The race is over, and I am thrilled to say that I am now an official half marathoner! Did I break any records? No, and I didn't break any bones which makes this a success in my book.
The below is my account of the race, for my archives but also for future reference, as the ink isn't yet dry on this year's race, and yet my thoughts have moved to next year and others, as I think this might be the first of many in my half marathon career.
The race started at 6:30 AM, so my alarm went off at 5:15. We were out the door by 5:40 and picked up in a cab (which we ordered last night, after finding out that our bus service didn't begin until 6:00am which would have been too late). After an uneventful and quick cab ride downtown, we joined the 30,000 other runners in Chicago's Grant Park.
We somehow ran in to my brother Austin as we entered the stadium, which was a real treat. (Shameless plug: Austin ran the race "elite" - meaning that he didn't have to pay, was assigned to the first corral, and got VIP access due to his expected finish time. He unofficially finished the race in 1:17 - that's under a six minute mile! What!) Anyway, after a quick hello to Austin, we dropped our gear (flipflops, keys, etc) at the gear check.
We then worked our way to our assigned corral (actually going a couple ahead in the hopes of spotting another of the "Rank Family Runners" who were doing the race. This is a good time to give a shout-out to the other seven people running the race from our crew. Scott, Matt, Austin, Kelly, Anne, Bryan, Kyle. I was thrilled to "share" the race with you and even though we all ran our own pace ("your pace, your race" as one of the signs said) knowing you were all doing it too brought me a tremendous amount of both peace and excitement.
We ran in to Anne at this point, and that was awesome. I had some pre-race jitters, and having her and Scott right there was a nice distraction. After a few minutes, the starting bell was run and they started rolling out each corral. Before too long, it was our turn.
I'll be honest, mile one was not easy the way you'd think the first mile should be. I was in an earlier corral than I should have been (for pacing purposes) and I suffered a little. By mile 2, I had adjusted that and was feeling better, chugging along. During the first few miles, I saw a woman that I suspect was a cancer patient, wearing her headscarf with a few tufts of hair peaking out below it. I was thoroughly moved by her presence, and I kept pace with her for quite a while before I needed to pull back a little bit.
Miles 3-5 were relatively uneventful. I felt good. At one point, I realized that the part of my body that hurt the most were my cheeks because I kept smiling.
Part way through Mile 5, I hit a wall. I stopped to a walk for a block. My Nike+ app was not working, so I couldn't figure out my pacing, I was thirsty, and I was getting tired. In training, I (stupidly) never went more than 7 miles, so I was getting tired. I got to an Eminem song ("Lose Yourself") and I listened to it a half dozen times on repeat. The feet ticked by, and we moved out of the West Loop and turned back East, running toward downtown.
The other three words that helped me get through Mile 5-7? (And the answer is not "Call Me Maybe" although that helped me more than I care to admit). Mom and Dad. I could focus on my amazing parents, who came to town to support us this weekend. They were only two short miles away - shortly after Mile 7, and I knew that when I got to them, I'd get a stick of honey, or a "Gu Drop" (an energy bite basically) or bandaids or anything else I needed. Knowing they were close was huge.
Shortly before Mile 6, there is a point of the course where you are running straight east, and then suddenly turn south on Michigan Avenue. That was one of my favorite parts of the race. The curve is LINED with people two-deep for a full block. They are screaming, cowbells are chiming, signs are inspiring ("I'm more impressed by the last 100 than the first 100", "runners are sexy", "why do all the cute ones run away?" "you're doing awesome", etc). It was powerful. I may or may not have gotten seriously teary. (Yep, I did).
Shortly after Mile 7, there were my parents. Cheering and screaming. They asked how I was doing, and I distinctly remember saying "never better" and at that point, that was honestly true. I commandeered my mom, and asked her to go with me for the next mile and she did (she stayed with me until Mile 9, when I felt better). Mile 8 was NOTHING with her next to me. (At one point, I commanded "talk to me" because I wanted to be distracted).
Mile 9 was easy. Actually, easy is the wrong word. But I felt good and strong and at this point, I knew I was going to finish without a doubt. Only a 5K left and I can do those in my sleep.
Mile 10 was a bitch. That might be too kind. It was, by far, my hardest mile but to my credit - quitting never entered my mind. I was hurting a little bit, but I knew I only had to get to 12, where my parents were going to be again. I kept chugging. I took Gatorade and water at every stop. I grabbed a piece of ice at each "cooling station" and held it in my swollen fingers. I sprinted down each hill, and practically crawled up them. I got a cold-water drenched sponge and poured it over my back and scrubbed my face with it.
My music was jamming. I had some harder stuff during this point (Imagine Dragons "Radioactive" and Jay-Z "Run This Town" come to mind) and I cranked up the volume.
I made it to 11. There was a tunnel during this time, and I almost slipped (the ground was really wet). I ran delicately, which was hard to do after 11 miles when I'm focused on trying to run instead of shuffle. Katy Perry cycled on, and "I Kissed A Girl" (a song I normally think is a little cheesy and not particularly good) saved the day. I turned up the volume and tuned out my calves - which weighed a lot at this point. Whitney Houston "Step by Step" came on my headphones right when I needed it, and reminded me that I only had a few more "step by steps" to go. Almost there.
I got to 12, and spotted my parents. My mom jumped in and joined me and my Dad sprinted ahead (so he could make it to the finish line before me). My mom kept telling me how awesome I was, and how I was almost there, and how I had done what I set out to do.
Soon, the finish line was in sight - and what a glorious sight that was. I turned to my mom and asked if that was what I saw up ahead (only slightly kidding). It seemed like it was only a few blocks away, but at this point, that was pretty epic. At this point, I turned to my mom and told her I needed my tunes. I put my headphones back on - and I kid you not - "Don't Stop Believing" was starting. Seriously universe? Thank you. This is what I needed.
The last half mile was the hardest physically, but the most fun. The street was lined with spectators and everyone was screaming and cheering. I think that is what it must feel like to be a celebrity. It was fantastic. And then I saw my favorite spectators - Scott, my dad, Matt and Kelly, Austin. (My mom was still with me, bless her). They were screaming and cheering and then it was over. I crossed the finish line and got my medal and chugged a water. I found my family and sat down for a minute to catch my breath.
What I did yesterday was a bucket list item, something that I've wanted to do for a long time, but was too scared and too ashamed of my speed. I ran this race for myself, with myself and by myself. (Except for the couple miles with my mama). I did it. I decided in December that I was going to run it, and seven months later, here I am.
Will I run it again? Yes, yes, yes. It was a really special race, and one that I did with seven other really special runners: