It’s taken me a week, but I’m finally getting around to writing this post. My first half marathon was completed Saturday, March 15, 2014, in 2:01:35.
And it was all awesome.
I had set out my race day outfit a good three days in advance because I was so excited! Thursday was packet pickup day, and it went fine, though I did forget to check in at the pace group table, and I somehow missed all the freebies I saw other bloggers talking about later! I picked up a few T-shirts, including a 13.1 one, and a couple 26.2 stickers for my friends Natalie and John who were running their first full marathons.
In terms of gear, I did end up running with my water belt. After having to stop at several water stations during the Reston 10-miler, I knew it would be way easier to only have to stop at a couple, and have the water in the easier-to-drink bottles. I ended up grabbing one water around mile 8 or 9 and another at the final water stop at mile 11. (It was enough for me, but I will consider getting and using a water backpack that could carry more in the future.)
The water belt also let me carry my cell phone and some fuel (which I didn’t really end up using — I only ate two jelly beans before deciding I didn’t feel like I needed any more).
In addition, I wore arm warmers for the first time. With highs forecast to hit the 60s and a start temperature in the 40s, I knew I’d need to be in a T-shirt after a few miles, but I didn’t want to be cold at the start. I ended up peeling off the arm warmers around mile 2.5, and just tied them to my water belt.
My pants were newer Nike tights that went down to my calves, and I wore a pair of Balega socks along with my more cushion-y shoes that I used on all my long runs. I wore a newer Nike Dri-Fit top that I’d tried out along with the tights a week prior at the St. Patrick’s 8K.
For Saturday race day, I set three alarms on my iPhone, worried I would accidentally set one for p.m. instead of a.m. (hey, it’s happened!) or somehow sleep through one or more of them. I got a decent night’s sleep after checking my alarms 50,000 times.
I got up at 4:50 a.m., had my regular breakfast (bowl of Cheerios and a bagel), then headed to John’s house so we could cab to Natalie’s D.C. apartment. (Read Natalie’s awesome marathon recap here). We arrived at 6:15, and I played with Natalie’s totally adorable cat as they went over their marathon fueling plan. Then we all hopped in a short cab ride closer to the race site.
We walked around a bit before splitting up into our corrals. John was in corral 6, Natalie in 9. I was in corral 11, and it took 15 minutes after the 7:30 race start for me to cross the start line, but I got to start to Katy Perry’s “Roar,” so it was a great way to get pumped up for and start the race.
From the time I woke up, I was in a good, content and chill mode. Just a few nervous butterflies in the stomach. My frame of mind was “Let’s do this!” I had trained hard over several months, and I was ready.
I had gone back and forth on setting a goal for this race. There was a really big part of me that wanted to come in at 2 hours or less, but I knew there was a big bad hill at mile 6, and I had an inkling it would be hard to weave through the crowd of runners, despite giving my predicted finish time as 2 hours when I signed up.
After texting back and forth with Natalie the night before, who quickly talked me out of trying to do 8:30 splits for the first 5 miles (“You’ll burn out!” she said), I started focusing on just enjoying the race.
All through the pre-race preparations early Saturday, I told myself I just needed to enjoy the run and be fine with anything between 2 hours and 2:05. I did try to find the two hour half marathon pace group in the corrals, but to no avail.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that the crowded field was definitely keeping me at a slower pace, especially the first mile. In a way, it was good, because it helped keep me from going out too fast, and I quickly decided I needed to trash any idea of finishing under 2 hours and just enjoy the ride.
I tried to soak in the sights and crowds, and hammed it up for the cameras at the beginning of the race. A lot of the time, though, I found myself lost in my own thoughts and pumping myself up mentally. As much as I hated the hill at mile 6, I knew it was coming and it became my split for the race. I told myself I just had to make it to that hill and once I was over it, the race was already halfway done.
The hill was both as bad as and not as bad as I’d heard. It was extremely steep, but only for about one-tenth to two-tenths of a mile. There was another quarter mile slow climb until you got to the really steep part, but that wasn’t too bad. The steep part, on the other hand was as bad as it’s cracked up to be. I was running so slow I figured I may as well take a few 10-15 second walk breaks to conserve energy.
Cresting the hill and getting back onto flat ground felt great. I knew there was another shorter hill at mile 8 and another even shorter climb around mile 12. I focused on getting to those marks, and making sure I had enough water to drink.
The second half of the race was probably my favorite. It was great to start near the Washington Monument and run over Arlington Memorial Bridge, and I love running through the Rock Creek Park area, but after that hill the number of spectators increased and we got to run through neighborhoods. Around Howard, I felt like I was running through frat row with all the folks sitting out on their porches, grilling and drinking beer and cheering us on. I saw a few in costume — including Iron Man and the Gingerbread Man from Shrek.
For miles 9 through 10.5 we were running toward the Capitol, and suddenly there were just 2.6 miles left!
The race pretty much flew by. There was a point somewhere around mile 10 or 11 that I felt a bit fatigued, but after the water stop, I felt better and ready to complete the final two miles. The bands located near each mile also helped keep me pumped throughout the race. I knew when I heard a band that I was closing in on a mile marker.
As I got closer to the finish line, I started looking for my parents, who had Metroed downtown to see me finish. We almost missed each other (“You should have told me what you were wearing, ” my mom would later proclaim.), but I heard “Go Kat!” just in time to turn my head and see them standing not too far from the finish line.
Crossing the finish line felt so good! My time of 2:01:35 (9:17 per mile pace) made me very happy!
- 5K: 28:25
- 10K: 57:29
- 10 miles: 1:32:34 (one minute faster than Reston 10-miler)
I quickly checked out my splits on RunKeeper (which said I logged 13.53 miles, probably because I ran on the outside quite a bit), and was pleased.
- Mile 1: 9:08
- Mile 2: 8:59
- Mile 3: 8:52
- Mile 4: 8:37
- Mile 5: 8:47
- Mile 6: 8:54
- Mile 7: 10:00
- Mile 8: 9:03
- Mile 9: 8:47
- Mile 10: 9:22
- Mile 11: 8:55
- Mile 12: 9:01
- Mile 13: 9:13
- Mile 14 (RunKeeper logged 13.53): 8:53
I quickly got my medal, water bottle and chocolate milk (yum!), and picked up some other goodies as I walked down the line.
I got my finisher’s photo taken, and went off to find my parents, who were only a short walk away and not too hard to find.
They took another photo of me after I’d put on some more layers. The weather was perfect, but I started to get chilled 5 minutes after finishing.
Walking to the Metro, I saw a lot of folks struggling to walk properly and some even had ice bags tied around their knees … I, on the other hand, felt great. I could tell I would be a little sore, but nothing too significant.
It ended up taking forever to get home, partially because we got to the Metro stop and I had to walk back to the stadium to use the restroom, which had a line. We didn’t end up getting home until 11:45, two hours after I crossed the finish line. I had to sneakily eat pretzels on the Metro ride because I was starting to feel faint.
Once I got home, I ate a bagel, had another bottle of water and got cleaned up and ready to go out to lunch with Natalie and John back downtown. It was great to catch up and hear their marathon story even though they were hurting quite a bit!
I got back home around 4:30, just in time to finish packing for my early a.m. flight to Puerto Rico on Sunday, and beat out the snowstorm that was heading to D.C.
I was a little sore later Saturday afternoon with some IT band pain around my knees (something I tend to get when I run a new longer distance or run a long distance hard), but that pain was gone by Sunday morning. On Sunday, I had a light soreness all over my legs, pretty much distributed equally, but it didn’t impact my gait. By Monday, it was almost all gone. Happy, happy camper!
Overall, I had a great experience at this race. The crowds cheering us all on were amazing. The water stops were well organized. Despite the large crowd, it was only the first mile or so that I really struggled to break through. After that, it was still thick, but I felt I could wiggle around — perhaps I just got used to it!
I do wish I had started in an earlier corral. I’m not sure I would have been able to break through the crowd any quicker, but it would have been nice to start earlier instead of standing around for 15 minutes.
The only part of the race that didn’t seem as well organized was the pre-race. It was hard to find the port-a-potties (luckily I didn’t need them or I would have had to stand in line for 20-30 minutes). There was even a line at the first port-a-potty after the first mile, likely because those folks weren’t able to get in at the start. I didn’t really need the gear check, so I wasn’t looking for it, but I was surprised I didn’t see any clear signs for it. I saw a couple folks running with their gear bags — not sure if they were late or the lines were too long or what.
The medal was really cool, and I ended up wearing it the rest of the day. I was surprised how many people stopped to ask me, as well as Natalie and John, what race we’d run and how far we’d gone. All these strangers being so supportive was really cool.
I was in Puerto Rico from Sunday – late Wednesday, so the first post-half marathon run I got in was Thursday. My legs felt heavy for the first three-quarters of a mile, but I think that was just the post-travel tiredness. My run today, in lovely 70-degree weather no less, was great, and my legs felt incredibly light.
Looking ahead, I can’t wait for my next races — I have two 10 milers and then the Nike Women’s D.C. Half Marathon in April. I’m hoping I can get closer to a 1:30 time at the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler and come in under 2 hours for the Nike Half.