My first 13.1 is in the books! Where do I even begin on all the emotions leading up to this day? I would first just want to thank my loving husband for believing in me and taking the time out of his busy schedule for allowing me the time, day in and day out for 9-10 months, to train from mile 1 to mile 13.1. Without his constant motivation for me to keep pursing my goal I would not have crossed that finish line. This half-marathon was just a thought at the beginning of the year and only became a reality in June when I said, “What do you think of us going to Chicago for me to run a half-marathon in September?”
After I ran a few smaller races including a 5k in April and 10k in May. My husband never questioned my intentions, just stated, “You make the arrangements.”
A couple of sweet, loving friends offered to watch the boys for the weekend, so I signed up for the race!
The last few months leading up to the race was full of different training runs 5 days/week including tempo, interval, speed, and I tried to get in as many “upper body” strength-training days as I could squeeze in. My longest run I managed to do was 11.25 mi on the road and had hoped to have a higher mileage run leading up to the big day. However, two weeks before the race I started experiencing Tensor Fasciae Latae pain and a couple of the PT’s I was working with at the time warned me against running any more long distances leading up to the race (luckily I was able to squeeze a 10 mile run in the Sunday before and then it was taper week). My PT’s recommended going forward to do more LB strengthening- especially glutes/pelvic/and adductor/abductor ms. groups to prevent future injuries.
The whole week leading up to the race, I was only concerned about one thing: the weather. I felt good where I was with my training and was not overly concerned with a time goal since this was my first half-marathon (obviously it would have been ideal to finish sub-2 hr). My only goal, I told others, was for me to cross the finish line, plain and simple. The only concern I had was the weather. It was going to be hot, a lot hotter than I was use to ecperiencing while running (after all I live in North Dakota). The lows forecasted for Chicago were 72, highs 90+. The warmest training run I did close to those temps was back home in Missouri in Aug and lows were still in the mid-60s. I did everything I could do to be prepared for the hot start, including trying to drink as close to a gallon of water a day for the week (which is never the easiest when traveling). My husband and I left the Friday after dropping the boys of at daycare and arrived in Chicago Friday night. Race day was Sunday!
I would have to admit being childless in Chicago for a day and a half prior to raceday was not the easiest. All the amazing food/drink options and having to stick with water was probably the most difficult. Let me admit; sitting on a patio in the summer nights, with views of the city lights and buildings, was calling my name for a glass of wine. HOWEVER, I just kept telling myself, “You can celebrate after the race!”
Saturday we went to Soldier Field to the Fitness Expo where I picked up my race packet, and I finally got to purchase some run fuel that I have been wanting to try for some time. After reading recommendations from other runners at the vendor booths, I finally made my selections. I think it all hit me when I arrived at Soldier Field, seeing all the other runners and vendors, picking up my bib and packet, and thinking to myself, “I am really doing this.”
I managed to get to bed early and slept pretty well that night before the run; no anxious thoughts racing through my mind surprisingly. The alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. bright-and-early. I popped right out of bed with my 4:30 a.m. alarm. I had hoped to jump in the shower, but it didn’t work (maybe this was the sign from the beginning how things would go for me). I ran a luke-warm bath to wake up and was starting to get a few anxious feelings/thoughts, but I went on with my morning routine: got dressed, woke my husband, and ate a Cliff bar. One of the most anxious feelings I had was that I did not have a BM the day before (sorry for too much info, but any runner can relate to this) so I knew I would making at least 1 pit stop at the bathrooms along the running route, I was sure of it.
My husband locked in a Uber driver and we were out the door at 5:30 a.m. on our way. We had another rider with us, that I did not have intentions of going 20 min out of our way the other direction to drop her off, before our driver dropped us off at Jackson Park. In the backseat all I could think about was, “How much time am I going to have before the start of the race to get my thoughts together, stretch, use the bathroom, etc.”
We ended up at Jackson Park at 6:15-6:20 a.m. and the race started at 7:00 a.m. I’ll remind you that there were 12,000 runners taking part in this run. Before I got out of the vehicle I was going through my running gear to make sure it was all in place (watch, headphones, flip belt with all my fuel). We jumped out of the car, I was already in kind of a mood, expecting our Uber driver to get me to Jackson Park earlier, but it was what it was. Then, as we were walking, I looked at my headphones and noticed the ear fin to my headphones GONE. I think my heart skipped a beat or two at this point. I told my husband I lost the ear fin and that they would not stay in place without it. My husband had his Bluetooth headphones with him and said I could use them. However, when I tried to connect them to my phone they could not be located. There were so many Bluetooth devices pulling up from everyone else around it was not going to happen. Whilr my husband was trying to work on my phone with the headphones I ran to the portapottys. Of course, there were lines out of this world, and I would just have to wait my turn. At this point it was 645 a.m. Race corrals close in 5 minutes, and I am getting worried. “Do I continue to wait, skip the bathrooms?”
Well there were plenty of other runners behind me so I assumed if be fine. I had my turn at the bathroom but barely went because of nerves. I ran from the bathrooms trying to remember where my husband was located, found him, grabbed my phone and headphones, and settled with being stuck using one of the earpieces. A quick picture before the race and kissed by hubby good-bye!
I found my corral; I was placed in the 2:00 corral marker. I tried to get my thoughts together for the last few minute before the horn blew, but I was already all out of sorts; after all I knew I would be running this race without headphones, music, and in 90 degree heat. I attempted the start of the race with 1 earpiece in, but my the end of mile 1 it kept falling out, and I, then, lost the other earfin. I tied them around my shirt and tried to get my focus back. BUT then, as I made it through Mile-1 my watch time showed 12 min/mi pace..WHAT?? That has to be impossible, so I picked up the pace. Well, when I get to mile-3, they had the digital time showing, and I was running at my regular pace 8:50 min/mi. I felt well and strong through Miles-5-6; still on my regular pace, but starting to cramp and knowing I needed to use the bathroom. I had to take 2 bathroom breaks throughout the race. Thus, pushing my time back, but I was okay with that. The heat really started to set in after Mile-5-6 and I decided to pull back. I managed to stop and grab lots of Gatorade at the hydration booths and continued to take my fuel (GU packets/and cliff blockers to refuel my electrolytes). After Mile-8, I started to see fellow runners becoming overheated and having to receive medical attention. I wanted to stop several times throughout the course, but I knew I could do it. I just had to keep telling myself to put one foot in front of the other. If it was not for the crowd, cheering us runners to the end, I am not sure I could have finished in the time I did. There were times I felt like I was crawling at snails speed. I could not trust myself to go by my watch and the split times it was telling me. I just had the digital clocks telling me my time every 3-4 miles, but the important thing was that I was still moving. Sweat was pouring down over me, I ended up taking off my shirt and tying it around my flip belt to cool my core down and that seemed to help get me through the remaining 3 miles of the race. I could see the finish line in the distance and knew at that point I did it!! Crossing the finish line at 2.08.18, 811/4538 females and 135/692 in my age group 30-34. The medal I received for this race will always be cherished and held very closely to my heart. For it represents the real, raw, determined perseverance to keep going despite everything that could have went wrongly for a first-time half-marathoner. Despite everything, I never stated the words, “I will never do that again.”
I hope that is a good sign of what is to come in my running career ahead. After all, I now have an official PR to chase!!