I ran a half marathon! I have the medal and the bib and the sore hamstrings to prove it! It feels amazing to know that I worked really hard for three months and had the guts to cross the starting line of a 13 mile race. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I did it!
It has taken me a few days to process my thoughts and emotions about this race! I’ve got a lot of thoughts so prepare for a long read!
The morning of the race was full of nerves and excitement! I had all my stuff laid out on the kitchen table so I wouldn’t forget anything. A tiny panic happened when I realized we didn’t have any peanut butter for my usual English muffin and PB breakfast, but instead I just made the ever-nostalgic butter and cinnamon sugar combination which did the trick. I sun screened up, got dressed, got all my food together, and we were out the door to meet up with mom and dad.
We were waiting in the port-o-potty line for most of the pre-race festivities (definitely not enough port-o-potties. never enough it seems) but I did have the good luck of standing behind a girl whose boyfriend walked up with their two squishy puppies!!! Thank you random family for easing my nerves with your adorable dogs.
Volition America supports the families of fallen or disabled soldiers, so it was a very patriotic morning. A trumpet playing Reveille, a moment of silence for fallen soldiers, the playing of Taps which threw my former-Navy dad for a loop because he didn’t know the premise behind Volition America, and my favorite part: The National Anthem done in the style of an Irish rock band!
The race director climbed up on top of the Start/Finish line arch and said a few words, and we were off. The 5k started 5 minutes after the half, so I am sad I didn’t get to see my mom start or finish her 5k, but I am sooooo proud of her for doing it! She walk-ran and was able to save some energy to sprint in to the finish, and she said she’s hooked! 🙂
Miles 1-3: The 5k
I was cautious not to go out too fast at this point and I tried to keep an easy pace. A few minutes in, police rode by and told us to stay to the right because the 5k runners were coming up on the left. We saw a few very speedy guys run by – they didn’t even look like they were struggling but I’m sure they were running 6 minute miles! The rest of the 5k-ers must have blended in with our pack because I couldn’t tell who was who.
I was running about 30 seconds faster than my planned pace for these miles, and I shrugged it off because it still felt very easy. I would realize later that this was a mistake…I wish I would have remembered the advice that the first few miles should feel annoyingly slow. Anyway, I just kept my eyes on a girl that was ahead of me running the same pace, and I stuck with her for a while.
At mile 3 the 5k-ers split off to finish and I saw Matt holding up his first sign which said “Read this sign and be inspired.” He was the only person holding a sign throughout the whole course, so I hope he made lots of runners smile! It made me laugh for sure.
Miles 4-7: The Support Miles
Still feeling strong, the miles were beeping off on my Garmin. It was amusing actually because at every mile you’d hear like ten Garmins beep all around you. I’m glad I had mine because there were no mile markers on the race, at least until mile 10!!! It’s possible I just didn’t see them, but how horrible it must have been for those who didn’t have some kind of tracking device.
This was the part of the course I had run a few weeks ago on my 12 miler, so it was nice to see something familiar. For future races I’ll definitely run more of the course because it really helps your brain feel empowered!
I spotted a girl running my pace and wearing the same colors as me, so I said “we’re clothes twins!” and we ran together and chatted for a while. Making friends while running is so easy, lol. She gave me a big hug right after I finished the race and I got to meet her three cute kids. SO thankful for you, Clothes Twin!
I made a quick port-o-potty stop and lost my Clothes Twin and her husband, but then I saw one of my coworkers cheering on the side of the road and she really boosted my moral for the next half mile! It’s so fun to see people you know! Thank you Clarice!
I saw Matt again around mile 6.5 – He was long-boarding through town to catch me at different points in the race. He’s amazing. He was holding another sign “FREE HUGS! Just kidding, you’re really sweaty!” and said he got waaay more sweaty hugs than he bargained for. 🙂 He gave me a bottle of water with Nuun and encouraged me to keep pushing when I told him I didn’t think I was going to make my goal. I was exactly halfway to my time goal at the halfway point, and I knew I was slowing down and wouldn’t be able to keep the pace.
Miles 8-10: HILLS OMG.
The Nuun really helped. I needed the electrolytes by then, but besides that, Nuun is just the right amount of delicious fizziness without being too sweet (the Gatorade they were handing out on the course was sickly sweet. Bleh). At this point I was really wishing the course had more water stops! They only had water every two miles, which is just not often enough in 85 degree, 95% humidity Florida sun.
We had already climbed a few hills at this point, and to my dismay I kept seeing hill after hill rise up before me, most of them paved in cobblestone. Cobblestone is really difficult to run on, because usually it’s really old and there are dips and potholes and lots of things to make your calves work overtime. I adopted a run-walk strategy and even considered programming my Garmin to beep at me for the intervals, but I didn’t want to accidentally stop my clock. This part of the course went through neighborhoods I’ve never seen before, so I had no idea where I was. They were surprisingly nice neighborhoods, though. Lots of pretty houses to look at, had I not been so focused on staying alive. 🙂
The course came upon a small circular lake and I thought “oh that’s the tiny lake from the map…cool…nooo not more cobblestone…why is there no shade here…oh yay a water stop!” And then proceeded to drink a cup of water and dump another on my head and face.
The hills were more mentally challenging than anything. I used every method I know to climb them: keep running to the end of this song, think about how great it will feel at the top of the hill, don’t look at the top just look straight ahead, etc… But my resolve was getting weak and I was walking a lot more than I planned.
Miles 11-13.1: Help meee.
By mile 11 I was really struggling. My calves were getting tight, people that I passed in mile 3 were passing me, and it was just so hot. I was not considering quitting, but I just didn’t know how I could keep going. Where is the next water stop??? I called Matt and he told me to just “put one foot in front of the other.” It didn’t feel like a cliche in that moment. I took it very literally and focused on the next 5 feet in front of me, hoping that would eventually pull me through the last miles.
Another blessed water stop at mile 12 cooled me off enough to get up past Lake Underhill, where I saw my angelic savior hero Mom cheering me on in the distance. I knew that seeing her meant I was almost finished and knowing I’d be hearing her cheers soon brought tears to my eyes. If you ever get a chance to have my mom cheer for you, DO IT. She is the best cheerleader and she is not afraid to be loud and crazy so that you’ll feel supported. She ran with me for a minute or so and walked with me until I was ready to run again, telling me a story of how she saw a girl collapse at this point in the race, and coaxed her to say her husbands name so she could make the announcers call for him! She found the husband, he took off towards his wife and mom saw them get taken away by an ambulance. And that girl had run the Boston marathon! So I didn’t feel quite so bad about how awful I was feeling.
Then mom and Matt left to meet me at the finish line. I had a few turns left but I could hear the music, and I could see people sprinting in towards their finish. I finally passed one girl I had been leap-frogging with for the last few miles, and I saw another leap-frogger across the field pushing her babies in a stroller, running through the finish. I rounded the last two corners and gave my best kick, soaking up the cheering on either side of me and trying to reel in two girls ahead of me. I passed one and I pushed as hard as I could with what I had left, my brain telling my legs to go faster but they were just so wobbly. I was neck and neck with the last girl, and she would not let me catch her! We finished a split second apart. I told her she was awesome and slapped her on the back and we shared an out-of-breath smile, and then I headed off to find my hubby.
Official time: 2:37:54.
Significantly slower than I hoped, by about 15 minutes, but that’s okay. Lots of room for a big PR next time!
I had imagined that finishing would be very emotional, filled with overwhelming happy-tears, but I think had spent the last half hour of the race being so physically tired and annoyed with my performance and just wanting to be done that I didn’t have any emotional capacity to cry happy-tears. Matt tried to give me a big hug right after I crossed the finish line but for some reason my brain could only think “nooo I’m so sweaty!” (which he wouldn’t have cared…) and “NEED. SHADE.” and so I sort of pushed him out of the way to find a cool place to sit down. Sorry babe.
Matt brought me a popsicle and a banana which were too sickeningly sweet, and a bottle of water which I guzzled, and then finally I was able to enjoy the hugs and congratulations from Matt and my parents.
Matt was an amazing spectator. He met me at three different points in the race and I needed him for ALL of them. We had stocked his backpack with extra water, Nuun, food, hair ties, etc. and he would drop his sign and prepare to help me every time, sending me off with a quick hug. I’m so happy he was there. Too bad I didn’t think to get a picture of his signs though. They were great.
I did not expect the race to be that difficult. My 12 miler two weeks prior was one of my best runs of the training cycle so I didn’t expect 13.1 miles to be too hard. But I know it’s mainly because I started out so fast. All last week I was debating how hard I should run because I wasn’t sure what a “race effort” should be. Now I know I should start easy, like a normal run, so I’ll have more energy to push into “race mode” later on in the race.
Thoughts on the Race Logistics
- Definitely needed more water stops!!! In a Florida race, there needs to be water every mile at least.
- Could have started earlier so we weren’t in the sun/heat as long.
- Should have mile markers at every mile! I don’t think I could have missed ten straight markers.
- The police and volunteers were fantastic. There was a volunteer at every road that opened to the course, and there were police at every intersection. They were so kind and supportive. I tried to thank each police officer as I passed.
- The course was beautiful and gave a good taste of Orlando, but the cobblestone was brutal and I would have appreciated an elevation chart on the website. Not that I know how to read them, but I would have learned for this race.
- Volition America is a great race series that supports an honorable cause – The Folds of Honor. Anyone who supports the armed forces or their loved ones is okay by me. I would be happy to run a Volition America race again.
Thanks for sticking with me through my first training cycle and through this very long recap! I still love running and I’m looking forward to my next half marathon in October!!