I’m still reeling from last week’s events in Boston, but I felt as though the only thing we runners can do to show our unyielding support for the victims and everyone affected by this tragedy — and a nice big F-U to the [insert expletive of your choice] who did this — was to just keep running.
So I ran my second half marathon this weekend, and, in a way, it sort of felt like it was my first — I completed my first half in Disney World, but I wouldn’t exactly call what I did “running a half marathon,” given the fact that I was stopping every half mile for photo opportunities! However, running the Miles for Music 20K in March gave me the confidence that I could actually RUN a half marathon…after all 12.4 miles is nothing to sneeze at, and I did manage to run the entire course with a sub-2 hour finish time, so I was feeling optimistic about my second attempt at 13.1!
I headed down to Asbury Park with my parents and sister at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on Saturday morning for Runapalooza, a race that benefits the Special Olympics of New Jersey; this year, some of the proceeds were being donated to help restore the Jersey Shore after the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused to our beaches.
We received several e-mails in the wake of the Boston Marathon advising us of security procedures — though I have to say, it was a little disheartening to see bomb-sniffing German Shepherds all over the place — and asking that we don blue and yellow to show our support. There were even blue and yellow ribbons and hairbands available for runners at bib pick-up, which I thought was really nice. I also pinned the Runner’s Unite for Boston race bib from RunJunkees on my back, and saw that lots of other runners had done the same.
I had to pick up my bib on race day, as I really don’t live close enough to Asbury Park to make the drive twice in two days, nor far enough that I felt the need to get a hotel for the night. Those picking up their bib on the day of the race had to make a mandatory $5 donation to the Special Olympics of New Jersey; though I sort of resent the idea of being forced to shell out even more money (after my $75 registration fee!) just to pick up my bib, I was perfectly fine with writing a small check for a good cause.
The race also included a small expo — I know I’ve been completely spoiled with attending a runDisney race expo as my first! — and runners were awarded with a free beer afterwards (which I skipped…I hate beer). There were bagels and yummy mini muffins and bananas and other goodies to help us re-fuel afterwards.
It was pretty much perfect racing weather, other than being hit with a few strong gusts of wind (fine when it’s behind you, not so fun when you’re running AGAINST it!), and the course ran through lots of local neighborhoods with some lovely ocean views. It was unfortunate that a large section of the race took place on a main street, in traffic, where I had to run on the sidewalk at times…not an ideal option when it comes to preventing runner’s knee and other unnecessary aches and pains. However, everything was really well organized and there were plenty of volunteers to help cheer us on.
The race course usually runs on the boardwalk, but I knew they had adapted this year’s course to accommodate for the fact that, unfortunately, so much of the boardwalk was destroyed by the hurricane. I was definitely a little disappointed that we only had the opportunity to run on the boardwalk for the last quarter mile or so of the race — although it definitely was a nice way to bring us all home! — but, of course, that’s not the race organizers’ fault.
I went out pretty fast (which, for me, is about an 8:30 pace), and I held that for about the first two miles. I felt great, and my foot really wasn’t bothering me all that much, so I decided to just go with it. I usually struggle with just how conservative to be during races, so this time I tried to push myself a little harder, and kept a close eye on my pace to ensure that I was holding about a 9:15 for the majority of the middle miles.
I was really enjoying the race and the first 10K seemed to fly by…but it always seems to be somewhere around mile 11 that I begin questioning WHY THE HELL I DO THIS TO MYSELF. I choked down a few Clif Bloks every few miles, but my energy really starts to dip in that last 5K…and like my first half, it was right around that point when I started being hit with stomach cramps that would. not. go. away. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk unless I was making a quick stop for water, so I’m thinking maybe I need to adopt a new strategy or continue experimenting with my race day fuel, since this isn’t the first time I was forced to slow down in the final miles of a longer race due to stomach issues.
As I was struggling with stomach pains and fatigue in the last 5K, I couldn’t help but think of all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. There were, of course, reminders of Boston everywhere, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running with a heavy heart on Saturday. Thinking about the victims and their families, and the marathoners who never got to cross that finish line, really helped me to dig deep and finish strong. Who was I to complain about a little stomachache or a sore foot or feeling “tired?” Running is an incredible gift, and I was determined to run this race for all of those who can’t.
The good news was that I proved to myself ONCE AND FOR ALL that my 3:30 Disney Princess Half Marathon finish time can purely be attributed to my shenanigans on the course (still no regrets!) because I finished under my best-care scenario goal time of 2:05. My official chip time was 2:03:25, and I was beyond thrilled with the accomplishment…especially given my recent foot issues. Interestingly enough, my foot felt slightly sore in the first mile or two, and then the pain disappeared for the duration of the race, only to come back as soon as I started walking around after crossing the finish line. After some research into this phenomenon on-line, I’ve decided to try ONE MORE ridiculous self-treatment option — something so obvious as adjusting THE WAY I TIE MY SNEAKERS — and resting for a few days before sucking it up and seeing a doctor.
Does anyone have any tips on how to fight fatigue and finish strong in those last few miles?