On race morning, I woke up to the engulfing blackness of night that still exists at 4 A.M. I was excited, jittery, and just the slightest bit nervous for the day ahead. I picked up Nella so she could nurse, and Michael gently woke the older girls, managing to get them to use the bathroom and get buckled into their car seats while they were essentially still asleep.
We left home around 5 A.M. to make the hour or so drive up to Roanoke. We needed to be at least a little early so I could pick up my race packet! I ate half of a Kind bar on the way, but I was too anxious to have anything else but some water.
We were some of the first people to arrive, so there was no line to pick up my bib. I had plenty of time to use the bathroom, take a pre-race photo, and try to nurse Nella again before I had to leave her for the next couple of hours.
Around 6:45, we heard the national anthem, and then all half-marathoners were called to line up. The only other race I’ve run is the Monument Avenue 10k, which has an excessively large number of participants in comparison to this half marathon. Needless to say, I was surprised (and a little relieved) to see so few people lining up.
I tightened my shoelaces, the countdown began, and we were off! I got to wave to Michael and the girls on the way out!
I started out right behind the 2:00 Race Pacer, and I got a little ambitious and thought that maybe I would be able to stick by him through most of it. Thankfully, by mile 3, I wised up and decided that I needed to just do what felt good for me based on my training.
The course was a very flat trail, winding through some trees near a river. Around mile 4, I heard the guy behind me repeatedly asking race volunteers, “Is this the hill up here?” I knew there were going to be hills, but I really wasn’t worried about them, since I’m used to running in this area. I wasn’t sure what this other runner’s preoccupation with “the hill” was, but as soon as I saw it around mile 4.5, I knew.
It was the steepest hill I’ve ever run in my life! So many people immediately started walking, but I pushed on. Another runner girl cheered for me. Once I was past it, I was worried for the turnaround, because next time, I’d be trying to go down it.
The course was no longer flat after that point- we had one more large hill and then some slight inclines and declines all the way to the turnaround point at 6.8 miles. I was starting to feel the effects of only eating half of a granola bar before the race, so after circling through a tiny parking lot at the end of the route and getting back on the trail, I pulled out my fruit snacks and ate one at a time over the next couple of miles. I was drinking Gatorade out of my pack, as well as taking some at all but one of the aid stations. I was also surprised to see that so few runners had brought their own fuel belts, and although it was a perfect day for racing (overcast and not at all hot), I was glad to have mine.
In my training runs, running miles 1 through 6 would feel almost effortless. On race day, however, I felt like I was pushing my body the entire time, and I was just tired. Once I was at mile 7, I started playing number games with myself:
“I just have to run 3 more miles until I reach 10, and I can run 3 miles easily. Then I just have to make it 1.5 more miles to get to 11.5, and then it’s basically just one more mile until that finish-line adrenaline kicks in. No big deal; I’ve got this!” I know it sounds crazy, but when you’re pushing through the miles, somehow, that thought process is convincing.
At mile 11, just like in training, the muscles in my legs and feet started to burn. My respiration and heart rate felt just fine, but my legs were absolutely ready to be done. These last few miles definitely weren’t flying by, but I was managing okay.
At mile 12.5, I started to see the buildings where we had started out, and I heard the music at the finish line. I remembered how Lelia had encouraged me to give it my all for that last quarter of a mile, so I started to kick it into gear, despite how tired my legs were.
To my surprise, Michael and girls were waiting for me at mile 12.9! They were just standing there, chatting with a race volunteer, waiting for me to come over the bridge. I was so happy to see them, but Michael shouted, “Keep going!!!”, which was probably a good reminder, because I hadn’t thought I’d see them until it was time to stop. Michael started jogging with the stroller behind me.
I gave that last 0.2 all that I had, and when I crossed the finish line, I felt so much relief, and even some sadness to realize it was already over. 13!!! Nella was the only one of our kids still in a good mood, so she was willing to take a picture with me! The other girls were absolutely exhausted from being up so early, an I can’t say I blame them! Nella takes medal-wearing very seriously.
My average overall pace was 9:53 min/mile, and I finished just 29 seconds before my goal time. Overall, I’m really happy with how I did. And now, it’s safe to say I’ve caught the half-marathon bug. I’ve already been contemplating which race will be my next!