First off I have to say, for my first half marathon, this was perfect. The course is fairly flat, the volunteers, spectators and organization is amazing, and best of all - it's right in my own city. No wonder Grandma's Marathon and associated races/activities are so highly regarded on a national and even international level.
The night before the half marathon, my hubby and I headed out to watch the William A. Irvin 5k with my sister in law and her hubby. (My sister in law also did the 1/2 with me and hubby, and it was the first for all three of us...while her husband did the full marathon, and it was his first time running a marathon). This was the race that started it all last year...my first. And from then on, I was hooked! It was really great to watch a race rather than be in it for once. I had fun cheering for all of the runners and watching the fastest ones...how incredible they are...it's just amazing. After watching the 5k, we all headed to Red Lobster for our pre-race day dinner. I had a salad, garlic grilled shrimp, some fries, and of course you cannot go to Red Lobster without having Cheddar Bay Biscuits. OH. MY. YUM!
Next we headed to the grocery store to load up on Powerade and race day breakfast items. I decided to stick with basic energy bars and yogurt and just picked a few kinds so that I would have choices. We then headed to the apartment my sister in law was renting for the weekend and got everything ready....Race bibs pinned to shirts, chips on our shoes, sweat bags packed...all that sort of stuff.
Finally it was time for bed, and surprisingly I slept fairly well, except for waking at 3 am and being unable to fall back asleep. Fortunately my alarm was set to go off at 4 am anyhow, as we needed to be ready to be on a bus at 5 am. We got dressed, ate some breakfast and drank a lot of fluids, had some coffee in hopes it would "get things going"...and probably paced nervously a little...
The bus ride wasn't too terrible. I used the time to daydream about my plan of attack for the race. I knew it was forecast to be humid, and had already been doubting my goal time of 2:30 as it was. I made a mental note to myself that my goal might need to be moved back to 2:40, and that was okay.
We got to the start...along the north shore of Lake Superior with a nice view of the lake behind us while thousands of people stood around, chatted, warmed up, stretched, stood in massive lines for porta-potties, and took pics.
I tried really hard to empty...everything...that I could out before the race but was left a little worried because the coffee did not work as I had intended it to. But the show must go on, and at 6:45 am, we were off!
The first few miles went by really fast...literally. at the 5k mark, I was significantly faster than my fastest previous 5k ever. I thought to myself "WTF? Am I going too fast? Do I need to slow down before I crash and burn and end up crawling across the finish line?" But I felt really good, so I went with it. At 4 miles, the company I work for had a large water/aid station set up so getting a little water from somebody I knew helped give me a little burst of energy. The next few miles were uneventful...we were still at a point on the course where spectators are a little more spread out. But I continued to feel good and chugged along at a decent pace.
When we started to get into town, the spectators started lining the roads. They were amazing, shouting and cheering. There were people playing instruments, singing, houses spraying their sprinklers into the road for runners to go under...it was just awesome. It was so inspiring to see how many people come out to support the runners. There was one sort of big hill, the only significant one on the course, and it was lined with people. I barely noticed the hill. I still felt great, the people around me were awesome. It was very humid, so we were very hot and sticky, but even still, I was well in line with making my goal of 2:30.
We started to get into downtown Duluth, and I was feeling a little tired, but nothing drastic. My pace, of course, had slowed by now. Instead of 10:XX minute miles I was running 11:XX minute miles. By the last mile, it was even 12:XX at times. But looking at the time on my phone which was strapped to my arm, I knew that I was going to not only make my original goal time of 2:30, but kick it's butt! This gave me so much motivation to keep going. Every second felt important. As I approached the finish line, I did not cry like I thought I would. I would say it was more a feeling of being in awe that I was actually about to complete a half marathon. I wish I could express to you how crazy it is for me to be thinking of myself as a "runner".
I crossed the finish line and my official chip time ended up at 2:24:33. My awesome sister in law finished in 2:22:33, so just shortly before me. My amazing hubby finished in 2:33:49...I am so proud of him...he has lost 100 lbs in the last few years and look at him now! He experienced some knee pain in the race which hindered him a little, yet he still finished in a very respectable time.
After the finish line, I picked up my medal (I did tear up a little, but not much, as they were putting it around my neck) and my finisher's shirt. Then I felt it. The coffee from earlier combined with my digestive system going a little nuts after a long run that I went all out for...I had to get to a bathroom, and QUICK! I hopped in line at the nearest one, and it took for.ev.er. I wasn't the only one in that boat, but I seriously thought I might crap my pants. Not that I would have been the first in the history of running. All in all, over the next few hours, I ended up making several bathroom visits like that one.
When I met back up with my husband and sister in law, we made our way over to watch some of the marathon runners finishing and wait for her hubby to come in. Holy man...marathon runners! Incredible. Inspiring. Amazing. I want to do that.
After brother in law came in, we met up with him and chatted, grabbed drinks, and wandered. I ended up buying a Grandma's sweatshirt in a size SMALL (they ran big, but still...whoa). We headed back towards the buses that would shuttle us back to where we needed to go...while we waited, we took some pics.
As the bus started driving, it started raining. Kind of funny to have my first official 1/2 marathon experience capped off my some perfectly timed rain. My hubby and I eventually got home, and by that evening I was STARVING. I ordered a pizza and enjoyed, knowing that I just burned off 1500 calories and some pizza wasn't going to do all that much damage. Though even if I thought it would, I am pretty sure I didn't give a shit. I was starving. I ran 13 miles and I did it fast (for me). I deserved some pizza, damnit!!
It was a GREAT experience. I cannot wait for my next 1/2 marathon, September 1st. Training starts Monday. And I can't stop thinking about doing the full Grandma's Marathon next summer. Time will tell. If not, I will definitely be doing the Garry Bjorklund. Just an awesome time all around, and I'm so glad I decided to take the plunge!! Running long distances isn't scary... it's hard work, but a fun and rewarding sort of hard work.
Highly recommend it - it has changed me, and it has changed my life.