This is clearly a "before" picture, evidenced by the fact that I do not look like a tomato after a rainstorm.
Where to begin? I guess I ought to give a little background on the event itself. This rac was part of the YMCA's national "Healthy Kids Day", and our particular event (in Spartanburg, SC, for anyone with aburning curiosity) stretched from one Y location to another, culminating in a giant community fair. The half marathon was an inaugural event, and ended up being a lot smaller than I anticipated; there were just shy of 100 participants, and even fewer actually ran the course (not that there's anything wrong with walking a half marathon... I don't know that I could do it!). In retrospect, the size of the event was totally ideal for a first race. Experience levels ran the gamut from newbies like me to hardcore pros, but I never once felt out of place.
No, officer, I wasn't taking a selfie...The Course
As I mentioned before, the race ran from a YMCA just outside of Spartanburg to the finish line in front of a Y in the heart of the city. While a loop-ier course may have been more practical, I really loved the scenery along the way. Since I don't spend much time in Spartanburg (my university is about an hour away), I'm not too familiar with the geography. Because of that, I was treated to a constant stream of new views, whether crossing a river on an overpass or checking out the trees on a secluded residential road. My favorite portion of the race was definitely the part that wound through a the town's more suburban neighborhoods. Seriously, those pretty little houses were such a welcome sight, even if only for momentary distraction from my aching calves. That stretch was also brilliant because it was almost entirely downhill. Which brings me to my one complaint...
The course was so hilly. Like, was slanted upward for a good 60 percent of the race hilly. I don't know why it caught me so much by surprise, but I was definitely expecting at least a marginally flatter terrain. Luckily, the area where I trained prepared me enough and I was careful to include inclines in my treadmill workouts, but I will certainly not be taking even ground for granted when training for future races!
The course was full of pretty backroads like this one... springtime was
perfect for green trees and pretty blooms along the way!
One of the homes along the route- so pretty!
Even in the days leading up to the race, I wasn't sure if I would actually make the full thirteen miles. I wasn't particularly militant about my training plan and even when I had followed it, the longest run I had done was just twelve miles. Of course, I realize after the fact that it was a totally normal mileage, but it was enough to make me nervous! In order not to collapse around mile 10 or so, my game plan focused on pacing myself and not starting too eagerly out of the gate (as I am a little notorious for doing). I guess it paid off, because once I got into my groove, I was able to make it with more stamina and fewer walking breaks than I ever anticipated!
If I had to pinpoint the two things that got me through it, they would undoubtedly be pretzels and power jams. Pretzels are my ultimate mid-run fuel, as I discovered after much trial and error. Gatorade gave me tummyaches and gels scared me, but those salty twists prevailed as the perfect carb boost when I needed it most. As for the power jams, they were delivered via a special race playlist made the night prior. Every three miles, a selection of songs would play to get me through the next stretch. Nothing lifted my flagging spirits like a blast of "Zero to Hero" or "Let it Go" in my earbuds, reminding me of my progress while bringing a smile to my face.
The "after" shot.
Other runners raved about the half marathon distance, citing it as their absolute favorite. I thought those people were absolutely, two-hundred percent, off their rockers. "Of the many shorter options for racing, you pick thirteen miles? You know that people are still impressed when you only run three, right?" Of course, now having actually run the distance, I know just what they mean.
Practically the moment I crossed the finish line, I was hooked on the half marathon distance... and scheming to find the next one! Unfortunately, it won't be a runDisney event just yet- my plans for the 2015 Princess Half are no longer (sad face)- but I can't wait to keep working toward that ultimate goal.
Before I sign off, I just wanted to thank all of you (especially you Twitter pals!) for cheering me on and supporting me throughout the training process. Running is wonderful on its own, but it's even better with a community like this one!
Love and Pixie Dust,