I woke up the morning of the half marathon both excited and nervous. I knew that I had done all that I could during my 18 weeks of training to prepare myself for the race, and based on my long training run paces knew that a PR was very likely. I didn’t want to jinx myself, which is where the nerves came into play, but I was also excited about the prospect of running a great race and being able to celebrate with so many blogging friends at the end of the race.
One of the reasons we chose the hotel we did was because of the race morning shuttle that was offered to runners. With the race starting at 7am, we had two bus options: 5am or 6am. We elected to sign up for the 6am bus in favor of the extra hour of sleep that we’d get. We figured that since the start line was only about 20 minutes from the hotel that we’d be okay with the 6am bus. With the road construction and the about 15 minute walk we had from where the bus dropped us off and where the start line was, we probably should have chosen the 5am option. Oh well, you and live and learn.
On our way to the start line, we decided to use the porta potties at the finish line, which was about ten blocks from the start line. There weren’t any lines at them, and as we walked closer to the start line we realized that this was a great choice on our part, as the ones near the start line had very long lines. About ten minutes before the start of the race we dropped our bags off at bag check, and then parted ways. Preston started in Corral 3, and Kathleen and I started in Corral 7, where once again, we met up with Jenny.
Just before 7am the national anthem was sung, and then at 7:14 we crossed the start line of the race. Unlike the 8k which had us running south on Pacific and Atlantic Avenues, we started the half marathon running north on Atlantic Avenue. After exiting the oceanfront area we ran in a residential area, where the crowd support was absolutely amazing. I lost count of the number of beer stops, margarita stops, and even a mimosa stop after counting at least ten of them. Since I had hopes of PRing, I didn’t stop at any of them, but it was very exciting to see so many people out supporting runners.
Around mile 3 we headed into a wooded area and started making our way towards Fort Story. It was along this part of the course that Shamrock had set up a series of signs, many of them riddles. I found them quite entertaining, and laughed at a good number of them. It was a great way to stay motivated during a part of the race that had very little crowd support.
The week of the race I shared my race goals, and formulated these based off my the pace that I maintained during my 12.5 and 14 mile long runs. However, I had a fourth secret goal of wanting to sub 2:20. I knew that when I got to the halfway point of the course at 1:10:20 that a sub 2:20 was definitely possible.
Sarah had warned me about the strong headwind at miles 7-8 at Fort Story, and that once I passed the lighthouse that the wind would die down. Although there was some wind, it wasn’t as strong or difficult to run through as I had feared it would be. But once I passed the lighthouse, the wind died down, and I knew that I could start pushing myself just a little bit more. Or at least I thought I could.
Shortly after passing the lighthouse at mile 8 my lower back started throbbing. It was the worst that my back has hurt since my initial injury from the car accident. I was in enough pain that I contemplated walking the rest of the race, which of course disappointed me since I had felt so strong during the first two thirds of the race and was well set to PR. I slowed down quite a bit during mile 8, which was my slowest mile of the entire race. I think other runners around me could see the pain in my face, and gave me some words of encouragement. Around mile 9 I saw a spectator’s sign that said something along the lines of “You paid for this race, you can’t stop now.” I felt like the spectator had written that sign just for me. I knew that I couldn’t stop, and that I’d be extremely disappointed in myself if I allowed myself to walk the last 4 miles of the race. That sign was just the motivation that I needed in order to push myself forward.
Up until mile 10 I ran 3:15/:45 intervals, and then ran 4:15/:45 intervals for the last 5k. As I got closer and closer to the finish line, I tried my best to ignore my back pain. My legs and feet felt great, and I really wanted to sub 2:20. The closer I got to the finish line, the more that I knew that a sub 2:20 was possible, and as we got closer and closer to the oceanfront I started to pick up my pace.
The crowd support during this race was absolutely incredible. Spectators lined the streets both at the oceanfront and in the residential area, and there were troops out supporting runners as we ran through Fort Story. Several volunteers at water stations also handed out Oreos. And there were also the beer stations that I lost count of.
The last quarter mile of the race had us running south on the boardwalk. As I turned onto the boardwalk I saw the finish line, and pushed myself as hard as I could. I crossed the finish line at 2:19:39, and couldn’t believe that I had PRed by over 10 minutes. After the obstacles that I’ve faced since January, I knew that my “no excuses” approach to training for this race had paid off.
At the finish line I was on the lookout for Christine, who I knew was volunteering in the finishers’ chute. Between being in a daze and also fighting back tears from my back pain, I somehow missed her. I texted Preston, and he told me where she was stationed with the medals, and I was so glad that I was able to make my way back to her. Christine has been so supportive of me during my training, and even sent me a small get well gift after the car accident, I just knew that I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get to see her at the finish line. (And if you haven’t already, be sure to read her very moving volunteer recap from her and her fiance’s experience volunteering at the finish line.)
By the time that I had made my way through the finisher’s chute, I had collected both my half marathon and Dolphin Challenge medals, as well as a finisher’s hat, a beach towel, water, Gatorade, another Shamrock cookie, granola bars, pretzels, and a banana. It was initially difficult to hold everything, but I wound up using my new hat as a container to hold all of my post race goodies in.
We had lots of PRs to celebrate at the finish line. Kathleen had hoped for to sub 2:15, and PRed with a finish time of 2:09:33. Preston had hoped for 1:52, and although he wasn’t able to reach his goal he still PRed with a finish time of 1:55:25. Another thing that I loved about this race was that there was a PR bell on the beach that runners could ring at the end of the race signaling reaching a new PR. All three of us of course rang it in excitement.
Post race we celebrated with Jenny and Sarah, and also celebrated Sarah’s brother’s first half marathon. Just like after the 8k, we eventually made our way into the party tent where we each enjoyed a post race beer while we listened to the band.
I only had two small complaints from the half marathon. At some of the water stations there was the same issue as there had been during the 8k in that water was only available on one side of the course, which led to lots of crowding and weaving. My only other complaint was that because we received so swag and food at the finish line that a bag to put everything into would have been nice.
There were so many positives to this race though. From the crowd support to the well manned water stations to all of the race swag, I really felt like runners were kept in mind when the decisions for this race were made. Throughout the weekend, the Social Media support from Shamrock and their special Green Room was incredible, as there were lots of responses to posts online with #ShamrockOn15. The positives from Shamrock far outweighed the negatives.
Lastly, I want to thank everybody for all of the support I received on Social Media throughout the weekend. Although a PR was pretty much expected (it had been almost 7 months since my last half marathon), this was far from an easy training cycle. But I pushed through all of the obstacles, including on race day, and surprised myself with how much I PRed by, especially after having run an 8k the day before.
QOTD: What is the most difficult race that you’ve ever run?