What a whirl wind of emotions. I’m typing up this recap as I watch the New York City Marathon live. I’m inspired by these athletes every single time I watch them race. I don’t personally know them, I’ve never met them, yet I’m emotionally moved with every stride they take on the course. It’s amazing how we can find such truth in our own endeavors by simply watching someone else complete their own. All it takes is seeing the face of a runner cross the finish line, whether it be a 5k or a marathon, and you’ll quickly realize why we love this sport so much. It’s painful, it’s mentally demanding, and it’s all on you. It’s also exhilarating, soul inspiring, and overwhelmingly worthwhile. I have yet to find anything else that can be equal parts agonizing and marvelous. The best part about this sport is that you can find that essence in every runner that is on the road. If you have never spectated at a running event before, I urge you to go out and cheer on the runners. You will see that all of those runners have determination, pain, and excitement on their face at the same time. Watch them cross the finish line in agony, feeling like collapsing, and then watch their whole essence turn to pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Just watching someone go through all of those emotions and such a physical feat can really inspire you to look inward to find what you aspire to accomplish. It’s a contagious feeling that runs through you when you witness that type of accomplishment.
Let’s kick off with the expo: On Friday I took off to Savannah with my bags packed, music blaring something other than kids tunes, and the open road. I got to the expo around noon and it was perfect timing. There were absolutely no crowds and I got to enjoy myself walking around and trying out samples. I played all the fun contests to see if I could win anything but I wasn’t so lucky. The girl two people in front of me though won a free pair of shoes from Brooks, lucky girl! I’m sure she could see the jealousy in my face. I bought a really nice long sleeve shirt, got my packet which included some fun little things & the race t-shirt, bought a new sweaty band for the race and then headed to my hotel.
I woke up at 4 am and had everything already laid out ready to go. I quickly prepared all my items and headed out for the race. I had about a 20 minute drive and I used it to slowly sip on some nuun and pump myself up with music. Once I arrived at my designated parking garage I walked a block to the starting line. This race does make everything incredibly easy, at the expo I picked up my garage pass and I parked there with ease and it was right next to the start line. (not so much near the finish though.) I met up with Anni from Fleet Feet and the rest of our half marathon training crew for some pep talk and pictures.
This also was nice because we were right next to a hotel that I went into, grabbed some jelly for my english muffin, and sat on the floor to keep myself warm. It was COLD outside without the sun up. I knew that meant great racing weather but man was I cold and I even had on a throw away hoodie. I waited patiently, sipped my water, ate my english muffin, took my salt tab, and 15 minutes before the start I downed a HUMA and headed out to the starting line. I didn’t do much of a warm up, my warm up was jumping up and down trying to get warm. I sandwiched myself between a bunch of tall guys and thanked them for blocking the wind for me and letting me feed off of their body heat. I’m sure they thought I was a super creeper.
I let my nerves rest. I always get super nervous the day before race day. I will sleep horribly, I will go through phases of a high heart rate as I panic about what my performance will be like, and I will think about the course 24/7. The moment I line up at the start though all fears move aside. My heart rate drops, my eyes focus on the starting line, and I give myself one last pep talk. ” Let your training do all the work, you’ve got this.” And the alarm sounded and away we went.
Mile 1: 7:13 I was really lucky to start in the first corral, I didn’t need to weave in and out of people going slower than me at all. I tried so hard to focus on going at an easy pace. If you remember, my plan was to start out slow and gain speed throughout the course. Race plans go out the window in mile 1 95% of the time. I fell into that trap and went out pretty hard. There is a hill in the first mile that wasn’t difficult to climb because I was running on very fresh legs.
Miles 2-5: 7:19, 7:22, 7:21, 7:30 At this point I’m feeding off of the crowds, the bands, and the people running along side of me. I was a bit surprised at the lack of crowds. At the water stations there would be huge crowds and then it would just disappear with very few people cheering. When I registered for this race, part of the appeal to me was to have constant crowd support. I’m not sure if the weather kept people inside but it did make me a little sad. I tried to focus on the water stations for boosts, check for peoples silly race signs that always give me a good laugh, and remember what I came to do. I was still going a little too fast here but the crazy competitive side of my brain said “maybe you were too conservative with your goal of 1:38, maybe you’re better than that.” I need to turn that part of my brain off when I’m racing and trust what I trained for. I did ease down into my goal pace by mile 5 though and it felt extremely comfortable. My legs felt great still, my knee wasn’t hurting, and I was feeling fine. I carried my handheld Nathan bottle with nuun in it and I would take sips at every mile and every half mile to keep me powered through and so I didn’t have to waste time with water stations.
Miles 6-10: 7:35, 7:34, 7:38, 7:33, 7:39 One of the biggest concerns I had going into this race was that I didn’t have enough speed/endurance for a half marathon. All of the tempo runs I did maxed out at 5 miles and all of the speed work I did was relatively short. Although I had been doing long endurance runs, I hadn’t been doing any long speed workouts. So I worried that after 7 or 8 miles I would start to crash, luckily it held off until mile 11 ha. During these points I felt positive and optimistic. I told myself that if I could just make it to mile 10 on goal pace I knew I could finish strong. All I needed was to get to mile 10 and all I had left was a 5k. This was my mantra during these miles because whenever there wasn’t crowd support, I would start to get into my own head. I would start to feel phantom knee pain or that my legs were turning into bricks. I took my HUMA and salt tab at mile 6 to power me through the remaining half of the course and I made it to mile 10 without feeling exhausted.
Miles 11-13.1: 7:58, 7:48, 7:56 HOLY HELL. There were some small rolling hills through this area and at this point in the race they felt like I was running the Cooper River Bridge. Every little hill would cause me to curse in my head. This also made me lose focus and lose confidence which resulted in math. You all know that I love to resort back to math when I’m doing race so to math I veered. “How slow can I go these three miles and still hit my goal of 1:38:xx” Turns out, not very slow. The crowd support started to grow in these miles as we got closer to the finish line and I tried to focus on each mile as it’s own race. “Okay Michelle let’s tackle mile 12 in a 7:40 and then we can worry about the next mile. ” It helped a little, I really wished I would have brought one more HUMA and had it at mile 10, now I know for next time though. At mile 12 I locked onto one guy, I stayed with him and checked my watch to see his pace was about a 7:15, I decided to try and hang with him to give myself a boost. I yelled to him “I’m going to use you right now.” and he yelled back “Totally fine, you’ve got this, lets go” and I hung with him for about a half of a mile before he pulled away. Then I tried to lock onto another person to carry me along for a little bit. It’s a great method to use when you feel yourself slipping and the running community will absolutely help you when you’re struggling.
As I approached the finish line I saw the clock 1:38:xx… GO MICHELLE GO WITH ALL OF YOUR LITTLE BODIES MIGHT. I did not sprint to the finish, my pace did not increase at all even though I felt like I was a bolt of lightning. I had absolutely no push left in me but I crossed the line in 1:38:55! I did it. I set a goal for myself and I accomplished it. The waves of emotion could finally come through my body and allowed me to feel everything from those 13.1 miles of extremely hard work. It has been so long since I raced this distance and remembered how different a half marathon is from a 5k or a 10k. It is important to remember that longer distance a completely different work horse. It is almost a game you have to play that requires you to be smart throughout the whole race. It’s a test of endurance, speed, and mental abilities. And I defeated that monster on all 3 fronts.
Post Race: I got my medal and posed for some absolutely fun pictures before grabbing some snacks that were being provided to the runners; bananas, cheese itz, fruit cups, granola bars, and chocolate milk. I immediately looked at my phone to see that my mother texted me the moment I had crossed the finish line. (She was tracking me) and she let me know that I hit my goal. It was so much fun to see that everyone was watching me from home. It made me feel like they were there at the finish line to congratulate me. I saw numerous posts on facebook of my family chatting with eachother with each new update of where I was in the race. It was the best feeling in the world to know that I had so many people cheering for me from afar.
I walked over to the huge finishers park and immediately walked straight to the students giving the post race massages. Being in Corral 1 meant that I was one of the early people to finish and there were no lines for anything. Looking back, I should have grabbed a beer first instead. I got a really great massage from the students, walked around and collected some free goodies for Fiona like a frisbee, sunglasses, and a keychain. I sat in the middle of the park and started to stretch out and hydrate with some water, texting friends and family about how the race went. I facetimed with Fiona to show her the medal that I got for finishing. She’s obsessed with my medals, anytime I go to a race she will ask me “did you win a medal for me mom?” looks like I need to keep up being speedy to keep that little one happy. I met up with Anni and her husband Brian for a while and talked post race about how it went. I also saw tons of other Charleston friends at the finish line who also had amazing races. It’s like Charleston took over Savannah.
After that, I hopped in my car and drove my butt back to Charleston because I’m the nicest wife ever and Tony wanted to go to a concert in Charlotte. I really don’t think we saw each other at all that weekend.
Final thoughts: I really enjoyed racing in Savannah. It’s nice to change up the scenery a bit. The crowds were not as big as I had anticipated but the race organization was extremely well put together. The areas that did have big crowds definitely helped. I enjoyed the medal and the post race party, although I wish every race would stop being sponsored by Michelob, some of us are beer snobs you know. ha. I’m not sure I’ll run this one in particular again, I think I might look at Rock N Roll Nashville or Raleigh next.