Two days before the half, I picked up my packet. I knew in advance the packets would be paperless e-packets and I was really just picking up my race bib (number) and shirt. I did not know the e-packet would be lame. For instance, a free Chick-fil-a sandwich with your bib! Yay! But race day only. At one Chick-fil-a. Go get it. What.the.FUDGE. Not a question. I won't hold you in suspense, it was IN.SANE in there. But I'm getting ahead of myself. May we talk about the shirts? I ordered an adult medium. I did not know it would be a dress. I went down to an adult small. Still.a.dress. And a short-sleeved dress. When I tell you I was swimming in it and it looked no smaller than the medium? Horrible. I can't do anything with that shirt.
The day before the half, I did my best to relax but I was also still a little in denial about the fact that I was FINALLY running a half marathon! I'd basically been planning this since MAY!! And it was finally here!
Race morning, I had a bowl of oatmeal with molasses, a little sugar and raisins. I slept? Not one lick. Couldn't sleep. At all. Know why? I'd dropped my phone IN THE SINK. WITH THE WATER RUNNING. AT FULL BLAST. My phone with my alarm and Runkeeper. I put it in rice then next to a portable heater.
Rashan set the clock alarm in the bedroom. The alarm I never use. I don't like change!! And certainly not on race day! My alarm!?!? Why??? The bedroom clock? Did not allay my fears that I would sleep through my half. I eventually did a factory reset on my phone, re-downloaded my apps and re-synced them.
I drove myself and had no trouble parking. Yay! They arranged so many parking lots and harped on parking so much that they made it seem like you would not be able to park within a mile of the start/finish line without arriving 3 hours before the start. LOL Tisn't true. When I arrived? SO AMPED!!! I took a bunch of pictures with my running group. YAY! Used a portable toilet for the 2nd time at a race-- again, not bad at all! No lines, there was toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Wins all around!
When it was time to start, I made myself focus on maintaining a steady, slow enough pace. I got choked up because I was finally doing it! I was running my first half marathon! One of my group co-ambassadors was hanging back and chatting with her was helping me stay calm. I was proud of our first mile. I had no idea we would but we ended up staying together for the first 8 miles. She REPEATEDLY tried to slow me down. REPEATEDLY. Couldn't do it. Such a mess. I did exactly what I knew I wasn't supposed to do. EXACTLY. Got caught up in the feel of the race and couldn't slow down. I felt A.MA.ZING! My goal pace for the early miles was 12:30. Please look at this.
Mile 3?????? As a matter of fact, look at all those sub-12 miles. Why, Jameil? Why??? My sub-12 miles weren't supposed to come until mile 10. Oh the best-laid plans. Mile 3 is always one of my best miles. No matter how far I'm running. It's crazy. I knew a huge series of evil hills was coming in miles 7-10 so part of me was okay with banking some time. The rest of me was saying SLOW DOWN YOU CRAZY NUT!!
You see who won out. You can also see mile 9 is where the death march started. I dropped my phone at 8.56 miles. It broke apart. That was the end of me having any clue about how much time had elapsed in the race and what I needed to do to finish at my goal time of 2:40 to 2:45. I walked for the first time in mile 10 and it was so SO hard to start back up again.... just like I knew it would be. Then it was hard to stop myself from walking again. I'm very VERY familiar with this area. Around mile 11, I started talking myself out of cutting through the park. I KNOW!! I was in such a dark place. I just wanted it to be OVER! At some point in this last 5K, I told myself to just finish. That's supposed to be your main goal for your first race at any distance: finish. So I would finish. It didn't have to be pretty but I had to finish.
I saw some members of my running group just before the 12-mile marker where they snapped this picture. I couldn't even muster up anything more than a wave. Oh I wanted it to be OVER!!!
One of them said, "Smile, Jameil!" That is the only reason you have this picture to the left. Shortly after that fake smile, I went back to scowling. Then I saw the 12 mile marker and told myself to run the rest of the way in.
Less than half a mile later I saw more people from my running group. Oh the pain! I didn't even attempt to smile. No laughter. No anything. Just take my picture. Thanks for coming. I'm actually so amazed everyone took such great pictures! I look serious and awesome. LOL If I do say so myself.
And then I walked again. I was KICKING myself. Oh I was SO disappointed!! Then I heard footsteps coming behind me... fast. I was going to let whoever this jerk was pass me. (It is not jerky to pass people. Again. I was in a really bad place.)
I'd already passed 10+ people in the last few miles. Fine. If she wanted to pass me, she could have it. Go forth, speed racer. But then. I thought, "NO. I will not be passed in the last half mile of the race. If she wants to pass me, she has to earn it. Plus, she's right, the faster we run, the faster we're done and GOD I WANT TO BE DONE!!!"
She'd passed me by a few steps but we were on a downhill so I picked up the pace relatively easily. Ha! Easy... It wasn't easy but I was determined. I picked up the pace, then fell into step. Then she dropped back. I so badly wanted to encourage her, "Come on! Let's finish this thing together!" I couldn't get my mouth to work. I was that tired. I felt bad about it but the finish was SO. CLOSE. It was around two corners so I couldn't see it but I knew it was there and I WANTED IT!!
After I rounded the first corner, I could see and hear more people from my running group. They.were.AWESOME!! I knew I had to look strong. Fake it until I could make it if you will. They snapped this picture. Know what else they said, "I knew it was you. I'd know that run anywhere!" How sweet! :)
But I was still not yet in my happy place. One. more. corner. Actually that picture at left is just before the last corner I'd round to my right. Torture. TORTURE. And so emotional. I started tearing up again. I was doing it! I was finishing my first half marathon!
Then I heard the next group screaming for me at mile marker 13. Man did they pump me up! Oh it was REAL now! Let's go! I pulled out a gear I didn't even know I had left when I heard those screams! I threw down my water belt and BOOKED IT to the finish!
I LOVE this picture of me half out of the frame! It shows every bit of the intensity I felt at this moment... Less than a tenth of a mile away... I can do anything for a tenth of a mile... less than one tenth and you're DONE! YOUR FIRST HALF!
The first face I saw at the end? Rashan's. I felt into his arms and cried. I DID IT!!
My official time was 2:45:50.
I'll count it as a win. And within 10-20 minutes, I felt good enough to take this picture-- my favorite of the day :)
In a lot of my first or second times racing at a distance I've been at or near the bottom of my age group and even near the end of all competitors. I don't know why that matters to me but it does. I truly do believe I have to run my own race while I'm running it (no matter how often I lost sight of that during this race) but I don't want to be last. This time I finished before 91 other people overall and 8 people in my age group.
But most of all? I'm really, really proud that I finished so strong. I know what I did wrong and that this was a learning experience. I'm already looking for my next half so I can show this distance who's boss! And 2013? The year of the marathon!