Early last winter I got a phone call from my friend Lindsay who lives in Nashville. She had signed up for her first half-marathon. And then she asked…would I want to come in town and run with her. Of course! Lindsay and I met when I lived in Nashville. I interviewed with her for a job at a pharmaceutical company. When I started working there, we instantly became best friends. In the short amount of time we worked together (and lived in the same town together), we created a friendship that will last a lifetime. We spent many weekends laughing together, drinking too many drinks together, traveling to Thailand together, riding elephants together, and so much more (Yes! Thailand and Elephants!). She’s helped me through boy trouble and cheered me on when I met Christian. She helped me through my insecurities about being in a relationship so soon after moving. She not only loved that side of me, but she was one of the few friends who also embraced my life as a mother. She would hang out at my house (game show network and wine cure anything!) and play all day with Cole. To say I was honored when she asked me to run with her is an understatement.
Friday morning I flew to Nashville. Lindsay and her fiance David picked up Cole and I at the airport. We had lunch, hit up the expo, played around downtown (okay – we really just went to a candy store), stocked up on some last-minute race essentials, and then dropped Cole off at his dad’s house. We filled up on a yummy dinner (made by David) and went to bed early. Race morning showed up early.
We woke up at 4:45am to heavy rain. We kept checking the weather forecast. Weather.com said 0% chance of rain in the 8 and 9 o’clock hour. Maybe we wouldn’t get soaked after all (They lied!). The rain progressively got worse as we drove to the start line. When we arrived at Centennial Park, the grounds were soaked. Puddles filled the streets. It was going to be a fun sloppy wet run. Lindsay and I lined up in our corral. It was cold. I tried to keep talking to keep race day nerves from getting the best of her. The race was about to officially start…
The race began with a moment of silence for Boston. Runners were all given a Run Now bracelet for Boston. Every one raised their arms in support. The running community is pretty magical. It’s home. By now everyone has heard stories of the spirit that exists within the running world. This was such a wonderful reminder. After the Star Spangled Banner, corral 1 was off. 13 corrals back, we waited our turn. One of Lindsay’s friends and coworker joined us. We chatted about pacing strategy. Both Lindsay and Tana like to start fast. I was going to do my best to keep them from starting too fast. The course was also going to do it’s best to make us start slow.
Nashville is hilly. The course was hilly. I run at sea level in a beach town. The only “hills” I run are a few 25 foot bridge crossings. Before the race Lindsay and David had prepped me for the course. The first 6 miles were all uphill. I was nervous. Lindsay’s best training run was run at a 9:40 pace. Based on that, we decided to start the first 6 miles (the hills) in the upper 9s. We could then speed up and enjoy the down hills.
Mile 1: 10:03
Mile 2: 9:40
Mile 3: 10:06
Mile 4: 9:58
Mile 5: 9:59
Mile 6: 9:12
The first few climbs weren’t bad. I could handle these hills. I had some strategies tucked away in my brain from my running coach. I focused on using them during each climb. In the 3rd mile, we ran a hill passed the brand new convention center. This was one of the toughest hills for me. It had a steeper incline, but luckily it didn’t last long.
When we hit mile 6, I felt myself get teary. I had survived the hills. I was so proud of myself. I felt strong. I felt like I could help Lindsay run a race she would be proud of when she crossed the finish line. More than anything, I wanted this race to belong to her. I wanted her to enjoy every moment. I wanted her to soak up the magic of race day. I wanted to carry her as much as I could so she could take it all in.
We all took an inventory of how everyone was feeling at mile 6. Everyone was hanging in there so we kept going. What Lindsay and David didn’t tell me was that a long 2 mile climb was waiting for me. It was a slow steady incline. I had mentally checked out of hills. I had celebrated them being behind me. I had to change back into hill running mode. Lindsay told me it would be smooth sailing once we hit Wedgewood. I was counting the blocks. My ass was on fire. I lowered my eyes. I quit looking for the end of the hill. I just followed the feet in front of me.
When we crossed the 10k mark, I asked Lindsay what her best case scenario goal was for the day. She was hoping for 2:10. With a 1:01 10k, I knew we were doing okay to meet her goal. We just had to keep going.
Mile 7: 9:37
Mile 8: 9:24
When we got to the end of that climb, my body screamed thank you. Having no real experience running hills, I had no idea how rewarding it would be to reach the top. It was tough getting there, but the relief in every muscle of my body was so worth the climb.
Mile 9: 9:12
Mile 10: 9:09
Mile 11: 9:14
At mile 10, I asked Lindsay if she wanted to know about our pace. She wasn’t wearing a watch. Based on the math I was doing in my head (which isn’t always reliable when I run), I guessed that we’d finish around 2:07. I think I told her 2:08 in case I was off. I didn’t want her disappointed.
My run felt amazing at this point. I was taking in all of Nashville. Even though the rain never let up (in fact it progressively got worse as the day continued), the puddles became fun. My shoes were soaked so there was no point in try to avoid the puddles. Lindsay and Tana were both still running strong. Lindsay and Tana have run together after work. I have never run with Lindsay, yet somehow all 3 of us found a magical groove running together. We alternated taking the lead. We all worked so well running together. I felt like I was running my run while they were running their own runs. We were all in sync pushing each other along. So many times along the course I thought to myself that it was so wonderful to have two people running beside me knowing we were all helping each other.
Mile 12: 9:31
Mile 13: 9:28
Surprise! There was a nice little (or really big) hill waiting for me at the end. This hill got me. Lindsay was running so strong at this point. Tana and I were hanging on. I really wanted Lindsay to run her own run. I wasn’t sure the muscles in my butt would let me get up that last hill. They were on fire. Lindsay was a few strides ahead of me, and I told her to go. I wanted her to finish strong for herself. Just making it up that last hill would be such an accomplishment for me. I didn’t want her waiting. She turned around and said “I am holding your hand at the finish line.” She didn’t slow down so I only had one option. I had to catch up. In the back of my head I remembered a conversation I had with my running coach. It’s easier to run fast up a hill. My body wanted me to stop running at this point, but I found another gear. I caught up. Tana stayed right with me too. When I caught up to her, I laughed. As much as my ass hated those hills, I loved every second of them. We crossed mile 13 knowing we were had run a great run.
Last .26 (garmin distance): 8:05 pace
We all held hands as we crossed the finish line. It was such a wonderful run. It was amazing to run beside my best friend during her first half-marathon. It was wonderful to find strength running with two other runners. I surprised myself with my ability to get up and over those hills. It was a perfect run! And I got to cross the finish line with Lindsay during her first half-marathon!
Official Race Time: 2:05:31
A new official PR by over 9 minutes, and an unofficial PR by 2 minutes. (on the hardest course I’ve ever run!).
Thank you Lindsay for inviting me to run with you! (read Lindsay’s race report here).
Race Review – Loved the course. Even with the rain and clouds, the views were wonderful. It’s designed for a fast finish (even with the surprise last hill). I relied on water stops this race. The had plenty of water (tons of tables at each stop). My only complaint (and it’s not really a complaint) is that the course was really crowded the entire race. We did a ton of weaving and never found a pocket where we could just run. The marathon and half-marathon run the same course for the first 11 miles. Between the two races, I think it sells out at 30,000 runners. Almost 18,000 people ran the half and 2700 ran the full. Lots of people stayed home because of the weather. I can’t imagine sharing the road with 10,000 more runners!)