Half Marathon: Goal Complete!
The sights, the sounds, the feelings. The lovely surprises. The unexpected inspiration. The longest, most interesting run I’ve ever done. My first half marathon! It was such an honour to run alongside members of our troops today. To all my friends and family who serve or have served, I salute you.
Kinda cool out, nice and sunny, perfect day for a race. Walking with the crowd towards the green corral, I looked for my pace bunny: 2:20 walk/run. That sounds like a good place to start, probably a bit optimistic though. I hope people don’t run me over when we start. Speeches from military and parliamentary folk (Peter MacKay!) to get the crowd revved up, the countdown to the starting cannon…
The cannon blasts!! What an incredible thunderous sound! Best starting gun ever! Then we wait. Let’s see…I was in the green corral so I’m guessing I was about halfway down, which would mean that there were probably 3,000-4,000 people ahead of me (over 7,000 total in the half). It was a solid five minutes before I crossed the starting line, and even then we were going painfully slow until the crowd started to find their pace.
Surprise #1: There’s a HILL going up towards the Parliament Buildings. Oh yeah, Parliament Hill. What a way to start a half marathon!
I am so glad I didn’t bring music – the sounds of a marathon are so interesting, if you’re paying attention. Hundreds of shoes around you hitting the pavement. Beeps and bloops from people’s gps watches – including one that was telling someone their pace. Friends laughing, people talking, and of course, the ever-present sound of bells and noisemakers on the sidelines from the enthusiastic (well bundled up) cheering crowds. I overheard a man say to his buddy, “Use the downhills to your advantage.” I turned and thanked him for the advice, and let my stride open up behind me on the other side of Parliament Hill. There are lots of gradual hills along the Ottawa River Parkway. I hadn’t thought to prepare for those, but I took it easy on the up and let ‘er ride on the way down. [Side note: running downhill on the grass is much easier on your ankles if you want to ride them faster, and no one’s in your way!]
First water station was a bust, I thought I would try running while drinking…wore most of that cup! First gel I opened gooped out on my fingers, gave me sticky digits. I had to stop around 5km and massage my ankle. Ugh, and there’s still 16km left?! At least the scenery is incredible, Ottawa from so many angles. Finally found my pace as we head over the bridge to Gatineau. I think I like your style, lady with the pink shoes, I’m going to keep up with you. Crazy fun hills in Gatineau! I thought of those downhills as a chance to loosen up my lower back, keeping my core of course. I think it worked.
As we ascended the Alexandria Bridge, I overheard a woman saying “It’s all downhill from here!” …(which it’s not)…HAH! Hey, where is my 2:20 pace bunny?
Back on the Ontario side, on Sussex now. Surprise #2, it’s the ‘lemons!! They have a house DJ and huge signs to egg everyone on! [Side note: when you’re lulu alumni, you always have family cheering you on! xoxo] Past 24 Sussex, up another hill, hey, there’s an open house later today in Rockcliffe, lots of cadets, kids, people with their hands out to give you a high five, telling you how great you’re doing, keep your pace, almost there! Overheard a runner say “Only a third left to go!” Did a mental inventory of how I was feeling, and I decided I was in a very good place to push harder. Once again, a downhill gave me an adrenaline rush as I passed people “keeping their pace”, and loosened up my joints… I refuse to fight the downhills!
Sussex is a long street.
Hey! It’s the lemons again, their cheering station on the loop back! I can hear the house music from their DJ! This time I saw several familiar faces, and they called my name! The music was about to drop, and I high fived them, and literally leaped through the air with the heavy bass beat – I must have looked ridiculous but I’m here to have a great time. That gave me exactly the amount of adrenaline I needed, put a huge smile on my face, and I burst forward towards the canal.
AHHH the canal! The home stretch loop! Only 5km left to go, wonder where my pace bunny is.
Hey wait, what’s that? The 2:15 Continuous pace bunny? Cool! I’m doing way better than I thought, and I still feel pretty good! OUCH…wait, that’s my right ankle, that’s new…uh oh…slow down, stop and massage for a sec…What did that cheering cadet’s sign say a few km back? Pain is only temporary but the internet stats are forever…!! Well ok universe, I’m a vessel for your endless energy, give me power, like She-Ra! Check in with my posture, relax the limbs, and go for it!
Pretoria Bridge now, and the sideline crowd is getting thicker. Some cheering are 5k finishers, even early half marathon finishers, already back out there cheering on the rest of the runners! I hear one of them say “Don’t lose your focus!” – THANK YOU, I was getting too excited about the finish, still 2km away. I am (relatively) calm, grounded, breathing is good, and I start passing people. My eye is focused on the edge of the crowd ahead, looking for the first sign of the looming truss holding the elusive FINISH sign.
Hey is that the 2:10 pace bunny?! Eat my dust! 😀
I see the finish, so close!! Do I charge ahead? I have already beaten down my expected finish time, should I push harder? I’m still passing people (gasp!), no sense injuring myself…so many emotions though, feel kinda like crying because of how happy I am with the whole experience…ok not gonna cry, but smiling like a dork…aaannnnddd….FINISHED at 2:13 on the clock (minus the 5 from the start, that’s 2:08)! WTF?!?
But my legs decide they’re not done yet, people are walking too slowly and I can’t stop bouncing up and down. If I do slow down, I can feel my right leg wanting to seize right up. A soldier puts the dog tags around my neck. I come to grips with how quickly it’s all over, and I decide I don’t like the finish line, it’s a bit of a bummer – I was having too much fun! (Don’t think I’ll be saying that after a full marathon…) We’re filtered through the athlete’s village, grab some water, a box of post-race treats, and off you go into the sea of thousands of people waiting to congratulate their loved ones.
I told the hubby that 2:15 would be really optimistic, so he arrived on the bridge to watch the finish line around 2:16, but you can imagine his surprise when I called to say I was done at 2:13! Then it’s off to Five Guys for a post-race burger. Best new tradition ever. And yes, they do have the best burgers in town.
So, Manitoba Marathon in June 2013, you’re my next monster goal. Can’t wait! 😀