Half-Marathon Race Report

Where to begin? Race day started with about four hours of sleep---10:30 to 2:30 a.m. At 2:30, a storm came through and woke me up, and there was no way I was going back to sleep. I was just hoping the weather would hurry up and pass and not greet me at the starting line. I got up at 4:00 and had a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, got dressed, and woke my husband at 4:30 (he was thrilled).

My running buddy arrived at 4:50 and we left at 4:55 for our 50-minute drive to Nashville. We found the starting line easily and my husband dropped us literally at the barrier to the start. Thousands of people milled around. There were 30,000 runners overall, about 25 thousand in the half and 5 thousand in the full. It was sprinkling rain. Our shoes and socks got wet as we walked around the starting area through the grass. I though, "Great! Running in wet socks is sure to cause many blisters." But it didn't. Talked to some nice people.

Then, in a long line at the port-o-potties, we heard the gun for the first corral-- and the rain suddenly stopped! (Thank you, God.) We were supposed to be in corral 14 for the wave start---one corral released every 2 minutes. Well, when we jumped into the sea of people, we found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the folks in corral 17 and no real way to make our way up. So, that's where we started---unfortunately. Within ONE mile, people were stopping to walk, leading us to bob and weave all over the place for the first three miles. If I had the energy expended with all that ziz-zagging, I'd have finished faster. How much ziz-zagging? My Garmin says I ran 13.28 miles, instead of 13.1. While I welcome walkers out there to get a great workout, they shouldn't have lined up in the early corrals.

The first 2 miles, I found myself out of breath as my body was warming up. Overall, the first 4 miles went by quickly and I took a gel and an orange slice around 4.1 miles. Then at 8 miles, I took some Jelly Belly Sports beans and also stopped at a port-o-potty. Had to wait briefly in line.

I was feeling great from 8-10 miles, and kept having to slow myself down because I was speeding up over the pace I'd calculated I should run. Then, a huge hill hit at mile 11 and my legs just died. It became an issue of mind over body. I knew I could run 13.1 since I did two weeks prior to the race, but that mile 11 hill was tough. (Who puts a hill in mile 11 of a half-marathon---that's just mean!) I walked twice during that rough climb. At 12.1, I knew I only had one more mile, and adrenaline kicked in (or maybe it was the caffeinated gel from mile 10?). I lost Kelle, with whom I'd been running for the whole 12 miles, about then.

It was DOWNHILL most of the way from 12.1-13.1. I was thrilled. I sped up and started picking people off. I saw people walking on the downhill in that last mile and couldn't fathom that! It was a time to run! I passed many people and it felt great. Absolutely my favorite part was that sprint to the finish, passing all those other runners.

I felt great afterwards, though my legs hurt. I refueled at the post-race pavillion and found my hubby.

Fuel: Jelly Belly Sports Beans (watermelon, caffeinated) randomly, 1 and 1/2 gels, Accelerade at various water stops, one orange slice (let me say the orange peels and banana peels all over the course were a bit treacherous!)

Mood: Serious, determined, occasionally light-hearted. I really felt like I was RACING this, not just running it. I had a goal and I worked hard to meet it. I didn't have as much fun as if I'd taken it lightly and enjoyed the sights and spectators more.

Best pre-race advice: Bring your own toilet tissue. Yep, the port-o-potty at the start and at the finish were both out. Glad I brought my own.

Surprising part: Not one other runner talked to us at any time (except the 2:15 pacer, just briefly, which we initiated). I thought people would be chatting. (Maybe the serious look on our faces scared them off!)

Painful part: Mile 11. Seriously, my legs didn't really hurt until that hill at 11. I was surprised my knees held up that far pain-free.

Fun part: I put my name on the front of my shirt. I heard a ton of "Go, Donna!", "Way to go, Donna", "Looking good, Donna!" It was almost embarassing at times. I always smiled and said thanks. Also fun was hearing my name called as I crossed the finish line.

Best part of the day: Finishing strong. Sprinting that last mile. My Garmin clocked me at 8:30/mile pace the last .2. "Chicking" all these men at the finish was fun. I passed maybe 50 people in that last mile and only two passed me. I felt strong and amazing.

Totally hooked now. I'm definitely doing another half and the CMM half again! I went into it well-prepared and was having one of those amazing running days (which are fairly rare) where everything goes right. The only changes I'd make are to start in an earlier corral and maybe include more hill training so that last hill is more manageable. Oh, and to drink less pre-race to eliminate the port-o-potty stop. Or wear Depends. That just ate up valuable time!

It was just a blessed day and I'm so glad I did it. This time last year I could NOT run even 1/2 mile. This has been an incredible journey. And I'm not stopping anytime soon! However, the idea of a full marathon----based on how my legs felt at the end---NEVER HAPPENING.


workout mommy said…
What a great race report. Congratulations!
Thrilling ... so glad you had such a marvellous finish. Being able to pass people at the end shows you did it just right!! Congratulations again, Donna.
Christie Kettle said…
Loved reading this. I got goose bumps. And laughed when I got to the Full marathon- never happening part. :)
Val said…
Ooh! I loved reading this! I'm so happy to have found your blog--although I don't know if you'll find this comment back here in April '08, so I'll write you another note, probably. Anyway, :) thank you for writing all this down--and for writing your blog, period. I've run off and on since I was 18 and am 32 now and starting again "for real this time" and am just so psyched. Your blog and outlook remind me of my own--the enthusiasm and perspective on it all. I signed up to run my first half-marathon next May, and I'm already so excited. I'll add your blog to my links at my own, and I'll be cheering you on and reading you from now on. Thank you, and keep at it! --Val :)