I’m doing my PR dance all over the place! (Yes, it’s just as awkward as you’re imagining.)
The Atlantic City April Fools Half Marathon holds a very special place in my heart for a multitude of reasons.
- I was born on April Fools Day! It was actually one of the reason I signed up for the inaugural race way, way back in 2012.
- I’ve run this race with many friends over the past 6 years! A birthday race calls for a birthday party, am I right? I’ve had friends from all over the country travel in to do this race with me and I’m forever grateful to every single one of them.
- For over the past year I trained the course with my lifelong pal, Chrissy!
Over the years this race has gone from great to phenomenal. The race director really pays attention to feedback and it shows.
What do runners want that this race provides? Great communication leading up to the race, multiple locations for packet pickup (this was added after I registered, I opted to do race morning pickup for a small fee), bag check, starting on time, flat/fast course, on course entertainment, free race pictures, wonderful volunteers, unique medals, costume contests, and yummy post-race snacks, and free beer. Yes, yes, and more yes! Much appreciated!
I live an hour from Atlantic City so I always opt to just drive the morning of the race.
After fueling with a homemade nutrition bar and drinking Spark, I also brought water and an apple for just before the race began. I have a bad habit of not planning fuel well before races and I wanted to avoid that if possible.
The drive was uneventful (just how a drive should be) and parking at Resorts was free (just how I like it). I needed to get there early because packet pickup was from 6am – 7am so I arrived at 6:15 and quickly got set up with my race bib and bag. The bag contained the race shirt (blue – I love this year’s color, design, and fabric) and a few freebies – including saltwater taffy!
I planted myself in a lounge area and waited until closer to the start of the race to go outside. This was the most relaxed I’ve felt before I race ever and I was able to zone out for about a half hour. Having the option for bathrooms inside a casino rather than portapotties is always nice, too, and I stopped by before heading to the boardwalk.
Just after I checked my bag, I ran into longtime friend, Rob! I’d seen him at the Rowan 5k the day before and it was great to see a friendly face immediately. We spent the remaining minutes before the race chatting.
This was the first time I ran this race solo and I knew that I could achieve a PR, given my training and my familiarity with the course. I went in feeling very confident. The weather was fantastic (very different from last year!) and I knew that it could be my day.
I decided to run the first mile and then settle into 30:30 intervals. I wanted to play with my speed on the run intervals and I knew that with short bursts I would be able to keep a steady pace but also push when necessary.
The first 7 miles were fairly consistent. I felt good and strong while running, both on the boardwalk and when we turned onto the street.
I knew where the boards were a bit more springy, where the road slopes to the left, and where to put myself so that my feet were even and I felt secure. I know some people don’t like out and back courses; personally, I love that I had the opportunity to see my friends and cheer for them along the way.
Looking at my splits I’m sure it’s clear when I hit the turn-around and was slammed with headwind. Ooof!
Yep, that’s right… 7 and a half. This was also around the time that I started talking to myself. Out loud. With feeling.
“Meridith, you can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS. You can and you will! You need to stay strong and keep pushing for that PR. This is all a mental game and you know you can do this.Let’s go. Hustle!”
I made it my goal to stay under 13 minute miles. I was still a little scarred from my Philadelphia half but I knew this course. I trained on this course. And I was positive that I could stay under 13 minute miles and attain a huge PR.
My self pep talks continued throughout the last miles. The volunteers energy at the water stops was contagious and once I hit the main area of the boardwalk, I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I know this is totally cheesy but it was as though a montage was playing in my head. There were places along the way that reminded me of Chrissy and our training runs together. There were songs that reminded me of my children. The year we dresses as beauty queens and then the next year when we dressed as the Rockford Peaches flashed through my mind. Even though I was running this race alone, it didn’t feel that way.
I did my best and didn’t give up. When I saw the clock as I approached the finish line, I was elated! An 8 minute PR was mine!
I feel so, so good about this race. I knew that I would be able to do well and I’m really proud! I hit a lot of PRs last year but my half PR was a bittersweet because I didn’t have a good race experience. This is what I wanted my experience to be and what I wanted it to feel like and I could think of no better place to do it!
Immediately after I got my medal, my IG friend Angela found me! I don’t know if I conveyed just how grateful I was that she did that; I was so happy to see a familiar face! We were able to catch up for a few minutes and then parted ways. I also got to catch up with Hollie both before and after the race, which is always great!
I went along to grab a bagel, drink, and Johnson’s popcorn. There were other treats as well but I wanted to get my bag from bag check and my free beer at the bar! Priorities!
Happy, happy, happy! This race was everything that a PR race should be! I’ve already registered for lucky number 7, the Atlantic City April Fools half on April 15, 2018. Who’s with me?