It had rained for my first 10K. It had rained for my first sprint triathlon. And now it was raining for my first half marathon. Figures. I saw conflicting weather reports that still had me feeling hopeful that maybe the rain would clear up... But then I got a call from M and J saying that local weather said 100% chance of rain the whole race. It wasn’t clearing up any time soon. Because of that, the two of them decided not to run the race.
While I understood their decision, there was no way that I wasn’t going to run the race and felt even more determination to not let the rain stop me. When talking to my mom the night before I said to her, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to achieve my goal if it is raining while I run.” And my mom, a lifelong runner responded with something that stuck with me. She just said, “Why? Why would that stop you from achieving your goal?”
And to be honest, I really didn’t have an answer to that. So I put my game face on.
Well, I put my poncho on.
And then I put my game face on.
I know, I know, the poncho is back off on that bottom picture. But it was warm with it on before I left the hotel! I stretched in my room and decided to head over to the start of the race at around 6:30. I wanted to stay out of the rain but also get there with some time to experience the pre-race excitement and activity! Before I went over, I blasted my race music in my hotel room and had a solo dance party. It really helped to stretch myself out and loosen up, but also to get rid of my nerves and just start to have fun. It 100% did the trick. Dancing always makes me happy. It’s something that I have always done at the beginning of races, which I am waiting for the gun to go off and I have my headphones in. It gets me pumped up :)
The hotel dance party got me going, and with my Boston hat on, I was all smiles before leaving my hotel room.
Again, I have to say how amazing the staff at the Courtyard Marriott Vanderbilt/West End were. They had great energy in the morning, helping out the runners. From who knows where they pulled out a box of ponchos and were handing out ponchos to the runners, and even helping take dorky pictures for narcissists like me who feel the need to have 5-10 photos taken until I find ones that I think are cute/acceptable. They had great energy though, which was what was needed most. One of the guys even decided to photo bomb one of my pictures. Oh hey!
I got choked up for the first time in the morning when they held a moment of silence for the victims of Boston and when they did the National Anthem. This isn't my picture, I stole it from the race's Facebook page, but I wanted to share it because I think it is kind of awesome. This is from the moment of silence.
The race was a corralled wave start, so I didn’t end up crossing the start line until around 7:30 a.m. Which turned out to be pretty awesome because I was able to sneak in a last minute trip to the porta-potty and also I was at the front of my wave went so I began right off in a run!
The first few miles of the race felt good. I just tried to keep my pace and get comfortable. I actually ran with my poncho on and up over my head so just my face was peaking out. At around mile 3 I felt warm so I took the hood down. I kept telling myself I’d take the poncho off when the rain stopped or when I got too warm. But that never even ended up happening.
The first half of the race I just chugged along. I was feeling great but I tried not to let my head get ahead of myself and continually reminded myself that there was A LOT of race ahead of me. I also had been studying the elevation of the race and I knew that miles 2-6 were a lot of uphill. I told myself if I could get through 6, that would be a big accomplishment. At mile 2.5 I tried to take a picture of us heading down honky tonk row. But between the rain, and well, the running part, I didn't really get a good one.
I planned to eat a Shot Blok and have some water at the 10K mark. I ate the gummy thing then looked around for water, I thought there would be one there. You are supposed to eat those things with water, and I've learned if I don't, I get a stomach ache. I assumed water would be nearby but I didn’t see any and started to get panicky and for the first time in the race didn't feel relaxed. I know it was probably just mental but I felt like every minute that passed after I ate the Shot Blok I could feel my stomach getting woozy. When I finally saw a water station, I nearly knocked a few people over to get there. The guy handing it out was being kind of slow and I grabbed it out of his hands because I didn’t want to stop. I felt bad but kept running after I grabbed the water.
I hit mile 7 and all of a sudden I just was in a zone. I’ve heard people talk about how when they run they get into a zone, forget they are running, and just could go forever. I’ve always heard that and thought, “That’s bullshit. That’s never happened to me.” Generally, nearly every minute I spend running I am mentally trying to convince myself to KEEP running.
Well, for anyone else who has always called bullshit on that and thought the people who said that were freaks of nature... I have to admit, for the first time in my life, I hit that zone. Miles 7-10 flew by.
I refueled again at mile 9 with a Shot Blok and water. It was funny to drink the water while running-- I've literally never done that during a race before. I have never needed it during 5Ks or my two 10Ks. I was already soaked from the rain so I just let it spill over me a lot. It reminded me of when I was little and we'd set up a "water station" on our street and we'd run up and down pretending we were the Boston Marathoners grabbing water cups of water and spilling them all over ourselves. Thinking of this just made me even more determined.
During these later miles in the race, I relied on the crowd a lot... grabbing high fives from kids wherever I could, trying to make eye contact and rouse some cheers, smiling at fans, waving, connecting with others holding Boston signs to notice me and my hat, etc. My music helped a lot as well. I had asked family and friends to give me a song to put onto my half marathon mix that was their song to me. A song that when I heard it I would think of them cheering for me. I am SO glad I did this and cannot tell you how much it helped me. When I was feeling a little a little drained or running up a hill I found myself thinking, "Please let the next song be a "present" song!!" (as I was calling them.) They helped to give me a boost of energy and think of my friends and family cheering for me. Also, there was music along the race course! At one point someone was blasting the YMCA and a big group of runners, me included, were doing the hand motions to the “Y-M-C-A” part as we ran. It was so funny to see and put a huge smile on my face.
The crowd was incredible too. Even in the rain they were out there cheering with signs saying "Run for Boston" and "Stay strong random stranger!" I particularly loved the group of girls that had signs that said, "Single and supportive!" I thought that was SO funny. I may have to try that someday :)
I’ve mentioned how sometimes when running I will FORCE a smile on my face because I know it releases endorphins. Well, during the half marathon, I didn’t need to force a smile on my face... I literally was grinning and having fun throughout the race! I can't wait to see the race photographer pics because I feel like I will have a cheesy grin on in a lot of them.
I mean, to some extent it is a funny thing. I remember running and just looked around me at the fact that literally there were THOUSANDS of people who were all out, in the pouring rain, many wearing ridiculous ponchos (like myself), soaking wet, and just RUNNING for no reason whatsoever. I thought to myself, this is the stupidest thing in the entire world. We are all complete idiots for doing this. Yet, it's kind of awesome and I kind of love it. Seeing myself as a part of this crazy group of people just made me smile and laugh.
When I’ve looked at people who do distance races in the past I’ve always admired them. I’ve envied their determination and athleticism and thought they were in a different class than I was in. An elite group of people. "Runners." Well, I realized on Saturday that I am one of them and while maybe .01% of runners are "elite," well, the rest of us -- we're just idiots. And it's awesome.
When I reached mile 10 and was still running (and feeling good), I felt for the first time I was in new territory. 10 miles was previously the most I’d run consecutively. When I got past 11 miles I felt even more that I was in new territory. I just kept telling myself, “Just go one more.” and repeated over and over the mantra I’d picked up somewhere amongst Nashville's rolling hills, which was, “Survive the hills. Pace the race. You’re finishing this thing.”
Mile 12 was the hardest... there was a good amount of uphill running and I was exhausted. The rain felt heavier and for the first time I felt the wind. I also felt for the first time, “Holy shit. This is real. I am finishing this. I am going to finish this.” There was no way I was quitting at this point.
Midway through mile 12 I heard M and J cheering for me. I don’t even remember seeing their faces (they were in ponchos with the hoods on) but I saw them jumping up and down and cheering and shouting for me. It really was an awesome feeling to have that support at the end and I knew I was so close. When I hit 13 I sprinted. I honestly wish I remember running through the shoot and the finish. I think I was already sort of freaking out inside and it was a bit of a blur. But I did it.
After I crossed the finish, stopped my Garmin, took a medal from a volunteer, and wandered through the finishers shoot. I had so many thoughts running through my head. I felt great. I felt like I could have kept going. I felt like I wanted to cry. I felt like I wanted to call someone. I wanted to look at my phone and see my messages. I wanted to check what my time was. But I couldn’t really focus or think about anything but one fact.
I had finished this thing.