NWM Half DC Part 2: The Race

Here it is! My post on race day and how it felt to run my first half marathon!

Okay, so I know I said I’d write this post yesterday, but to my defense, I spent almost 12 straight hours in the library writing a paper and I just didn’t have it in me.

On the morning of the race we got to our bag check area and decided to hang around for a little while so we could keep our warm layers on as long as possible. When we finally headed to the corral it was already pretty busy so we squeezed in towards the back. We were able to get into the middle of our corral, but I could tell people were squished on all sides. I wasn’t really nervous, although my running partner was freaking out a bit. It got to be a little stressful wanting to start but not being able to. We were also looking for all the guys from run club since they were all in our corral too but there was just no spotting them.

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When the race gun went off at 7:03 it was really anticlimactic. After a few seconds we started being able to walk towards the start line. I think if I did get nervous at all it was during the buildup waiting to just get to the start line. Once we approached it, I hit my Nike+ app and we started trying to run. I say ‘trying’ because it was more of a jog and everyone was still so close there was no running around people.

The first mile was definitely our slowest, and even though the road thinned when we entered the tunnel below the national mall, we started being able to weave around people. It was like a game: each of us had to find a space big enough to move through, point, and then lead or follow the other. This kept my mind off of any other worries beyond strategizing my way forward. I didn’t want to trip anyone, but if I was going to get anywhere near the 2 hour mark I had to get into my pace.

After I got moving a little I started feeling so much joy to be doing what I was doing. To feel healthy, strong, and confident was a great thing for my first race. I was proud to be running, and proud of all the women and select men who got out there to run too.

This initial 6 miles of the course were probably my favorite. I really enjoyed the part past the memorials and along Potomac Pkwy. Which is funny because it felt totally different to run these places than it usually does. Granted, it was the beginning of the race so I’m sure no matter where it was I would have enjoyed it. It was strange when we did our first down and back, on the Memorial Bridge, to see people ahead of me running the other way already. It was kind of disheartening to feel like I was so far behind. At the same time, it was nice to have a couple down and backs in the race so I could see people I knew on the other side.

I took a Clif shot at mile 5 and thoroughly savored the chocolate. Once we started going along Ohio Dr towards Hains Point it was all business. We knew this route well and just had to push it. It’s funny because for the first 9 miles or so, a lot of our energy was focused towards navigating the other runners. We were the people constantly weaving or running on center medians and grass so that we could get out of the crowd a little and just run at the pace we wanted. I’m sure I expelled  more energy than I should have sprinting around people during the race, but what the heck.

By mile 9 or so my legs started getting pretty tired. I took a Vega energy gel at around 9.5 miles, but don’t think I ever felt the effects of it. This is the point where there were no water stations for at least 2 miles, and I felt bad for other runners who relied on that because miles 9 & 10 are often the hardest part of the race for people. Looking back, I should have been drinking more water and electrolytes than I did. But, I didn’t start sweating until mile 10 when the sun got a little higher so I didn’t feel the need to drink a lot.

Our only hill was a freeway overpass just before running through the tunnel again. It was rather strange to run on the freeway. We took it head on and beasted over it as others were starting to walk. Actually, I had seen people ahead of us start to walk as early as the first mile. Anyways, I was unhappy to run back through the tunnel. I also didn’t see any distance markers after mile 9, so I had no concept of how far I had to go to the finish.

Once we got back on Pennsylvania Ave I regained hope, despite my tired legs. This was yet again deceiving because as I watched people on the other side closing in on the finish line, I had no idea how much further I needed to go before I could turn around and be where they were. What I thought would be a quick turnaround turned out to be a giant loop in front of the capital. I almost wanted to stop and take a picture just so I had an excuse to stop. This was mile 12, and it felt like the longest. I knew if I slowed down or stopped my legs wouldn’t be able to keep going. I also felt like I was leaning in to a left turn that would never end. The balls of my feet were sore from all the impact they had endured.

Finally, we were on the last straightaway and I wanted to push myself so hard. I felt like I was moving so slowly and was trying to muster up enough mental juice to get my legs moving. This was one of those moments when I was so thankful to be running with someone, because I knew I couldn’t give up or slow down. Within a couple hundred feet we looked at each other and began to sprint. After crossing the finish line we stopped a couple feet away, exhausted. I grabbed my phone out of my hydration belt and stopped the run on my Nike+ app. That’s it, we had done it! And we were ecstatic. I looked at the app and it said we were sprinting at a 5:11 min/mile pace when we stopped.

We got our Tiffany’s boxes and finishers’ shirts and I grabbed a water and banana. You know how they say not to try anything new before a race? Well I learned, don’t try anything new after either. What I should have done was grab my bag from bag check and drink my Vega post-workout drink and protein bar. But I wanted to be immersed in the finish area for a while first. So, instead I spent the rest of the day with an upset stomach. At the race it was the water, Dole (evil!) banana, Luna bar, and smoothie sampler. At brunch it was delicious, dairy-packed foods.

At the “Finish Village” we milled around for a while and saw some run club people. We checked our finish times and it felt pretty awesome that we did so well for our first half marathon and first time running that distance. I half-assed some stretching, played with someone’s beagle puppy, and just enjoyed the moment.

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I had to be cheesy for a moment

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Finisher’s shirt & Tiffany’s necklace

Want to know how I did? My official chip time was 1:56.09!

5k split was 0:28.14,

10k was 0:27.34,

15k was 0:27.57,

& 20k was 0:27.14.

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And it turns out, we ran mile 12, which I thought I struggled the most through, in 7:50!  I am pretty excited that I ran my first half under 2 hours, although sometimes I think I could’ve done better. Now that this is in the books, I want to more consciously work on speed and push myself to improve.

I am glad that I enjoyed doing this, as I hoped I would, and now need to plan my next races so I have other goals to work towards. I definitely want to do NWM SF in October, but still haven’t decided whether I want to do the half again or if I should just go for it and do the full marathon. Thoughts? Also, does anyone know of some good 5k, 10k, or half marathon races in California?

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