The story of race day didn’t start the moment I lined up (rather late) in the corral before being welcomed on to the race course. It started back in January when I knew I shouldn’t run any more miles on my ankle. It started in February when I took three weeks off from running to let my ankle heal. During that break, I wondered if I would even find myself on the race course this year. It started in the beginning of March when I ran my one and only 10 mile run since the beginning of December.
Saturday night as I was laying out my clothes for race day, I got a last-minute call from my coach. He was calling to remind me of what I’ve known this whole time: the shamrock half was my starting point. It wasn’t my finish line. He gave me a conservative pacing guide that would allow me to push for a sub 2 hour half marathon if my body was ready for it, but it would also allow me respect my ankle injury and lack of training. I was told if I ran anything faster than a 9:45 for the first mile, he’d knock me upside my head. After the first mile, I was to settle into 9:30s for a few miles, then 9:15s. When I reached the lighthouse, my plan was to ignore my garmin and run whatever my body had to offer. Whether it was a ten minute mile or an eight minute mile, my coach didn’t want me thinking about pace at this point in the race.
I arrived at the oceanfront with just enough time to check my bag and use the bathroom. By the time I made it to the starting corral the first four corrals had started, so I jumped in with the fifth corral. My friends Leah and Laura took off in front of me, and Laura’s husband Travis settled in next to me. Since I was three corrals back from my original corral, the runners around me started slower than my normal. This was perfect for me. I settled in and avoided weaving. After the first mile the crowds thinned out, and I settled into a very comfortable rhythm of running.
After the third mile, the race course takes you down Shore Drive. It’s probably my favorite part of the course. It’s tree lined streets are welcoming. During the fourth mile, I saw my dearest friend Sara (the girl who inspired me to run my first half marathon!). She’s pregnant and was cruising along. It was so great to see her on the course. As I approached the end of Shore Drive and the turn to Fort Story, doubt tried to creep into my head. What if I can’t do this for 13 miles? What if I am in over my head? And as quickly as the doubts appeared, they also disappeared. Another friend showed up in that moment on her bike in her sparkle skirt waving her cow bell. Go Kristy! was all i needed to snap me out of my mental funk.
As I made the turn on to Fort Story, I was greeted by wonderful wind gusts and an overwhelming sense that my race wasn’t about me. I knew my husband would be at mile 10 waiting for me. My mom and dad were at home watching my boys so I could run. I had friends all over the race course fighting for their own personal victories. My race was a joy ride. I was running a half marathon when three weeks earlier I hadn’t run in 21 days. I was contemplating deferring to the next year. Yet here I was running anyways. My body is strong enough and healthy enough to run 13 miles without much training.
The wind was strong on the base. Instead of fighting against it, I decided to let it welcome me. At this point, my legs were getting tired, but I knew I owed to myself, my husband, my parents, my kids and all my friends running that day to push to the finish line.
The turn off of Fort Story may now be my favorite part of the course (sorry Shore Drive!). After running through the quiet streets of the base, the residents of the North End are a happy sight. I had ten blocks to go before I knew I’d see my husband. As I approached 81st street (our street – the street we lived on, the street where he proposed on the beach, and the street where we said I DO), I realized he wasn’t there. It was okay. The kids were probably a pain in the morning. I’d find him. As soon as I accepted that he wasn’t there, he was there. Blue bike, shamrock hat, and cowbell. He was there to cheer me on. He got a quick high-five, a smile, and a thumbs up. I had run out of steam, but I had to keep going for three more miles.
I found Christian again as I made the turn at the Cavalier hotel. There was no more energy for high fives or smiles even though I was beaming on the inside. He got a thumbs up as I held on to the finish line.
I was so relieved to make it to the finish line. I was filled with gratitude the moment I finished. I almost gave up on this race. I almost never showed up. I have a running coach who wouldn’t let me discuss it, I have friends who pulled and pushed me along the course. I have a kick ass husband and family. And I just set a PR in my half-marathon. Sure it wasn’t the 1:55 half marathon I intended to train for when I started this journey. But the success of this race is by far sweeter than any I have experienced so far.
I ran happy. My heart was engaged. My legs burned. And I finished feeling oh so very happy!
Official Finish TIme – 2:03:19
Knowing that this is my base for the rest of my running this year gives me hope that I have some really amazing races waiting for me. The post race was filled with so much celebration: goals accomplished, lessons learned, and some really big achievements (both clock related and not clock related) by all of my friends. I really feel so lucky to be part of this amazing community.
Next up, Cherry Blossom Ten-Miler in 20 days!