I did it! I ran 13.1 miles in the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg.
My official time was 2:11:31. This puts my pace at 10:07 per mile. This pace is faster than any of my training runs. I'm thrilled. My place was 1186 in a field of 4746 runners and in my age group I was 209 in a field of 793 runners between 40-44.
Race morning started at 4:00am when I woke up and was too excited to go back to sleep. I got up at 5:15 and took a shower. I was so nervous I was nauseous but I made myself eat a powerbar.
I didn't want the hassle of trying to park at the race starting point and I didn't want to be separated from Karen while she parked, so we took a cab from our hotel to the race starting point.
We arrived at the starting point,Mahaffey Theater, at 6:30am while it was still dark.
I'm wearing the groovy running shirt I was given at the Runner's Expo. I had a mantra of "nothing new, nothing new" going into the race. I didn't want new socks or underwear or anything that hadn't been tested during my training runs. But I was so tickled with the shirt I decided to break my own rule and wear it. It worked out perfectly. The shirt didn't chafe my arms at all. And I really enjoyed being a part of the sea of pink shirts all around me.
There was a zoo of people at the race. There were 4,746 runners and their support people.
As the sun began to rise, we were able to enter our corrals. The two girls behind me kept saying to one another, "We can do this, right?" "Yea, we can do this" over and over. They got me laughing because I was thinking the exact same thing to myself.
Awhile ago, I saw on television the famous downhill skier Picabo Street preparing for her run at the Olympics. She was moments away from skiing the most important race of her life. The cameras cut to her when there were still a few people ahead of her getting in their runs. She stood off to the side, listening to music through her earpieces. She was dancing and singing at the top of her lungs. I thought she was ballsy (in a great way!) and awesome. So I told myself that prior to the race, instead of looking around, frozen like a deer in headlights, I would listen to my music and stare only at the starting gate.
When I registered for the race back in July before I had started training, I was asked "In what time do you expect to finish?" I marked "under three hours" on my form. As a result, I was back in corral number 5. There were 7 corrals with the faster runners in corrals 1,2,&3.
I never heard the starting bells; I had my music too loud to hear it. We simply went from standing still to walking to jogging. And at the beginning, we were jogging way to slow for me. We were packed like sardines. I ended up jumping into the grass to try to break away and get moving.
There was a girl in front of me who was doing the same and I stayed right with her for several miles. She was my first Runner's Rabbit. We stayed tightly packed for the first five miles and I remember thinking to myself, "Wendy, you are faster than this! Go! Go faster!"
When we reached five miles, the pack lengthened out and there was more breathing room. At mile five, I looked at my watch and I was under 50 minutes. At mile 5, I also had my first water break. I've drunk from water bottles while running before. But drinking from a dixie cup of water is very different. I didn't get choked but I did splash water up my nose and in my eye and on my shirt and shorts. I had read that drinking from the race was messy and hard. After I tossed my cup down, I laughed a bit and said to myself, "Yep! That was different! I hope a photographer didn't get a picture of that!"
About mile 7, I found another pair of rabbits. It was a guy who was running with his girlfriend/wife. They had on matching blue shirts that read "Medal Heads". They were running just a bit faster than me and I ran to stay with them.
I have to say that the pull of the runners ahead of me was awesome. I simply wanted to catch up with them. So I ended up running faster than I had before.
There were fans at the start of the race and lots of fans at the end. Having people yell and cheer for you is invigorating. I knew I wanted a larger race for just this reason. We passed a retirement home and there were older folks sitting on chairs by the road, waving signs that said "Run Girls" and "Go for it". When anyone would cheer for us, I would smile. And with the smile, I would get a burst of happiness and running seemed so much easier.
At ten miles, I was so proud that I had made it that far running as fast as I was. I was listening to the song, "Firework" by Katy Perry. I heard the lyrics,
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the Fourth of July
Cause baby you're a firework
Come on show 'em what your worth
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby you're a firework
Come on let your colors burst
Make 'em go "Oh, oh, oh!"
You're gunna leave 'em fallin' down-own-own
Tears started streaming down my cheeks and I met the eyes of a support fan. She must have seen the emotion on my face because she looked right at me and shouted, "You are almost there!" I beamed a smile at her and kept on kicking.
Then we entered Tropicana Field where the Tampa Bay Rays play baseball. We ran a complete loop on the turf and it was amazing. I seemed like a goofball as I looked all around me while I ran. I wanted to soak it all in; this view that only professional athletes get to see. I pulled back one of my earphones to hear a recording of a baseball game they were playing over the loudspeakers. And when I did, I heard a guy who was running in front of me with his girlfriend/wife. He was saying, "This is it! We are down to it. The last few miles. You've got to give it all you've got!" That was just what I needed to hear. It was like he was saying it for her, for me, for all of us.
At mile 11, I believe I slowed down just a bit. My legs were feeling pretty numb except for my calves which were screaming. And at mile 11, the other runners around me really kicked it in. Up until now, I had the sensation of passing others rather than being passed. But now lots of runners were streaming by. I checked my pace on my Forerunner watch several times. I was right on pace. I didn't have it in me to say to myself, "Run Faster!" So instead I told myself, "You are doing great! Just stay on pace now!"
The last mile was incredibly long. It seemed like forever before I saw the finish line. And then I was through it. I kept walking after touching the finish line but inside I felt like I was floating. I teared up as a volunteer looped my medal over my head. And gasped with relief when another volunteer handed me a bottle of water.
There were several photographers for the race. The only one I saw was at Tropicana Field. I waved and smiled at him. But I guess he didn't get a photo of me. A photographer did capture me at the Pier which was at mile 7-8.
And another one took a photo right at the finish line (looking into the sun here and you can see the exhaustion).
It took a while for Karen and I to find one another at the end of the race. But when she found me, this is what she saw.
I'm so dang happy and proud! I want to thank all of you for your words of support. They mean the world to me.