I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; running races, and even just thinking about it, makes me SO emotional that it makes it tough for me to figure out the right words to start to recap my experience with. I’ve been staring at this blank screen trying to find the words to say to do justice to the experience, but let me stop trying so hard and just start typing.
On Saturday, I completed my third half marathon and walked away feeling stronger and faster than ever before. But let’s rewind a bit.
As is my race tradition, Friday night I set out all my gear to make the next morning as seamless as possible.
I did something you are NOT supposed to do this time – – wore new-to-me socks and used a new armband to hold my iPhone for the first time ever on race morning. They both turned out ok, but it’s not recommended to experiment on race morning!
I set my alarm for a 6am wake-up call and actually woke up without a problem for once. I sleepily got myself geared up.
And then made my go-to prerace breakfast of an English Muffin toasted with (chocolate) peanut butter and a banana.
Plus coffee with frothed milk. Yum.
After eating that quickly, I ended up riding my bike to the metro so I wouldn’t have to switch lines and getting on the metro around 6:50am. I was really happy I got on where I decided to because the train was PACKED and I was barely able to squeeze on.
I made it pretty effortlessly to the Stadium Armory station where the race was to start, but boy was the platform crowded.
It took 10-15 minutes just to get out of the station once I got there. But finally I made it out and into the Armory, which was SO nice to be able to be somewhere inside before the race started.
Runners, runners, everywhere.
I got in line for the bathrooms immediately, and was glad I did because I had to wait for about 20 minutes, and by the time I got in and out, it was just before 8am and time to head for the corrals.
I pushed my way through the crowds and finally made it into my corral – lucky number 13. I stood around for only about 5 or 10 minutes and get overwhelmed with emotion as I thought about the fact that I was about to start running my THIRD half marathon. I’m not sure it will ever feel “normal” for me to run a long-distance race – my body still amazes me every single time.
I tried to keep it together and remind myself that before the race started was not the time to get worked up, so I just took some pictures to distract myself.
Before long, it was time to get going. The weather was absolutely perfect – about 55º and clear – I was psyched and ready to go!
Since I was in Corral #13, it took about 15 minutes of walking before we were actually approaching the start line, but soon enough, there it was!
And we were off!
The first few miles were a blur. Lots of winding in and out of people on a pretty flat part of the course.
- Mile 1: 9:48
- Mile 2: 8:46
- Mile 3: 8:44
- Mile 4: 9:09
After those first couple miles, I was still feeling good but starting to dread Connecticut Avenue – the hill that got the best of me when I ran this race last year. I ate a GU somewhere between mile 4 and 5, and then got a view of THE hill. Though I was going into the race feeling less prepared than I would have liked, I think making hilly runs a focus of my training was the best decision I made training-wise. Connecticut Avenue wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered, and I was able to tackle it much better than last year.
- Mile 5: 9:20
- Mile 6: 9:26 (the hill!)
- Mile 7: 8:17 (!!!!!)
- Mile 8: 9:35
After that Connecticut Ave hill came and went, the rest of the course was filled with rolling hills. After passing Mile 8, it felt good to know I only had 5 and then some left, but I was starting to feel a bit tired, so I had another GU somewhere between mile 8 and 9. Each time I approached a hill, I kept saying “You got this. One step at a time. Just keep going. Don’t think about your pace. Just keep going.” Over and over and over, and one by one, I conquered those hills and got to enjoy the downhill part that came after each one.
- Mile 9: 9:08
- Mile 10: 9:46
- Mile 11: 9:27
Around Mile 11 is where things got really hard. The last part of the course is quite dull and not very scenic. That, coupled with the fact that I was running further than I’d ever run in training for this race meant I really had to dig deep to make it through. “Just over 2 more miles” and focusing on the people on the sides of the race cheering and the other runners got me through. Plus, a third GU around mile 11.5 to carry me through to the end.
- Mile 12: 9:23
- Mile 13: 9:57
Mile 13 was the hardest and practically torture. I was SO ready to be done with the race and I knew I was coming close on a PR, but I felt like I had nothing left to push me through to the end. I tried to distract myself, think about how much I appreciated my body for being strong enough to run, and think about anything other than the fact that I was running a half marathon.
There is a very cruel uphill portion at the very end of the half marathon where the finish line is not in sight at all and I was just about to fall down if I didn’t see the Mile 13 marker shortly. It took every ounce of determination not to stop and walk, but somehow I found a way to push through to the very end and run across that finish line with my hands held high in the air over my head in victory.
That sexy picture was immediately after crossing the finish line so I was in a bit of a goofy-sweaty-victory daze. But I earned this:
I had done it. Completed a half marathon once again by giving it everything I had to take myself across that finish line. And the best part? Faster than ever before!
2 hours 8 minutes 52 seconds, or a 9:50 average pace.
That’s almost 2 minutes faster than this same course last year, and I couldn’t have been more pleased!