My Pittsburgh Half Marathon experience didn’t go quite as expected. While I never stated a goal other than wanting to run the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I hoped to run well. I didn’t think I would PR and beat my 2014 Columbus Half Marathon time, but I thought I might come in between my 2013 Columbus Half Marathon and my 2013 Cleveland Half Marathon. Cleveland was my first and, prior to this race, my slowest.
When I checked the weather at 5:20 as we prepared to leave the Omni William Penn for the VIP Start Area at the Westin, the temperature was already 54 degrees. I should have known. I should have realized what that meant for my run. I should have taken the whole morning very conservatively.
But hindsight is 20/20, I suppose.
Miles 1-2: I ran these two as a “warm up” with my husband as he hoped to pace between 10:30-11:00
Miles 3-4: I ran too fast, but hear me out. After I left my husband, I felt good. I felt great. Everything you hope to feel for race day I felt. My goal was to find the 2:10 pace team, but it was going to be a hard find as they started ahead of us in the corral and we’d been pacing slower the first two miles. But I caught ’em. I then slowed into their pace and planned on sticking with them for the duration of the race. I grabbed a water at 3.6 miles, managing to choke-jog through the fluid station without much issue.
Miles 5-6: I ran with the 2:10 pace team without much issue. Both miles paced at exactly 9:51, and I felt great. I grabbed a Gatorade and a water at mile 6.1. I started to take note of the heat, but still felt strong.
Mile 7: Up the West End Bridge, I fell off the 2:10 pace team just a bit. I took notice that the sun was really starting to beat down, but once up into the West End, the shade cooled me down. I came out and around the bend toward Station Square…
Mile 8: …and my wheels just didn’t fall off; they exploded. The sun was relentless coming down into Station Square. I ended up walking for a bit, doing some math, and realizing that not only would I fail to PR but I ran a big risk of running my slowest half marathon ever. Then I cried for a bit. Then I ran for a bit. I walked through the mile 8 fluid station. I thought about pulling my phone out and canceling my full marathon registration for Columbus in October. I felt like I disappointed everyone, including myself.
Mile 9: I attempted to run a bit, walk a bit, but I was still too overheated for much progress. I started to get cold chills. My ears started the throbbing thing. And, whoa, my hands started to swell—not just a little bit, but painfully so. And then! My husband caught up with me. At least he caught up with me during a section that I was attempting to run again, but I felt so embarrassed. And then I felt even worse. I sent him on ahead, returned to walking, and cried a bit more. I finished up the mile with a run section and a stop at the fluid station at 9.9. I went with two Gatorades, three cups of water to drink, and two cups of water over my shoulders/front/back.
Mile 10: I started to cool down a bit due to the extra water, so I went back to running. Very slowly. Shortly before the water station at 10.6, I ran into BurghBaby, 3Weasels, Mila, and Alexis. I spotted them before they spotted me, but I knew they would be hanging out round about that location. I stopped for a brief moment to show them my sausage fingers and give hugs. They reassured me I could do it, and while I didn’t quite believe them at the time, I ran off anyway. I walked the water station and continued running.
Mile 11: You know, the Birmingham Bridge is a Jagoff. I saw a sign right before we crossed it that read, “I got 99 problems but a bridge ain’t one.” FOR REAL. Anyway, I ran most of the way to the top, walking for a series of steps when the sun felt like it was too much for me, and resuming when I felt okay. As we crossed the top and started down the other side, two EMS officials were helping a downed woman. They already had an IV in and were giving her fluids. It was at this point that I started to realize my walk breaks weren’t the worst thing in the world.
Mile 12: Uphill. I staggered walking with running up the hill. I struggled a little, but I knew that taking it easy was the only way to survive the still rising temps. A young group of happy marathon spectators offered free beer to runners at this point, but I decided I would throw up five feet from drinking one and opted not to accept. Bummer. Instead, I just hit the water station at 12.2 and repeated the drinking and pouring.
Mile 13 and Point 1: After cresting the seemingly un-ending but not-as-steep-as-the-marathon-course uphill, the finish line was immediately visible. As I headed toward the finish line, I made a choice to speed up just a little but not too much. I picked a point in which I would then surge to the finish. I crossed the finish line strong and a bit overheated, but cooler thanks to the water I chose to pour at the last two water stations.
I walked through the amazingly secure and organized finisher’s chute very slowly. I accepted Gatorade, water, a banana, and a Smiley Cookie. I saved the cookie for my kids, but consumed the rest myself.
As I accepted my medal, I thought about how hard I fought for that medal. The winter of doom training. The long hours away from my kids. I thought about the hard year I had; the loss, the challenges, the surgery, the difficulty. I thought about the people who supported me through all of that, the ones who donated to my race, the ones who held me up when I couldn’t hold myself up, the ones who believed in me.
And I deemed the race a success.
I went and changed, ate a little something, and charged my phone in the VIP Experience lounge. Then I went to wait for my husband at the finish line. His shared location through our iPhones had him pinging all the way to Shaler, so it was hard to know exactly when he’d be coming across the finish line, but I timed it pretty close. Thankfully I had a little extra time, because I realized I left our car key, which I’d carried in my running skirt, in the VIP bathroom. When I went to find it, I found Kim, but not my key. The front desk had it, however, and I still made it back to the finish line to meet my husband.
What’s the first thing he said when he finished his first full marathon?
“I don’t know how you did that.” And he hugged me hard and tight. And I cried some more, but tears of pride. For him. For me. For us both. I felt so full of pride I could burst.
I got him into the Wyndham, bought him a beer, got him some food, and sent him off to change. After heading out of Pittsburgh via Ohio River Boulevard (no 376/Green Tree detour! no traffic!), we spent the rest of the day at The Farm with friends and family, celebrating the finishing of two big races, my birthday that just passed and my husband’s which is about to arrive.
Hot tub and a drink? Yes, please!
Today I worked, picked up the dog, helped out at LittleBrother’s baseball practice, and ran a recovery mile in the rain. Tomorrow is another day, another chance to run my own race.
I want to thank Our Clubhouse PA for the work they do for families dealing with cancer, P3R for the great event and for having me again as an Official Pittsburgh Marathon blogger, my friends and family for their support, and my husband for training with me, pushing me to be my best, and loving me like whoa.
Will I run another Pittsburgh Half? I guess we’ll see! Or, as they say, #GameOnPGH!
Please check out the rest of the Official Pittsburgh Marathon Bloggers to see how their races went.