I did it! 13.1 miles in 2 hours 18 minutes 39 seconds. (I don’t really want you to do the math, but I know you will, so I’ll just tell you that’s 10:35/mile.) In the last couple weeks, I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of good advice about running in general and running long races specifically in blog comments, on Instagram, and in person, so thank you to everyone who contributed. In addition to tips and stories, many folks told me to “Have fun!” Every time I read or heard that before the race, I silently responded, “Yeah right!” I did not sign up for this race to have fun, and I was prepared to not have any fun at all. I’m going to have to apologize to everyone I scoffed at because the actual event turned out to be, for the most part, a genuinely good time. Here are a random assortment of thoughts on the race:
I got really nervous for no good reason at home on the morning of the race. By the time I parked at the race location, however, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I got there pretty early and didn’t have much to do besides use the bathroom. The OSU marching band played at the starting line for about 20 minutes before the race, which was nice because it gave me something to focus on. It would have been nicer to use that time to chat with a friend, but I was on my own and didn’t run into anyone I knew.
I got a lot of advice ahead of time telling me to start out really slowly because I would feel an impulse to get going too fast with all the adrenaline and energy of other runners. Well, I listened to the advice and went REALLY slowly for the first three miles. The organizers had participants congregate behind the start line by estimated minutes/mile pace, and I found a spot near the 11 sign, but after the race started, hundreds of people seemed to pass me in the first couple miles. Thankfully, I didn’t have much of an ego about getting passed early on, and it was actually comforting to know that there were still hundreds of people behind me. After I was good and warmed up around mile 3, I passed quite a few more people than passed me for the rest of the race. (In the comments of my last post about running, Melissa shared a pretty inspiring story about almost coming in last in a half marathon.)
I was surprised by how many people were walking, especially in the first few miles. I would imagine that some intended to walk/run the race, but many didn’t look like their walking was planned. I was also surprised by how many people walked for a while but still finished ahead of me. Except for a few steps through each water station, I didn’t walk at all.
Sunday’s weather forecast called for temperatures in the 70s, and the race didn’t start until 9:30 am. Because all of my longer training runs were in cool/cold rainy/cloudy/frosty weather, I was more than a little concerned about dealing with heat. Thankfully, there was a nice breeze through most of the race, so I really didn’t start to feel overly warm or thirsty until about mile 10, and even then, it wasn’t too bad. Overall, the day was truly beautiful, and the course was super scenic.
I wore loose shorts and a basic cotton T-shirt for the race. I don’t have anything against sport/performance clothing, but I just don’t own any specially designed shirts, and I didn’t want to go out and buy one right before the race and run without testing it out. I heard a lot of horror stories from runners ahead of time about various kinds of chaffing and was recommended to lube up various body parts pre-race to prevent such chaffing. I also was concerned that I was going to be a sweaty monster after a couple of miles in warm weather. Fortunately, the breeze seemed to evaporate a lot of sweat, and my shirt worked out fine. I had a very minor amount of inner thigh/undie chaffing (TMI?), but it didn’t turn into anything serious.
In my training runs, I never ate anything or even drank any water, but in the comments of my last post about running, several people I trust mentioned this food stuff called Gu. I ended up buying some (at the local running store where the sales guy was super nice and spent a whole lot of time explaining all the different brands, flavors, and types of “performance nutrition” foods), but before the race, I decided that I probably wouldn’t be able to choke it down, and I didn’t want to try anything too new and crazy for the first time during the race. Then my friend Erin recommended Sharkies ”Organic Energy Sports Chews”. They’re basically glorified gummy bears. I ate a couple the night before the race and decided they might be bearable to eat while running, so I pinned a little baggie of them into my shorts kinda like this. (Thanks for the link, Rachel!) Around mile 8, I ate one not because I was hungry or particularly tired, but I thought it was about the right time to do such a thing. It was not unpleasant to eat (though it did gum up in my teeth a whole lot), but after the first one, I decided that I didn’t really want to eat any more. I also skipped out on the Gatorade and just drank the water offered along the way.
My nose ran like a faucet through the whole race. This happened in training runs, but I always blamed it on cold weather. Though it wasn’t a major issue, I did wipe about a quart of snot on the neck of my T-shirt, but it dried nicely in the breeze. Gross, I know. I’m not sure what the runny nose was all about because I don’t have allergies, and I don’t often have nasal issues as I go about my life in general.
The hardest mile was 7-8 because it was all up a slight incline. The longest, warmest, least motivated, least pleasant miles were definitely 11-13. I was kinda hoping that my slow start would allow me to have an extra energetic last few miles, but by that time, I was just working on getting to the end. Could I have run faster? Yes, but there wasn’t really any reason for me to “leave it all on the course.” I crossed the finish line, met up with my mom and kids who were watching, and didn’t feel like barfing or collapsing. I was tired, for sure, but I managed to stay upright for the rest of the day, walking, stretching, and even doing a little light housework.
The not-very-surprising miracle was that my training totally worked. Once I started running, I felt totally prepared. The thought of quitting or walking never even crossed my mind. Today, the day after, I’m a little sore but still wholly functional. It’s kinda crazy to think that just six months ago, I was gasping and wheezing during a two-mile jog.
One of the most interesting parts of participating in a run with over 1,600 other people is that I got to see a lot of different types of people running. I passed folks that looked way sportier than me, and I was passed by folks that looked less sporty than me. I used to get embarrassed when I thought about how slowly I ran, but there were lots of people in this race that ran even slower than me. The simple fact that I did this thing somehow makes me feel more entitled to be out there running on a regular basis, occasionally being seen by people when I can’t easily hide from them. Does that make sense?
So what’s next? I’m not sure. Levi’s teacher was trying to talk me into signing up for the Portland Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in May (probably not), and my friend Kara recommended the Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon in October. (I’ll consider it.) My friend Erin told me that running the Hood to Coast relay was one of the most fun experiences of her life, so if anyone needs an extra (slow) runner on their team for this year, let me know. The one thing that sort of solidified for me during the race is that I don’t think I’d like to run a whole marathon anytime soon. I think with proper training I COULD run a whole marathon, but I don’t think it would be very pleasant, and I definitely don’t want to devote such an enormous chunk of my life to the training. This race made me feel pretty successful in my running, and I would like to keep it up. That said, I’m also seriously considering buying a bike after not owning one for many years. It’s a good thing to change it up a little every once in a while, right?