Today I ran my first half marathon race.
The Foster Swift Half Marathon in Grand Rapids.
I started running with the Borgess run camp back in February, couldn't make the 5K race so signed up for another run camp this summer and finally, today, I was able to run my first race in Michigan.
Grand Rapids is about an hour north from here. I left early (up at 5am) to make sure I could get parked and pick up my bib. It was still dark whilst I was sat eating my breakfast in the car! And freezing when I stepped out to head over to the YMCA centre to get ready for the start of the race! I think it was 4oC at 6:30am!
By 8am I was setting of on my 13 mile journey round the roads and trails of Grand Rapids along with about 5500 other runners! I was in the 'Al Gore inconvenient pace group' and for a while there were all sorts of heckles about him.
The roads here are wide and the local police blocked the roads with their cars. No barriers to keep the crowds off the road - the only spectators were at the very start and finish. Most of the course was eerily quiet. I had my tunes on full blast to keep me company so it didn't matter to me. I was pleased to get a high five from one of the cops on the route!
I spent the first mile fighting back tears. I'm not sure why I got so emotional. I guess it's been 8 months of training to get to the race today. Relief that I was finally getting to do a race here. Thinking about how it would feel to run over that finish line. Thinking about how proud my friends and family would be. Nerves about whether I could finish, never mind in a decent time.
Anyway I pulled myself together, got my breathing under control and concentrated on soaking up every minute of the race. Enjoying the feel of running, the sights of Grand Rapids and laughing at some of the signs people were holding up.
My favourite signs were: "Motivational sign!"; "Chuck Norris is jealous of your running"; "Run like you stole something; "You smell really bad" "Seriously, who fartlecked?!" and "Worst. Parade. Ever."
After stopping for water and a GU nutritional pouch (the first time I tried one of those I almost threw up! They are a horrible texture - a thick paste, but full of sugar and caffeine and great for keeping my tired legs moving!) I started up again and felt a sharp pain in my knee. I've had it before and knew I could probably run through it but I was gutted! It was going to be hard enough to run 13 miles without working through pain. But it worked in my favour because it meant I couldn't walk! It only hurt if I stopped so in my mind I knew I had to keep going!
I ran much further than I do in training, walking rather than stopping at the water stations and managed to keep a fairly even pace. The hills around the 7 mile mark were interesting!!
And before I knew it, I was on to miles 10 and 11 and counting down to the finish.
The last mile was really tough mentally. I kept telling myself that it was only 1 more mile. Just a quick jog. Over in a few minutes. But my body was saying you are tired!! I had been keeping up with a few random runners and went over the line with one lady. I scared her when I shouted at her a few hundred metres from the finish line to keep going and that we were almost there! She actually picked up her pace and we did a great finish - I actually bounced over the line shouting 'yeah!'. I was so excited and relieved to have finished!
There was all sorts of delicious food and drinks to welcome us at the finish line but I was so tired I just grabbed water and orange pieces. I did manage to get a random man to take my photo - not the most flattering shot but I wanted to send it to Jeremy to show him I had finished. We decided with it being an 8am start and an hour away that he would stay at home with the kids. It was a bit of an anticlimax after the race so I was pleased to get on my way and head home. I stayed for an hour to try to see my friends who were running the marathon but ended up missing them by 10 minutes!!
The kids were excited to see me. Well Charlotte was. Toby greeted me with 'hungry Mummy' as it was way past lunchtime and they had been waiting for me! Bless him! But Charlotte says she wants a medal like Mummy and Toby was running round 'like Mummy'.
One of the best things about my race today was the positive influence it is having on others around me. Friends are getting on their treadmills or pounding the streets back in Manchester. I know of at least 2 people who are going to run a half marathon next year because of me.
I had a lot of time to think today. To think about those people who will be running races next year and I wanted to show them it could be done. To think about all of the highs and lows from run camp. Of long walks because I couldn't run any further in the blistering heat to the triumph I felt after I ran my first 10 miles. To think back to the first time I tried to run with my friend about 10 years ago. Running for 30 seconds felt impossible! To think about the people who motivate and inspire me. Their words ringing in my ears as I struggled to keep moving. And to think about celebrating my success with my family.
So here I am, sat on the sofa, with post race glow, reaching for a glass of wine and an ice pack. Both of my knees are stiff and I am aching at the top of my legs but it is a good pain and I know it will ease off over the week.
The start line. The sun was only just up.
I came 180th in my age group and 1013th out of the 2500 half-ers.
I finished in 2h 42 minutes. I was hoping for 2:45 so I am well chuffed!