I feel like I have to start off by saying that Sunday was one of the greatest days of my life. Not kidding, folks. I would venture to say it is in the top 5. The half was AMAZING. I am not to modest to say that I kicked so much ass that more ass reinforcements had to be called in.
The day started off with me slightly nervous. Not terrible, and once I saw some familiar faces and listened to the annoying warm up DJ, most of the nervous feelings were gone.
After what seemed like a lot of waiting, the race finally began. I was in one of the last groups to get to the start so I was able to watch the huge crowd of runners going out of the parking lot, up a slight incline. It was such an incredible sight seeing the thousands of runners get onto the Earth City Expressway. I got chills, but quickly turned my focus to going through the start line myself.
It didn't take long for me to find a good open spot where I wouldn't bother anyone doing my run/walk intervals. There were a ton of people around but it wasn't so crowded I couldn't have my own space. The first few miles went by quite quickly. At mile 3, the course came to an intersection of a street where we had to loop around and come back about 2 miles. At this point, many of the runners in the 7 minute mile and higher were making their way back off the street. It was great to see the looks on the runners faces, the determination, and the cheers as they were coming opposite of us not so fast runners. :)
At mile 5 I looked down at my last minute gift from my husband (a watch/heart rate monitor) and realized I had completed 5 miles in 1 hr and 5 min. I was shocked. I had done my intervals the entire time and was still managing to maintain a 13 minute mile. I was over-freaking-joyed. While to some of you seasoned runners this will seem like a slow time, for me it is freaking awesome to maintain a 13 minute mile pace for 5 miles. I also got a little nervous that perhaps I was going to burn off all my energy quickly, but I felt good and was staying hydrated, so I decided to continue as I planned but figured it was inevitable that I would start going a bit slower as I grew more tired.
At mile 7 I came upon the few hills that were on the course. I continued to press on but really wasn't paying much attention to my time at this point, and just checking my heart rate every so often. Between mile 8 and 10 all the details are blurry. I remember focusing on some of the new music on my iPhone and the scenery because my legs were starting to feel really tired. I made conversation with another runner that looked friendly for a few minutes, but other than that I just attempted to not think about how much my legs hurt.
At mile 10 I checked my watch and almost screamed in shock. If I completed the last three miles in about 43ish minutes I would be at 3 hours. I kept thinking, "No way, that can't be right...I crossed the start 10 minute after the gun, so 7:15 + 10 min= 7:25 and it's now, blah, blah, blah......" I seriously did the math about 3 times because I figured the fatigue was just getting the best of me. But sure enough, if I could do 3 miles in a little under 45 minutes I would be at 3 hours.
Now I have to break into the story and share a little past info. A few weeks ago I wrote this post. What I didn't include in the post is that when I did the 13 miles it took me slightly over 3.5 hours. I wasn't super happy with it, and honestly wanted to finish in more like 3 hours, but realized that goal was REALLY not obtainable because knocking off a full half hour was very unrealistic.
But there I was at mile 10, seeing that my 3 hour goal was incredibly realistic. Yes, my legs were tired, I had enough sweat on me to water an entire garden, but I only had 3 miles left and nearly 45 minutes to do it in. At mile 11 I had been on the course for 2.5 hours. I again, doubted myself, did the math 3 times, and couldn't believe what was happening.
At mile 12 I was so filled with emotion I honestly didn't know what to do. I mean, I told my family not to show up before 10:30 because there was no way I was going to finish before that based on my run 3 weeks ago. I decided to call Nathan and tell him. Because really doesn't every runner in a half call their husband at the last mile? I decided that they did and put my iPhone up to my sweaty face.
Nathan of course, didn't answer. In a panic I called my friend (personal cheerleader) Ali and the convo went something like this,
Ali: "Um, hello?"
Me: (panting from the excitement and you know, the running) "Ali, Ali, I'm on the last mile!"
Ali: "It hasn't even been 3 hours yet!!!"
Me: "I know, but I'm gonna be there soon."
Ali: "Well, get off the phone and run."
Me: "I know!!!"
Nathan than called me back and I quickly explained to him that I was going to be at the finish in about 10 minutes. His response, "Well, your family is coming over here now."
I kept on and tried to continue intervals, but with all the phone calls I had turned off my app that helped me keep my intervals so my last half mile became very sporadic. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally started to see spectators near a finish line. When I saw my family my heart skipped a beat and I did my best to pick up my pace. My sister and nephew surprised me and ran out to join me, which you see in the video below. Unfortunately the video cuts off just before my sister starts waving her arms and yelling "THIS IS MY SISTER!! THIS IS MY SISTER!!!!" as were are getting closer to the finish line. I turned right and saw my amazing friends and they are cheering me on just as hard.
I look at the unofficial time at it says 3:10 something. I get my medal, meet up with my family and friends and I receive some wonderful greetings. I excitedly tell them that even though the clock says 3:10 I actually did the whole thing in 3 because it took me 10 minutes to get to the start and I shaved off a whole half hour. I keep repeating the 3 hour/shaving off a half hour part because I think they don't believe me.
But really, they believe me, I just don't believe me. In fact, that part of completing in 3 hours (my official finish was 3:01:20) I still don't think has fully hit me. It's hard to describe, but the whole experience just seems so surreal right now. My mind just can't fully wrap around the fact that in June I struggled to run a 5k and 3 months later I completed a half marathon. I was hoping that as I am writing this post I would fully grasp the experience, but I am not all the way there yet.
Amazingly, I didn't cry like I thought I would. Although I did tear up when some of the spectators and volunteers saw my name on my race number and would yell, "You can do it Teresa!!" or "Teresa you are doing great!" It was truly wonderful to have complete strangers want me to do my best. People can be so fabulous. If any of you readers ever cheered on a complete stranger I would like to tell you thank you. If whoever you cheered on was anything like me your cheer made an incredibly positive impact on them.
For those of you that are wondering if I will be doing another half the answer is ab-so-freaking-lutely. I truly feel like I have so much more to accomplish with running and I possibly have a lot of potential to become quite the athlete. The only unfortunate thing about sticking with running is that my toying with the idea of trying out for the local roller derby is put on hold. I feel good about that decision and will continue to skate for cross training, but trying to train for both would just be unrealistic.
I have a lot to look forward to including a 10k in late October that I am very excited about. I hope to use the next several weeks getting out of running intervals and more into a steady pace for the 10k. It is going to be a challenge but the number one thing I have learned from this experience is that I should never doubt my abilities ever again. (Number two would be that the guy holding that sign near the finish line that says "cold beer" isn't joking :). )