I signed up for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon knowing exactly what I was getting myself into: hills, crowds, and a bit of a logistical nightmare.
But a weekend away with friends to a city I adore was enough to get me on board and ready to tackle the toughest course I have ever run.
(My friends Nikki and Sherry who are both beasts and ran the full marathon.)
We arrived on Saturday evening, so we quickly picked up our bibs, ate some dinner and got to bed as early as possible.
Our hotel was right in Union Square, so we walked out the door and pretty much right up to our corrals the next morning. Bag check was a piece of cake this year, unlike the last time I ran this race two years ago when I lost a nice jacket and pair of pants in a huge mix-up.
I tried to stay relaxed while waiting for the gun to go off because I was familiar enough with the start of this race to know that I would have to do some pretty serious positive self-talk to prevent a case of spontaneous pseudo-Tourette’s syndrome to kick in. I have a really hard time with people not being honest about their pace and jumping into the wrong corral. When everyone does this, it creates absolute madness during the first few miles, as faster runners are forced to weave in and out of slower runners/walkers to stay on pace.
When race organizers are very strict about paces, races run much more smoothly. But let’s face it, this is not the sort of race where everyone is trying to set a personal best, so it lends itself to chaos in that way. So even as I was frustrated by running a very slow first three miles, I had to “get over myself,” so to speak.
In fact, I ended up sort of zoning out a bit and mentally just giving up around mile six. I mean, you can only weave around walkers and say bad words under your breath for so long before you just sort of resign yourself to your environment.
Besides, anytime I tried to pick up speed, I would hit a roller-coaster hill and be forced back to a slower pace anyway.
(Evidence of how crowded and hilly it was.)
As I was starting a hill like this one, I looked ahead and saw that the 8 minute pacer was ahead of me though, and I freaked out.
Suddenly I snapped out of my lethargic, nonchalant state of mind and pursued the lady with the “8:00” sign pretty relentlessly.
I was like, “no freaking way am I coming in behind the 8 minute pacer!”
I put my head down, passed her and ran scared from mile 8 onward. Except for when I had to stop and tie my shoe at mile 10 (I never learn to double knot!). Luckily the crowds broke up a bit around this time, so I was able to stop weaving.
Though I battled stomach cramps for the first half of the race, probably because my pace was quite erratic during the weaving portion, after mile 8 I felt fantastic.
By mile 9 I was so elated that the finish line was getting closer, that I took off and tried to pass people consistently over the next four miles.
I latched on to a dude and another lady who were running just ahead of me, and I told myself that I would pass them with two miles left and then speed up even more, which I did.
Despite the hills, running in the fog and mist was quite refreshing, so I really tried to enjoy the sights and surroundings as well.
I finished in 1:40.09, which isn’t a PR, but considering the course and the crowd, I’ll take it.
The finisher’s area was extremely welcoming and organized.
(And of course this helped.)
(Yes, I was a bit squeamish about taking this picture because I was so sweaty and gross at the time.)
The best thing about this race was that I only ran the half. God bless all of those ladies who ran thirteen more miles of those hills. In fact, I decided to forgive myself for my personal worst at this marathon a few years back. Since then I have run Boston, which is a piece of cake compared to this course.
And of course, even better than the firemen and the necklace from Tiffany’s, was the post-race beer, enjoyed with friends as we shared our battle stories.
We stayed Sunday night in order to celebrate a bit, and also to allow our legs some rest before the journey home.
(I’ll share more with you in the next few days, as I get more race pictures, etc.)
For now, though, it’s back to the grind of homework, sports practices, meetings and grocery store jaunts.