One year ago this week, I was agonizing over the weather forecast:
Why? Because I was one week away from running my first 13.1 – the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon.
In the fall of 2011, my maid of honor and I had toyed with the idea of running a half marathon together to help us get into wedding shape. That December, we ran the Big Chill 5k together (the one I do every year where the entry fee is an unwrapped toy for charity), and we received a postcard with information about the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon. We discussed it briefly, and decided to kick our training up a notch first to see if a half marathon might be possible. There didn’t seem to be any real level of commitment between either of us at the time.
Two weeks later, she forwarded me her official half marathon registration confirmation.
“Sh**,” I thought. “I guess I’m running a half marathon.” I immediately signed up. My husband-to-be, not to be left behind, signed up for the 8K option.
I downloaded Hal Higdon’s intermediate training plan, made some adjustments to allow for personal training (needed to get my knee strength up), and began dedicating Saturday mornings to some very long runs. Fortunately, winter didn’t hang around as long last year as it seems to be doing this year, so I had no problem switching out between treadmill and outdoor runs. Kept things interesting. When April came around, I had already successfully run 13.5 miles, and knew I was on track to run my race in two hours.
My maid of honor, unfortunately, suffered a wrist injury that reduced her training time to three weeks. And yet she showed up on that grey, overcast, cool marathon morning ready to run.
We parked near the race finish line and walked the mile to the starting line. We thought we had allowed ourselves plenty of time to use the port-o-potties before the starting gun, but the lines were tremendously long. It was our own personal race to the race, and we both made it seconds before the starting gun sounded.
Enter pre-race butterflies – I flipped my iPod shuffle on to Party Rock Anthem and
mentally prepared for the battle ahead.
The course itself was perfect for spectators, as it winds in a sort of clover-leaf pattern around the starting line. Anybody watching could see their runner pass by three times – at the start, again around mile 4, and then again around mile 8 – and still have time to walk to the finish line for the best part. I had invited my father to come cheer us on, but didn’t have high expectations as it would be an early morning start for him and the weather looked uncooperative. When I rounded mile 4 and didn’t see him, I was
disappointed but I understood. I wouldn’t want to stand around for an hour or so on a cold, crappy Sunday morning just to see my sweaty, tortured daughter run for all of 2 minutes either.
I remember seeing the race clocks along the route and thinking how de-motivating it might be to know my pace – but as I passed each clock, I calculated my per mile time to be a bit faster than I expected! With each mile down – and the weather remaining grey but NOT raining – I was feeling pretty good.
That was until right about mile 8. I was beginning to feel the pain, and knew I was a long way from being finished. And that’s when I saw my father and step-mother a few yards away, big smiles and frantic waving. Those were the best high five’s of my life – with renewed energy, I yelled I’d see them at the finish line, and completed my eighth mile feeling awesome.
And then it started to drizzle.
On top of that, I realized I still had four miserable miles to go. I was tired. My legs were starting to scream. I was pretty dang sweaty, despite the cold. Yup, I was ready to be done. But I pushed through the longest four miles ever, and shuffled my way towards the finish line. In that final stretch, I saw my husband (who was looking pretty beat himself, as he had finished the 8k a bit earlier). I saw my father and step-mother again, and
bursted into my best possible sprint (I’m pretty sure a crawling baby would have passed me).
As I crossed the finish line, I glanced up at my gun time: 2:02:43. Not bad for a first half marathon. It gave me a very attainable goal to have at my next one: running sub-two hours.
I was even more excited when they handed me my medal. And a bagel. And chocolate chip cookies. I received my chip time (2:00:51!), and went off to find a good place to cheer on my maid of honor, as I knew she’d be finishing soon.
The rain continued to come down lightly, but it never reached “Impending Doom” status as forecasted. We were cold… and we were wet… but we were hooked. I knew more half marathons would be in my future – and I immediately added Disney to my list.
Anyway, I think there are still spaces left for the Unite Half Marathon next week, although I’ll need to pass. My mother is in town and I need to save all I can for the American Odyssey Relay the following week. But if you are in the area and looking for a good one to do, I would highly recommend it (although, once again, the forecast is calling for rain. April showers!)