Image via Run Nike Women Series
While I originally said I would post a pre-race feature tomorrow and a race recap on Friday, I thought I’d mix it up and start with the race today. That’s the most important part of the trip, right? Plus, much of the race was a blur, so I don’t want to forget any more details.
I thought that I would be a nervous wreck in the days leading up to the race. After preparing for my first half marathon for months, I thought I’d have butterflies in my stomach and endless thoughts about what could go wrong. Strangely, neither happened. I enjoyed time with my parents on Friday and Saturday, attended a Team in Training dinner the night before the race, and slept soundly until my 5am alarm on Sunday. I felt calm that morning. There’s a confidence that comes from knowing you’ve done all you can to prepare for a challenge.
I arrived at the starting line around 6am, took an X2PERFORMANCE shot, hit the bathroom, and joined the 9:30-10:30 corral. As soon as I passed the barricade, I found two friends from college and felt even more at ease. What are the chances of that happening in a swarm of 15,000 women?! After taking a picture with them, I moved near the front of my corral and put in my earbuds to wait for the 7am start. To control the flow of runners entering the course, corrals were split into three starting times. My corral was at the front of the second group. After the first gun went off, six minutes slowly passed. I found Beyonce’s Run the World on my iPhone, watched the sun rise over the Capitol, and danced around in excitement. But as soon as the second gun sounded, my mind cleared and my feet fell into a familiar rhythm.
As I said, I can only remember the race in snippets–a monument, a funny sign, a song, or a familiar face in the crowd. To piece it all together, I have to look back at the race course map.
Miles 1-2 — Running toward the Capitol in the first mile, I kept reminding myself to keep a slow, steady pace. Many women in my corral were sprinting ahead, but I knew I’d quickly tire myself out if I focused on others. The group passed in front of the Capitol and made two turns past the National Gallery of Art and the National Archives. I barely noticed the spectators at first, as I worked to nail down my pace. At the end of those two miles, we approached a tunnel. I unzipped my jacket and threw it to the sidewalk as we dipped underground.
Miles 3-5 — I’ve never run through a tunnel before, but it makes for a pretty epic experience when drummers are rocking out alongside you. I paused my playlist to listen to the beat echo off the walls. The giant WE RUN sign from the Expotique was also set up in the tunnel, filling the area with a turquoise glow. There were only two significant hills in the course. The first carried us out of the tunnel and onto a highway toward the Holocaust Museum and past the Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial. As I turned left to run across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, I felt settled and started to people watch.
Images via Run Nike Women Series
Miles 6-8 — As soon as I ran back across the bridge, my parents were waiting for me behind the Lincoln Memorial. Seeing them cheering for me gave me an extra burst of energy. The next part of the course was an out-and-back next to the Kennedy Center at the 10K marker. Soon after the 10K marker was a huge screen with a live feed of runners to mark the halfway point. I couldn’t believe I was already halfway done. No signs of fatigue yet. My parents reappeared at the top of the bridge to cheer me on as I entered the infamous East Potomac Golf Course miles of the race.
Miles 9-11 — I had been told by quite a few people who ran last year that this stretch of the course was rough. I was a bit nervous, since my longest training run was exactly 11 miles. I hoped the lack of monuments and spectators wouldn’t slow my pace. During Mile 9, my She’s the First cheering squad spotted me. Burst of energy. During Mile 10, one of my Team in Training coaches ran with me for about a minute. Burst of energy. I would say my most difficult mile of the race was 11. At this point, I was thrilled that I hadn’t stopped running and thought I could run the entire race. But I felt like the golf course would never end.
Miles 12-13.1 — Mile 12 was the Chocolate Mile. It was also the second hill. I had no desire to try and grab, unwrap, and eat a piece of chocolate. At this point, I put on the blinders and could only think about the finish line. My body still felt strong, but my mind was starting to slip. I hadn’t memorized the course map well enough to know how close I really was. At the top of the hill, I realized I had to make it back through the tunnel (less fun this time). After the tunnel was a right onto Constitution Avenue and a sharp left back onto Pennsylvania Avenue. I could see the finish line. In my mind, I was sprinting the last .1 mile, but my running app says otherwise. I think I hit empty as I was crossing the finish line at 2:13. Shockingly, there were no tears, but I was elated.
I couldn’t be happier with my first half marathon. The course was gorgeous. The weather was perfect. I didn’t stop running. I kept a consistent pace. And I finished well under my very loose goal of 2:20. After crossing the finish line, I got my little blue box and took this picture with two handsome men in tuxedos. Yes, I was that girl who asked them to lift me up. I even found my She’s the First ladies and some of my college friends to take pictures before heading to a steak and champagne brunch. There’s nothing I would have changed about my first half marathon. I’m incredibly proud of myself and can’t wait to register for another. More on that, as well as a pre-race feature, later in the week.
Thank you for all of your endless support and for sharing in my happiness this weekend!