picture doesn’t even do it justice, though you can see the girl in front of me is obviously walking as well.
Cruel way to end the race.
Mile 13: 11:16
I somehow managed to dig deep when I finally made it to the top of that hill and ran my heart out to the finish, pulling in front of a couple people, but mostly so excited to finally be done with this one.
Not only did I not PR, it was my second slowest half, and the only one I have walked during. The final time was 2:15:20, or a 10:19 pace.
I waited to watch my sister cross the finish line, and then we promptly collapsed in the grass.
I’m not sure why she made that face, but our second attempt looked like this.
Something must have been funny. Someone must have felt bad for us because she offered to take a picture of us both, which turned out better.
As we were sitting there in the grass, I was really beating myself up. I couldn’t believe I had finished the half “so slow” and didn’t want to put my finish time on the back of my shirt (which they are designed to do).
Luckily, my sister was there to knock some sense into me. She reminded me that first of all, we’d just completed 13.1 miles and that was nothing to sneeze at – that was something to be proud of! Second, she told me I don’t always have to be so competitive with myself. She runs for fun and for the accomplishment of it all, and feels great about herself when she finishes, regardless of the pace. I’m not saying that’s how I will or plan to approach races, but it was refreshing to hear from someone else (who is allowed to tell me to shut up because we’re related by blood) and put it all in perspective.
Though I was definitely feeling a bit disappointed, I made a conscious decision to shake it off. The heat, my less-than-stellar decision making process with the flipflops, and my stomach feeling off all contributed to my finishing slower than I wanted to. But, I still covered 13.1 miles before 10am in a very respectable amount of time, and I needed to be proud of myself for that. I decided to own it and wear the race shirt proudly for the rest of the day.
And the best part? I got to run the whole thing with my sister, Wendy.
People say we look alike, but I don’t see it!
It was also good practice for me since I’ll be running my fourth half marathon there Memorial Day weekend, and it had been ages since I’d traveled for a race, so it was good to think through everything I was going to need for race day.
Saturday night I laid my stuff out on my suitcase:
And then the 6:30am wakeup call on Sunday came far too fast. I got up and very quickly decked myself out in running gear.
Downstairs I made my standard pre-run fuel – an english muffin with PB + banana.
And then we were out the door at 7am. We headed to the Subway, and in all the years I’ve been going to Philly, not once had I ever taken it before. It was CROWDED.
This year was apparently the first year that they opened the race to 40,000 runners – the biggest 10 mile race in the country. And there’s no better way to say it than that it was a NIGHTMARE getting to the start of the race because public transportation was just not cut out to deal with the volume of runners.
We got to the platform at 7:10am, and had literally 8 to 10 full subway trains pass without stopping because they were packed. Finally, after over 50 minutes of waiting on the platform, a train with room pulled up and we were able to get on. We made it to the subway stop for the race 2 minutes after the race started (8:32) and headed to the start immediately.
Notice my bib number?
The first time I’ve ever had an even race number… so cool!
And then with literally no time to waste… we were off!
My goals for this race were simply to run it side by side with my sister, and that I did. It was a very different mentality than I usually have, where I’m trying to pass runners left and right and go as fast as I comfortably can. It was challenging in different ways because I went a bit slower than I was used to – but it was so awesome being right next to my sister and having someone to talk to and relate to over funny signs – my first time ever!
Mile 1: 10:22
Mile 2: 10:07
Mile 3: 10:11
Mile 4: 10:00
After Mile 4, I took a GU and we also stopped to use the portapotties. I stopped my Garmin so my Garmin time is our actual running time, rather than the chip time, but since we weren’t running for time, it didn’t really matter!
Mile 5: 9:52
Mile 6: 9:41
Mile 7: 10:08
Mile 8: 10:02
Until Mile 2, and then again after Mile 8, the course was SO crowded and narrow, so it was frustrating to be tripping over myself and others runners. It was kind of funny though because during the race a few times I’d stop paying attention and just go into my natural pace of running a bit faster, and Wendy would tell me to either go ahead without her or slow down if I wanted to stick with her, which is what I wanted.
But then, around mile 9.5, she saw a sign that gave her an extra pep in her step and started BOOKING it without telling me! All of a sudden I saw her out of the corner of my eye weaving in and out of people towards the finish line, and I had to fight really hard to keep up!
Mile 9: 10:07
Mile 10: 9:44
And then, hand in hand with our arms raised up the air, we crossed the finish line feeling awesome!
But after we did, the logistics of the race really started to fall apart again. As soon as we crossed the finish line, people were lined up waiting for water and we had to completely stop walking, which is the last thing you want to do after running 10 miles! We finally got some water (and some Philly pretzels)…
Before making it out of the zoo of runners and sitting in the grass to stretch a bit.
Then, we wanted to get back to the Subway, and we couldn’t figure out how to get there because we were turned around from where we started. Though we asked the cops, other runners, and volunteers, no one seemed to know where it was, despite the fact that they encouraged everyone to take public transport to and from the race.
When we finally got on the train, it was a breeze getting home, but I think the race organizers need to work with the city better for next year to get runners to/from the race, or else reduce the number of runners from 40,000, because it was not fun getting to the race or away from it.
That said and despite the logistics, I loved getting to run side by side with my sister for the first time ever in a race. It was awesome to approach a race with slightly different goals and to just ENJOY it, and that we did.
And the best running quote we saw during the race?
A lot of readers and people in my life reach out to me to share the exciting news that they are getting ready to run their first race and to ask if I have any advice to offer them. And though I haven’t always been a runner by any stretch of the imagination, Saturday marked my 20th race – The Run For Shelter 10k, so I have quite a few races under my belt and consider myself relatively experienced when it comes to running races.
The first bit of advice I always give hands down is to pace yourself. It’s the traditional rookie mistake because it is SO easy to get caught up in the energy of the race itself and the people around you and excitedly start out too fast. The trouble with this is you can lose steam while you still have quite a ways to go, so it backfires.
I guess I should take my own advice.
On Saturday morning, I participated in my 4th 10k, and my goal was just to enjoy it without any particular pace in mind. I signed up for the race sort of randomly because there was a deal online for $24 registration and everyone should know that I can’t resist a bargain. Normally, I allow myself enough time to prepare mentally for races and get excited about them, but this one just sort of snuck up on me since I signed up for it so last minute.
On Friday night, I was freaking out about regular race stuff that I don’t worry about too much – what to wear, what to eat, what time to leave, where to park – and realized I just needed to calm down, set some clothes out, and go to bed. So, I did.
The 6am wakeup call was made better by reminding myself I could take a nap in the afternoon, so I got up and got dressed almost immediately.
I made some pre-race fuel, which looks pretty disgusting but was actually delicious.
A toasted English Muffin topped with mashed banana with Chocolate PB2. After eating it, I made myself some coffee, and then was out the door and in my car by 6:50am.
The drive to the race was about 25 minutes, so I made it to registration by 7:15.
This race was on the small side, with just about 400 runners, so registration was a breeze. It was pretty chilly out that early in the day, so I was happy to be able to wait inside until go time, which was 8am.
Once we made our way outside, it was the least crowded I’ve ever seen a start line of a race.
People eventually moved up after some convincing, and before I knew it, we were off.
I guess I got really excited to not have to dodge people like I have in most races lately with so many runners, so I set off rather quickly. There was a pretty steep hill at the beginning (and consequently at the end since it was an out-and-back race), and I breezed over the hill and before I knew it, I was at the Mile 1 mark. I looked down at my phone, and saw that my pace was 8:02 for the first mile – way too fast for me.
I slowed down quite a bit, and I’m not sure whether realizing I went too fast for Mile 1 was affecting me more mentally or physically, but I felt like I ran out of steam right after that first mile. I decided to slow down a bit, and though the next couple miles were hard, I was able to get through them at a good pace.
Mile 2: 9:03
Mile 3: 9:17
Mile 4: 8:57
The turnaround was at the 5k mark, and it was a bit downhill at that point which is the reason for the 8:57 mile. After mile 4 though, I started crashing pretty hard. For the first time ever in a race (not at a water stop), I stopped to walk. I kept powerwalking and picked a landmark when I would start running again, but it was a real battle through those last 2.2 miles. I ended up taking 3 walking breaks in total and feeling like crap during the last part of the race. When I hit the hill on the way back towards the finish, I walked up it, and vowed to run the rest of the way when I reached the top, no matter what.
I was able to keep up a pretty good pace for the last part of the race despite the walking breaks, and the last miles looked like this:
Mile 5: 9:35
Mile 6: 9:26
Last .36: 3:16 (8:44pace)
Seeing the finish line never felt so good. As soon as I crossed it, I basically collapsed into the grass and sat there coughing, sweating, and feeling like ass. Not sure what I was going for with this post-race photo… Maybe “Thank God this is over?”
The one redeeming thing was that everyone who ran the race got a free cake pop at the end, and I love me some free stuff, so it made me.. ecstatic.
So while this was definitely NOT my best race, I managed to finish with a really respectable time of 57:24, or a 9:15 pace, which is especially great considering I took 3 walking breaks. I truly do appreciate how humbling running can be, no matter how long I’ve been doing it for or how much I don’t sweat a particular race. I appreciate how much my body does for me and the fact that I was able to complete 6.2 miles in under an hour. I am never going to master racing – there will always something new to learn (or relearn) about myself.
And this time, it’s stick to the basics – pace myself.