Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t updated this blog in a REALLY long time. There are a variety of reasons that I won’t go into. They are my reasons and we’ll just leave it at that. Anyway, I’ve basically made the decision to put an end to this blog, but I don’t feel like I’m done with blogging. Running is a HUGE part of my life and I often have felt a desire to write about it but I’ve never really felt that it belonged here. I’ve decided to start a running blog. Of course, you know I have to get my IT guy/husband to get it all started for me, so it may be a few days (weeks?). In the meantime, I’m going to start writing some running posts here and migrate them over to the new site when it’s up and running. I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on Sunday and I want to write a recap before I forget anything, so here goes!
My road to the Pittsburgh Half Marathon begin in the fall of 2012. My husband and I ran The Great Race here in Pittsburgh. It was our first 10k race. We were both happy with our finish and literally walked away saying that we didn’t have a desire to run a race much longer than that. HA! Two days later we signed up for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
I spent a lot of time researching training plans. I asked the running community on Twitter for opinions too. I finally settled on the Finish It plan from Another Mother Runner. I like the length of the plan. I like that the plan gives you one day every week to opt out of your run and I like that it tells you which run you MUST complete every week.
In mid-January I started my training. I was pretty diligent in my training. I took advantage of the “opt out” day a few times. I had some really good runs. I had some really bad runs, but overall training went well. I ran 3 races during my training, a 5k, a 10 miler and an 8 miler. They fit well into my training plan and I was happy to have a few longer races under my belt before the half.
Like any runner, I made a few goals for my run. Most of all, I wanted to have fun and enjoy the experience. I also wanted to run the whole thing. And finally, I set a time goal of under 2 hours. I had read that first timers shouldn’t set a time goal, but I needed one to help keep me motivated during my training.
The week before the marathon, I was nervous. I did my last big run (13 miles!) three weeks before the race. The last two weeks, I followed the tapering schedule but it felt weird to run such short distances. I alternated between being worried that I would start out too fast and fade at the end of the race (which I did in the 10 mile race) and being worried that the large crowd would cause me to start too slowly.
Race day finally arrived. I was up at an ungodly hour. Showered, got dressed and ate some peanut butter toast. I grabbed a banana to eat about an hour before the race. Amazingly, my husband and I left on time! We arrived downtown where I proceeded to pee approximately 87 times. Security was tight in the corral area. They were checking to make sure that only runners were in the area. We checked our bags and headed to the start corral. We actually timed everything fairly well and didn’t have to spend a ton of time in the corral. The race started right on time at 7:00. We waited patiently for our turn to start. Before I knew it, we could see the start line!
It took about 14 minutes from the initial start gun until the time that we crossed the start line. Of course right before we crossed the start line, I realized that I had to pee. Again. My husband assured me that there would be port-a-potties within the first mile. Sure enough he was right. I saw a short line and stopped fairly quickly. I’ll estimate that I lost less than two minutes when I stopped. I could have waited to stop, but my thought was that I would rather stop when I’m barely warmed up and I figured that the lines would be longer later in the race (I was right).
I knew that I would need to have a pace around 9:00/mile to reach my time goal, but at the same time, I didn’t want to go out too fast. My first mile was a slow 10:15, but that included my bathroom break so I was pretty pleased. The start was great, lots of spectators cheering and I was really just having a great time. Before I knew it, I headed across the first (of five!) bridges. This is the 16th Street Bridge.
I began winding through the North Side and I was still impressed with the size of the crowds. I don’t listen to music when I run outside, so it was great to hear the cheering crowd. Rather quickly, we reached the next two bridges. First up the 9th Street Bridge.
Immediately followed by the 7th Street Bridge.
Other than the last stretch to the finish line, these two bridges were my favorite part of the race. Spectators are crammed along the bridges. A couple people were even reading names on bibs and calling out encouragement to runners. As I began to cross the 7th Street bridge I looked at my phone and saw that I was 4.5 miles into my run. I felt great. I had no problems running up the incline of the bridge and I found myself remembering my very first 5k. It was less 18 months ago. I ran the Turkey Trot and I recall struggling with that same incline when I was about 2.5 miles into the race. Oh how far I have come!
The race course began to head toward the West End and I was looking forward to the water station there. Not because of the water, but because I knew that Uncle Crappy and Mrs Crappy would be working the station. I managed to see Uncle Crappy and give him a high five. It was nice to see someone that I know along the course and get a little encouragement! At this point, I was 6 miles into the race and right on track for where I wanted to be. My goal was to run the first half of the race a little slower than the 2nd half so I started to pick up my pace a little bit.
I headed up to the West End Bridge, which is the fourth bridge that I crossed that day.
I was still feeling good and not at all tire/winded at this point, but I was slightly dejected when I crossed the bridge. I had forgotten that the course winds through the West End a bit. I had thought that it would turn immediately onto Carson Street. I had in my mind that hitting Carson Street was a huge milestone. Fortunately, I quickly made my way through the West End and turned onto Carson Street!
At this point, I was feeling a little bit of tightness on the back of my left ankle and my right knee had a little pain. Nothing terrible, and I honestly don’t recall thinking about either issue for the rest of the race. I headed up a hill that would take me under the Ft. Pitt Bridge. This was the first time that I felt winded going up a hill, but I knew that once I made it up the hill, the rest of Carson Street was flat and straight.
I was still on a great pace, but I knew that one more bridge and a couple decent inclines loomed ahead. I took advantage of the flat road and picked up my pace a bit. I easily navigated the split between the half marathon and the whole marathon and began to cross the Birmingham Bridge. I’m sad that I don’t have a picture of the last bridge, but this is where I really started to feel tired. About halfway across the bridge, I crossed the 11 mile mark. I knew that I was so close to finishing but the long, slow incline of the bridge was tough. I was grateful for the brief downhill run off the bridge but was quickly greeted by what would be the toughest incline in the whole race for me.
Coming up the hill on Forbes Avenue was the first time that walking even crossed my mind (11.5 miles in!) but I knew that I was so close to my goal and honestly, I was afraid that if I walked, I would struggle to run again so I kept running. I made it up to the Boulevard of the Allies and slowly ran up that hill. The 12th mile was by far the toughest mile for me and other than my first mile, it was my slowest at 9:18 (in contrast, my last mile was a fast 8:20! Speed work really does work!)
Once I reached the top of the hill, I took a deep breath and let go as I headed down the hill. I was running on the left side of the road and I could see the finish line around the buildings. I began to fly down the hill. My goal was so close! I glanced at my phone and knew that I would be so close to finishing in 2 hours.
As I grew closer to the finish line, I heard the PA Announcer say that the leader for the Men’s Marathon was making his way toward the finish line. I looked back but couldn’t see him. I heard the crowd start to cheer and roar and just as I crossed the finish line, I looked over and saw the winner cross at the same exact time. You guys, it was incredible. One of the most amazing experiences of my life.
I managed to stop the timer on my phone and tears came to my eyes as I saw my time.
So, I did it. I ran every step. I beat my time goal and most importantly, I had an awesome time. Now the important question, will I do it again? You’re damn right I will.