“What was I thinking?” This is the question that kept running through my head on Friday night – the night before my first half marathon. Less than six months before I thought anyone who ran more than a 5k for fun was insane. Less than six months before that I was among those who swore I’d never run unless someone was chasing me. With a knife. And there was a delicious fruity and alcoholic drink waiting for me when I was safely away from said knife-wielding maniac.
Well, there I was, my alarm set for 4AM, running gear meticulously lain out – double and triple checked (because I’m a little obsessive like that) waiting for sleep. It came intermixed with dreams of showing up naked or, even worse, without my race bib. Thoughts like, what if I have to use the bathroom on the course? and what if I break an ankle half a mile from the finish line? plagued me. At one point I woke up cursing the friends who talked me into a race with promises of glory and pride and bling! Did I mention that among these friends was your favorite runner and mine, Meridith? Thanks, Mer.
I decided that 3:45 was close enough to 4am and rolled out of bed. Up and at ‘em! I threw on my clothes – what a process it was to figure out what I was going to wear! All winter I had been training in sub-freezing weather, but that morning it was 50 degrees. Yikes! Too warm for cold weather gear, not quite warm enough for my regular stuff. So I found a happy medium. Then it was time for breakfast. Peanut butter and sliced banana on wheat toast. For the record, yuck. But it works.
After a few last minute words of advice from my runner husband and a kiss for luck, I was out the door by 4:50. My stomach was still churning when I met my friends at the rendezvous point for carpooling into DC. Thank goodness for the former DC-dweller turned suburbanite who drove us downtown, because the rest of us would’ve been completely lost. Fast forward: we park in the lot, hit the portajon, take Metro to the starting line. It was there that we discovered the VIP portapotties. Yes. V.I.P. porta potties. Complete with red carpet and velvet ropes. Who knew? After seeing the lines for the not-so-important-people restrooms, I briefly wished I had forked over the cash for the climate controlled, easily accessible luxury.
Then it was time to find our corrals. Since the girls I rode in with are considerably faster than I, we headed in opposite directions. I found myself in corral 30 and luckily made a new buddy – another first timer with fast friends in an earlier corral.
She made waiting for the start so much less stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I was still bouncing on my toes anxious but, had Angie not been there, I might have had a very different experience.
The energy at the race was fantastic! Because it was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, there were great bands along the course and those who lived on the course put their boomboxes on their front porches or had their car stereos blasting. Good thing too! The local cell and data network was so overloaded because of the influx of people that my Pandora app wasn’t working! The volunteers at the water and Gatorade stations were fantastic, but the cheering crowds, some with signs, some handing out beer, made the race!
I started out strong. I kept telling myself to slow down and try not to bonk. It totally worked for the first 5 ½ miles. Then came the hill. I will have nightmares about this hill for the rest of my life. The elevation climbed from 24 feet to 197 feet in less than 1/3 of a mile. When I tell you that it looked (and felt) like we were going straight up, I do not exaggerate. Probably 85% of the people around me had to walk it, and some even did so backwards to take the strain off their hamstrings and shift into using their quads. It was rough.
My legs were fried by the top and it really messed with the rest of my race. At that point I made a conscious decision that I would basically power walk uphill and only run the downhills. I wasn’t happy about it, but I did what I had to do to get it done. Thankfully, the end of the race was downhill so I was able to run through the finish line and smile for the cameras.
I collected my medal (which, if it wasn’t so darn heavy, I would wear it until the ribbon gave out) and headed through the finishers’ chute. I was very happily surprised when I turned at the sound of my name and realized that Victoria, another of my favorite Scoot a Dooters, had found me in the midst of 25,000 people.
All in all, it was great day. I am incredibly proud that I completed the course and have a shiny new medal to show for it.
I am hopeful that the whole experience will be like childbirth in that it’s pretty painful, but worth it, and a few days later you want to do it all over again. It better be since Meri and Vic suckered me into signing up for another half in six weeks. Yikes!
Keri is a stay-at-home mom to twins who loves to travel and over-indulges in historical fiction. She has been known to tone down her innate awesomeness in order to make those around her more comfortable.
Everyone has to start somewhere! We want to hear about your firsts – whether it be your first run, 5k, 10k, half marathon, or marathon. What did you do beforehand that worked well? What would you do differently?