Wow… I’ve read so many race reports and now that it’s time to write one of my own, I’m not sure where to start. First things first, I guess: I ran the 2nd Annual Illinois Half Marathon on Saturday. I finished in 2:40:27. Not my goal time. Not even my expected finish time. But, truth be told: I’m not upset. It was soooooooooooooooooooooo much fun!
I had the idea of putting “Half Virgin” on my shirt for a while . When I got involved with roller derby, I knew I wanted to represent the team somehow. Thus the “all derby girl” was born. I went to Kim’s the night before and she helped me fashion my shirt out of iron-on letters and transfer paper. I think it turned out pretty well!
Race day weather was less-than-ideal. Most people were worried about the possibility of rain and wind. Honestly, I would’ve rather had rain than the 92%-94% humidity we had at the start of the race. At least it was overcast and the sun wasn’t beating down on us the whole time.
I was pretty nervous. Pre-race anxiety hit me hard on Thursday and Friday. But, for some reason, on race day I was calm. About a week before the race, I decided to run with Angela. She and I were at about the same pace and we thought it would be good to have a buddy. I attribute my lack of nerves to her being there. Thanks, Ang.
Start to Mile 4
I was up early and got down to the finish line about 6:30. The 5K started at 7:00 and I wanted to cheer on Kim and Lindsey who decided to run the 5K at the last minute. After they took off on their race, Angela and I took the requisite trip to the porta-potties and lined up behind the 2:30:00 or less sign. We had both decided that 2:30 was about our goal pace. And I told bunches of people that’s where I expected to finish, even though my super-secret goal was to come in around 2:20. After the prayer, National Anthem, etc. we were off. It took about 7 mins to cross the start line. I started my RunKeeper app on my phone, but didn’t think to look at my watch. D’oh.
I was having so much I didn’t even bother to turn on my music. I was taking in the sights and just generally enjoying myself. The excitement at the start was palpable. Since we were back with the “slower” people, I didn’t really have to do much zig-zagging for position– a HUGE improvement over the 5K last year where I felt like I spent the whole first mile jockeying for position. No walkers to contend with here.
I was talking to people around me and trying to find people I knew in the crowd. When we turned on to Green St I said to Angela: “This is going to be fun!” It was, but it was less crowded than I remembered. I spotted a few people I knew, though… so that was fun. I skipped the first couple of water stops. Somewhere around Mile 2, I lost Angela. She stopped for water, and told me to go on. It was great to have her there, but I’m happy we decided to run our own races.
Mile 4 goes right by my house and I was so happy when I saw my mom and boyfriend standing on the corner… with my dog! They snapped a few pics and I was on my way!
The next few miles flew by. I was having such a good time… chatting with runners, looking for people I knew, cheering on the fans (more on this later). It was like running through my hometown with a few thousand of my closest friends. I really didn’t even “feel” it. Yeah, it was muggy. And when the sun finally came out, it was HOT. But a little sweat never hurt anyone! I took some Gatorade at the water station and just kept on trucking. I saw my mom again right before we went into Meadowbrook Park at Mile 8. She snapped a couple more photos and I introduced her to my new “friends.” I made lots of new friends that day!
This is where I started to “feel it.” I wouldn’t say it fell apart here, but the heat, humidity, and sun were definitely taking their toll on me. Plus, it was a fairly boring and un-spectated part of the course (curiously enough, I LOVE running through the park during training runs, but it was boring for me on race day. hmmm..) I turned on my iPod at about 8.5 in an attempt to fend off the boredom. It was about this time that I started thinking about walking. There were plenty of people who had taken walk breaks already. And my original plans called for walk breaks at Mile 6 and 10, but I hadn’t taken one yet. By the time we hit the aid station at Mile 10, I was spent. Not so much tired, but DONE. I knew it was just 3 miles and I tried telling myself that I could run a 5K, but it wasn’t working.
These were the roughest miles for me. I took more walk breaks than I’d like to admit, but my walk was faster than many of the runners around me, so I was okay. It was also when I started to realize that I wasn’t going to make my 2:30 goal. I wasn’t 100% sure what time I crossed the start line, but I could see it slipping away. At this point, all I could think about was finishing. I would walk-run-shuffle-walk-run-shuffle as much as I could. At Mile 11, I saw my friend Kim. She was waiting for me with a sign and jumped in and ran with me for a few blocks– it was awesome!!
At the 12 mile mark, I knew the end was in sight. I was bound and determined to run the last mile, although–honestly– I think I would’ve been faster with a few walk breaks. The race ends on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium (where the Fighting Illini play). Last year in the 5K, we had to run all the way AROUND the field before going to the finish. Luckily, that wasn’t the case in this year’s half or full. As soon as I saw the tunnel to enter the stadium, I knew I was home free. I dug deep and SPRINTED to the finish. I DID IT!!!
I was in a bit of a daze immediately after the race. My friend Nikki (who qualified for Boston last year and ran it this year) met me at the finish line and some of my other friends watched me finish from the stands. My mom was there, too, and snapped a few photos. I stuck around for a bit and watched Angela finish as well as my friend Erin finish the relay. It was so fun for me to stand there in the finishing “chute” and yell encouragement at the runners. Running a race like this really makes you appreciate the spectators and volunteers.
After Erin finished and everyone dispersed, I grabbed some food and walked to my car. Parking/driving was really easy for me, but I heard others had a hard time getting around. I took a bath and we went out for a late lunch (apparently you can eat 2 lunches when you’ve just run a half marathon!). I had HORRIBLE stomach pains all day. I’ve never had any GI issues while running before, so I thought I was immune to them. Guess not. I’m blaming the Gatorade, cuz it was the only “foreign” thing I’d had that day.
I was a little sore the next day, but nothing major. I even went to skate practice, which–in retrospect– was a bad idea. My quads are killing me today (Monday– 2 days later). I also think I’m going to lose a toenail. HARD CORE!
Some miscellaneous thoughts:
- Although I thought the race was really well organized, the lack of water stops in the “middle miles” was a bit of a concern. By the time we hit the aid station after Meadowbrook, *everyone* needed it. It felt like there were too many stops early on and not enough later in the race.
- The crowd support was good and I enjoyed seeing people I knew on the course. More often than not, though, I was yelling *their* names, not the other way around. I guess that’s what happens when you see thousands of people run by you. I saw so many people I knew though, so it was cool.
- In the same vein, I found myself cheering on the spectators, not vise versa. I think by the time us slowpokes came by, they were bored of clapping. But I found that a quick “woo-hoo” would pep up the crowd a bit. Which, in turn, pepped up the runners.
- If you’re wondering how often I did this… apparently enough for one runner to ask me if I was a former cheerleader! Hey, anything to keep myself going!
- I also really enjoyed reading all the race signs and t-shirts. There was a group of ladies who had “I’ll finish… eventually” on the backs of their shirts. And another group had “friends don’t let friends run alone” which I thought was cute.
- During the hellish Meadowbrook section, there was a trio of women who *had* to be sisters… and they were bickering the whole time. It was both funny and annoying. That was right before I put in my headphones!
- I really felt GOOD during this race and I had so much FUN. I didn’t expect it to be fun. I expected the feeling of accomplishment at the end, but I wasn’t prepared for the actual JOY of running. Nice surprise.
- It’s probably because of how great I felt that I wasn’t more concerned about time. My 10K time was 2 mins slower than the 10K I ran a couple of weeks ago. And I was really disappointed then. I know I could’ve broken 2:30, but I guess the old adage is true: The first one really is just about finishing.
- As much fun as I had, I really think some longer runs in training would’ve helped. Not so much for “confidence” as I previously thought… but just to get me prepared. I don’t think I actually hit a wall, per se, but I think a couple of 11 or 12 milers under my belt would’ve helped in those last miles.
- Everyone says that the crowd motivates you and helps you go farther than you’ve been in the past. I think that’s true. Unfortunately for me, the crowd “moving” me really only helps in the very beginning and the VERY end.
- Although I had some pre-race jitters, I felt really relaxed for the whole run. I think that’s why I had so much fun.
- Lastly (yes, this is a book)… I can’t express how much everyone’s support meant to me. From calls and texts to comments on facebook and this blog, it’s been amazing. I heart runners and I heart running and I’m still on a bit of a race high.