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I did it!

February 18, 2008

When I first thought of the half marathon distance, I planned to walk the Myrtle Beach half with a friend. Then I started running and I got the crazy idea that maybe I could actually run thirteen miles . . . I looked around several different races in the southeast and finally settled on the A1A Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale, February 17th.
We headed down on Saturday with the kids to pick up my stuff. Finding the expo was a bit of a convoluted drive, but we made it. I got my bib and chip, my t-shirt (no smalls left, so I basically have a tech nightie🙂 ) and looked around some. After about 30 minutes, the kids had had enough, so we drove to our hotel and let them decompress.
The idea was that G and the kids would get their own room while I shared a room with several friends who were running the race, but they called while I was in the hotel to let me know that their hotel would not put the necessary cot in the room so I could stay there. In other words, I was going to have to set an alarm and wake the kids and dress for the race in the dark. Not exactly the way I’d planned it, but at least they offered to come get me and drive me to the race so my family could just meet me at the finish line–that was fantastic!

We had dinner early and were in bed by 8. I won’t say I got great sleep, since sleeping with S and B is quite an adventure, but I hear my friends had a party in the room above them so in hindsight it was definitely a blessing to be in our hotel room instead of theirs. My alarm went off at 3:45. G gave me a running skirt for v-day and I wanted to wear it for him, but not having tried it on a long run, I was too scared. I went back to my trusted Nike shorts. I put on my best running bra, singlet, socks, and sneakers, Body Glide everywhere necessary, Garmin, visor, and went downstairs to wait. Had a banana and water for fuel.

Finding parking was a bit of a nightmare, which resulted in our waiting in long porta-potty lines forty-five minutes before gun time. Wow, I had no idea they could smell like that. But, since everyone else was late too, the race ended up starting a few minutes late.

It was so cool! Though I guess it was a smallish race (3000-4000 runners), it was an amazing sight to see the sea of runners going up the street, and to hear their footfalls all around me, especially in the dark. We had one short bridge to go over the intracoastal waterway at about mile 3 (the 2-hour pacer passed me on the bridge—bummer!), and the sun was starting to come up as we hit the beachfront road, A1A. It was absolutely beautiful.The first water station felt too short, but I think it was because we were all still bunched up. After that there were water stations every two miles, and it wasn’t a problem. I hit every other one and didn’t have a problem getting to the water after that one stop. I walked through them at a very fast clip and felt great!

There were either bands or DJs at four places on the half course. Though I’d heard that crowd support was sparse at this race, it was actually great—lots of families out cheering for mom and dad (lots of little kids in jammies!) and tons of homemade signs (my favorite: YOU’RE ALL CRAZY!), and many more people than I expected in the predawn darkness cheering us on.

We were no more than four or five miles in when the elites passed us on their return trip: where do they get the speed and energy?

We ran along the beach for most of the first 6 miles; it was gorgeous! Thankfully, though it was supposed to be 70 at start time, there was excellent cloud cover and a good breeze. It was a poignant moment when the full marathoners broke off—I gave them a shout of encouragement as they headed off for their lonely miles, as it seemed there were a lot more of us than there were of them. We ran miles 9 and 10 in a shady state park: no spectators there, just us and the sound of our footfalls, and at this point we were all feeling the distance and there was no small talk, just breathing. It was so tree-lined that there was no air movement in there. I thought I’d be so glad when we got back out to A1A and got the breeze back. Well, by the time we got back to A1A, it was no longer a breeze but more of a gale, and tough to run against. But by then it was a 5K race, and I refused to slow down!

Other than my water breaks, I didn’t walk a step of my race, though I could feel a blister starting under my big right toe, my fourth left toenail starting to bruise, and my left knee starting to hurt. I knew that if I walked, it would be doubly hard to run again, and I never reached the point where I absolutely had to. I’ll tell you, though, the mile after that big “12” sign sure was the longest of the race.I pushed it as hard as I could, passing runners though at times my legs felt like lead and the scenery felt like it was barely moving by. I heard the band at the finish line way before I saw the festivities because the finish line was kind of hidden behind a funny curve. But when I got there I heard the shout, “Go, Mommy!” and saw the sweet faces of those two little kids I’d woken up at 3:45 to come to this race and I was so thankful to the man who’s supported me in this crazy endeavor all along!

When I got into the chute I couldn’t believe how many people were just standing around.I couldn’t stop moving and I thought I was going to knock someone down. I finally found a curb to sit on and stretch my legs out—my knee was throbbing, and honestly, I was starting to tear up, just thinking that I had dreamed this thing up and I had finished it, and I was holding this medal because I had actually run thirteen miles! A runner sitting next to me said, “You might need a blankie—you’re shivering.” I laughed and told him I just needed water. He so sweetly got up and brought me a Gatorade and a water and said, “Here you go, miss.” He gets double credit for the drinks and for calling me miss! I haven’t been called that in a few years. I got up and reunited with my family and the other runners in my group.

I thought Fort Lauderdale ran a great race, though I thought the pace groups were hard to follow—they had little poles with balloons that were almost impossible to see, and they were the same color for half and full so you had no idea what you were looking at until the full-ers broke off. But there were clocks at least every four miles, which was fantastic, and like I said, no lack of water and Gatorade stations, and those volunteers rocked! They absolutely shouted out what they were holding, so there was no chance of you getting what you do not want—I only trained with water so I would have been shocked to taste something different. And one station was handing out Gu (an electrolyte gel), which I don’t use, but I know some runners were probably thankful for. And though the course was beautiful and it was nice to run with just the natural beauty and sound of the ocean, it was nice to hear music once in a while, especially since I don’t run with it. Oh, and we had the national anthem before the gun played on a saxophone, and the same solo saxophone welcomed us home at mile 12.5. It was fabulous! They put on a great event, and I’ll likely run it again.

I ran a pretty consistent 9:20 pace, only pushing that last 5K for a 9-minute pace in miles 11 and 12 and about 8:40 in mile 13. I finished in 2:02:14. And I got my first medal! Will I do it again? I can’t wait!

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 8:56 am

    Congrats!!! Sounds like everything went really well. Well minus the sleeping hiccups and porta-potties, oh and the new tech nightie too. Haha. You will be wicking sweat in your sleep! 🙂

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