Where to begin, where to begin … how about at the beginning?
After I posted on Friday (and after work, too), I headed down to Philadelphia to the Shops at Liberty Place to pick up my race number and take a look around the so-called Running Expo. The entire ride down, I kept telling myself, “I can do this … I can do this … I’ve done it before … I can do this.” I was an absolute wreck imagining myself trying to finish a half-marathon, particularly with the lack of training I had in the month and a half leading up to the event.
I finally arrived at the shops and the first thing I noticed was that I should have brought some good shopping shoes. I’d never been inside – only passed it on occasion heading from one sight to another in Philly. I’m thinking there’s going to be a shopping trip in my future! That said, I headed straight back to the expo, still muttering to myself. I’m sure I didn’t look crazy at all. I was given my number, 1258, and felt good about it. Before my training sort of came to a slow-down over the past couple of weeks, I’d been hitting somewhere between 13:00-13:15/mile. I thought having number 1258 (as in 12:58/mile) was a good omen. I immediately started feeling better. Got my shirt, got my pins for my bib, and took a look around at one of the more pathetic expos that I’ve ever been to. The “expo” was in an empty shop probably the size of your local Claire’s. There was a table in the far back with the bib numbers, another one in the back right for the race t-shirts, and then maybe 5 or 6 other tables, each with a vendor, charity, or information on another race. I did end up grabbing some of my new favorite socks (I’d add a link here, but I’ll be damned if I can remember what they’re called), and I headed back out. On the up-side, I only ended up spending $7 on parking since I was only there a half-hour. It did make me look forward to the expo for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half though – if its anything like it was the last time I ran it, I’ll be at that expo for hours.
On my way home, I definitely felt better, albeit still a little tense. I think part of the tension was that I hadn’t run in a little over a week, and I was stressed at work – part of what I love about running is the fact that it keeps me sane when I feel like I’m losing my mind everywhere else. Honestly, I couldn’t WAIT to spend 13.1 miles out pounding the pavement … it was just the uncertainty of whether or not I’d make it back to the finish line without the help of an ambulance.
On Saturday, I kept going back-and-forth on whether or not I wanted Will and Liam there. I had to be AT the race around 6am for a 7am start time – that gave me enough time to park, walk to the starting line, pee, and get my bag checked before stretching. I couldn’t ask Will and Liam to be up and out the door by 5:15, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with taking two cars back home. Secretly though, I wanted them to come along. I mean, who wouldn’t want their family at the finish line, right?
Fast-forward to Sunday … I was up a hundred times in the night, nervous that the alarm would somehow not go off. Thankfully, there’s research that tells us that its NOT the night before the race that gives us the energy … its the rest we get TWO nights before the race. And even more thankfully, I got a lot of sleep that night. I awoke to the alarm on Sunday, refreshed and nervous as hell. Got myself dressed (I had laid out my clothes and gear, and pinned my bib on the night before), got breakfast and headed out the door. I probably got to Philly around 6:15, and was able to park about a quarter-mile from the starting line. I gathered my courage and headed over, peed, and checked my bag.
I have to say, this was definitely the strangest half-marathon I’ve ever run. If you take a look at the ODDyssey’s web site, you’ll see there’s a costume contest as well. I ran with Big Bird, Elvis, a cop and robber, William and Kate, Lady Liberty, some Phillies, and a slew of other unique and really fun costumes. I spent most of the race either ahead of or right behind a pack of devils. Very loud, and very fun devils. The race itself was challenging – the majority of it was on flat ground on MLK Drive. The first couple miles were in and around the Please Touch Museum, and the last mile, maybe two miles, were straight. up. hill. Before I get to that though, let me recount the race – I started out probably a little stronger than I should have. I have a tendency to not like being passed while racing, and so my first two miles were about 11:30/mile. That’s a full 1:30/mile faster than my fastest long run time, and about 3:30/mile faster than my last half-marathon time. I realized this and slowed it down a bit, but I stiffened my muscles when I did so and lost all feeling in both feet around mile 3. add in an extra-long walk to get the blood flowing, and by mile 4, I had feeling in all extremeties again and off I went. I averaged probably 13:00/mile for a few, then started methodically slowing down … the lack of training over the last month-and-a-half didn’t help, the last time I had a long run prior to that was my 11-miler the weekend before Mother’s Day, and I was starting to feel it. By mile 8, I was taking 2 minute walks instead of 1 minute walks, and I was almost limping back into the run. Still, I kept going!
Part of the draw of the ODDyssey is the other fun stuff that’s going on. They had maybe 4-5 live bands playing along the course, each one getting passed twice by the runners, so there was very little time when we weren’t being serenaded by a talented group of people. In addition, there was an obstacle course around mile 8-ish that you had the option of doing if you could still feel your legs, around mile 10, there were folks throwing water balloons at us (trust me, its refreshing), and then around mile 11-ish, there was a giant game of Jenga going on. Lots to look at and laugh about, definitely. I ended up falling in line with a nice group of people – the aforementioned devils to start with, and then two friends who kept passing/falling behind me. By mile 11, we were joking about it and counting off the mile markers as they passed.
The best treat, though, was at mile 13. I was basically limping up that last hill until I saw it: Will and Liam!! They had come to cheer me on! Liam ran up to me, and he ran in the last tenth of a mile with me, asking the whole time, “Are we winning, Mommy?” Having him hold my hand across the finish line, first or last, I had definitely won.
Slow and steady may not win the race, but there's still a damn good reward waiting at the end!
We got across the finish line, and the kind people at the race gave Liam his own medal. He’s been wearing it ever since. The best part about the medal? Its a bottle opener … after you got your medal, you got a pint glass with the race logo on it, and you could go into a fenced-off area if you were 21+ to combine the talents of your medal and the glass and have a nice, cold beer. I can’t hold my liquor when I haven’t exerted that much energy, so I opted out.
All in all, I finished in 3:07:58 from the start, and ended up doing 14:21/mile average. Not superb, but Will still thinks its the fastest half I’ve ever run, and that gives me a good basis for hitting an even better PR in September.
And so … back to training!!