Well it's official! I have completed my very first half marathon!
I started the day off by waking at 1:30 in the morning ready to go run and quickly realizing I didn't have to be up for another 4 hours. I willed myself back to sleep and slept with one eye open fearing I wouldn't wake up to my alarm and would miss the big race with my friends and family standing in the rain with no beefcake to cheer on.
Once I got my day going I choked down a bagel with peanut butter and Jason and I headed out to brave the traffic after a big good luck kiss from Max. We parked in the North Side and walked across the 16th Street bridge into the Strip District. There were people everywhere! We walked and walked to find the 2:30 pace team. Once I got there I stretched, Jason took a few photos and I stood there waiting for the race to begin. I saw the balloons launch and we were off...well almost...15 minutes of shoulder to shoulder crawling later and I crossed the start line.
Distracted by the guy dressed like a shark weaving in and out of people, Mile 1 goes by quickly and then the rain starts to come down harder. After Mile 2 I see Jason as I am about to cross the 16th street bridge. He brings such a smile to my face and inspires me as I cross my first water stop and head through the North Side. Somewhere along this route a spectator on the side noticed that my bib said "BEEFCAKE", he screamed it out and started cheering for me. It brought a huge smile across my face and made me laugh out loud.
As I come into Mile 5 I realize that encouraging the people around me makes me stronger, my stride a little longer and my smile a little bigger. Before I knew it I was at Mile 8 and I was officially the 'happy girl' who everyone was either scowling at or talking to! I slapped the hand of every group of cheerers along my 13 mile route and kept smiling no matter what. As I rounded Fort Duquesne Boulevard I ran through a rain puddle of epic proportions! My feet were officially a squishy mess and I could feel the blisters forming underneath each step.
There was one gentleman who I ran pretty neck and neck with up until Mile 6 and then he seemed to take off vanishing over the Pittsburgh horizon. As I came over the West End Bridge and onto West Carson Street there he was unconscious on the side of the road being loaded onto a stretcher and into the back of an ambulance. It became very apparent that pacing myself was much more important than trying to break any world records on a hot, humid, rainy Sunday.
I headed down West Carson and started to pass through Station Square. In front of me I see a girl hobbling along and then down she went! I ran up to her as she tried to get back up and asked if she was ok...she sat back down and asked me to get a medic. About a mile or so from the next water station I booked it to find someone to go back and help this girl. Once I did my legs seemed to run out of steam and my chest started to tighten. I was hitting a wall of exhaustion and pain. Surrounded by a team of women I saw a girl struggling along and decided to talk to her to distract her and well, let's be honest here, me! We started running together and before I knew it I was talking to a whole crew of women about why I was doing this for me. I told them about my weight loss and they cheered me on, I felt great coming across Mile 11. Shortly after this I was passed by yet another ambulance. Shortly ahead some spectators were helping a women who seemed to be struggling walking off their porch and to the ambulance. I couldn't believe that all of these people who look so fit were medically unable to finish. I spent my whole life being unfit, unhealthy and overweight and I am feeling great!
Across the Smithfield Street Bridge and into downtown I can practically smell the finish line, they keep rerouting us in every direction. No one knows where the finish line is! I see Jason and my father, then Sara, Liz, Nikki & my mom with their signs and still no finish line! Then another runner just standing in the street looking lost tells us that they have shut down the course due to a bomb scare and there is no where to finish. My frustration was mounting and myself and a team of runners just kept going, weaving in and out of hoards of spectators trying to find some place to go! We weren't the fastest of runners but we weren't the last 5 either. There was thousands of people still out on the course who would face this same thing.
Eventually someone sent us in the right direction, we could see the finish but were literally sandwiched between spectators on the sidewalk! People were yelling, "runners coming through" but no-one seemed to move or care. Finally a marathon volunteer sees us through the crowd and opens the fencing to let us through. We ran through the finish line from the wrong direction, made a u-turn and right back through for the timing chip. This guy crosses right behind me, runs past me and immediately collapses! It's sheer madness at the finish! I made it! I can't believe it! I am handed a mylar blanket, a steaming hot banana and my medal and along with it a sense of accomplishment I could never have imagined.
I throw out the hot banana, find my mother and father, Nikki, Sara & Liz through a fence and tell them about the crazy finish! I believe my exact words were "I didn't run 13.1 Miles to not cross a fucking finish line!" I make my way around the fence and hugs and celebration ensue.
Then there is my hubby, my biggest supporter, the love of my life. It is such a special feeling to be hugged and loved by someone when you are such a smelly, dirty, disgusting mess. I love this man more with every breath I take. I have an amazing family and friends and I can't get over the support from everyone that came and braved the rain, Jennie and Mama Jen via text and my lovely Facebook friends.
We hang out for a while taking photos and talking and then go our seperate ways. Across the 16th Street bridge for the 3rd time today the pain starts to stab in the back of my knee. I stop to take a rest. I used to feel great, what happened?!
Finally making it to the car and then home, I am overjoyed with emotion and questions about what exactly happened to the finish line. We start talking about the events of the day and then read in the news that the great bomb scare was actually a microwave on the street full of ravioli! The bomb squad robot actually blew up a microwave full of ravioli in the center of the marathon so they had to reroute everyone...one major flaw in their plan, they forgot to actually reroute everyone for a good 45 minutes.
As the excitement died down and the stiffness set in, we spent the day relaxing around the house until we went to celebrate Barb's graduation! Dr. Barb deserves celebrating tired or not!
A few beers later I was ready for a good nights rest. The next morning, waking at 6am, I am feeling things in my body that hurt. My neck, shoulders, back, hips, hamstrings, calves, feet and basically well my everything hurts! I took the day off so I am going to relax, stretch as often as possible and relish in the glory of a race I will never forget.