I was disappointed when I went to register for the race - not only had they changed the name (it was the Oak Ridge Half Marathon last year), but also the course. This wouldn't be an apples to apples comparison.
My tune changed, however, when I learned that a friend of mine from college would be coming in for the race. Something new to get excited about! I hadn't seen her in over 6 years (I'd like to think I haven't been out of college that long, unfortunately, I'll be graduated a decade this time next year.) and was excited to be able to race with her.
I did my standard race routine - laid out my stuff the night before. Gave myself 30 minutes to get dressed, eat breakfast and get on the road. When I arrived at the race headquarters, my race tears arrived also. I always cry during race. I hate it, but that's just how I roll.
As I went to register I couldn't help but tear up. What a difference a year makes! At my first (and only other) half, my sister drove her family in from 2 hours away so that the Princess and the Little Man could be there at the finish line for me.
This year, Jay didn't even bother to get out of bed.
13.1 miles was no longer a milestone. It was just another stop on the way to 26.2.
After picking up my packet I headed back to my car. I wondered how I was going to meet up with Lisa and her mom before the race - I hadn't even gotten her phone number. As I sat in my car pinning on my race bib, something made me look up.
Who was parked right in front of me but Lisa and her mom. We smiled, laughed, and waved before getting out for hugs and pictures. (Most of which are on her camera. I plan on stealing them from Facebook as soon as she gets them posted.)
The race was fairly straight forward. It was billed as a flat course, which was mostly the case. There were a few tiny hills here and there, highlighted only by the flatness of the rest of the course. I noticed another lady running beside me around miles 3-4. At mile 5, a race volunteer said the official time was 54:58. "I'll take that!" I said to my new found running partner.
"Yeah, those people behind us said that you were an 11 minute-miler, and I'm wanting to finish in under 2:30 so I thought I'd pace off of you."
She was using me as a pacer? That wasn't the moment to tell her that my Half Marathon PR was 2:44. For the next few miles we were pretty consistent. After the first loop, around mile 8 or so, I felt the wheels starting to loosen. By that time, "those people behind us" joined our group.
I'll just be honest - if not for them I would have probably slowed considerably. I kept at it though, pushing myself to keep up with them. By my 11.5 I hit the "leaking oil stage". My dad, who watches far too much Nascar, called it that while we were watching the New York City marathon together. Its that part in the race where you know you've pushed yourself as much as possible and you're just hoping to coast across the finish? Yeah that was me.
By mile 12 we started to break apart. Our group has served all of us well. It was weird to talk during a run. Weird, but nice. I had helped keep them steady during the first party, they helped me from backing off too much at the end.
It was now time to run our own race. They ended up finishing before me, but the 4 of us all smoked our "under 2:30 goal". My official race time was 2:26:45. I could have sprinted across the finish line (as is my signature in all my races) but there was a couple right before me and I would have had to pass them with 10 feet to go.
Instead I crossed with my head held high, knowing that I'd well surpassed my hopes for a great race. Afterward I refueled and waited on my friend Lisa to finish.
One of the ladies that I had ran with also had a friend behind her in the race, so around the 3 hour mark we decided to head back out onto the course and find our friends.
(Lisa's mom on the right, my new found running buddy on the left)
I came up on Lisa just a little before the 13 mile marker. I'll just tell ya know that last tenth of a mile wasn't any short the 2nd time around! She trotted for a little bit, but was having some foot pain, so we walked most of the last stretch. As she turned the corner she picked it up to a run to the finish. I dropped back to get some pictures.
I'm still sore. I guess that's what happens when I think of a half marathon as a race, rather than just another training run to get through.
Next stop - 26.2 through Disney!