I couldn’t figure out how I wanted to write this post.
On Saturday, Matt & I ran our first half-marathon. In 2010, I had (half-assed) trained for a half to be run in Myrtle Beach, but it snowed the night before so I got out of it. (Yay for snow, saving my untrained ass!)
We almost had a repeat incident on Saturday. I half-assed my training, blaming shin splints as an excuse for skipping my long runs. Matt did no training at all. Mentally, we weren’t prepared at all. I was quite concerned.
We woke up Saturday at 7 for a 9am start time, and it was pouring down rain. Ugh.
Thursday was beautiful. Friday was beautiful. Friday night was rainy and we saw lightning and heard thunder (THIS IS A BIG DEAL! That stuff does not happen in Alaska!!!) Saturday’s weather was horrible.
We powered through the horrible weather and suppressed the thoughts of “What are we doing?! We’re crazy.” and drove downtown to the Delany Park Strip where the race start and finish happened. We parked the car, put on our jackets and made our way to the start line. We waited in the porta potty lines (Y’all know I have an odd thing about porta potties. I have to use them if I see them. No matter what.)
Finally, it was time to start! We were actually running the Mayor’s Half-Marathon!
It was still soaking wet! A lot of people were running in trash bags and those cheap plastic ponchos. I was worried about overheating in my running jacket, so I can’t imagine trying to run a half-marathon (or marathon!) in a plastic shroud.
The gun went off, and we walked our way to the start line to begin our jog.
This was a really hard race. The rain was pouring down the entire time. I’ll walk you through my thoughts during the event.
Mile 1 – 2:
“Man there are a lot of people running this. I wonder how many are running? (It was over 1800.) These puddles are enormous. Look, there’s the bridge that fell down this week!”
“I wonder where my friends are. It’s super rainy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they bailed on holding signs in the rain at 9am.”
“Yeah me! I’m in a rhythm! My legs don’t even hurt! I kind of have to pee. I wonder if there’s a porta potty nearby. I’ll definitely use it.” I asked one of the guys at the aid station where the porta potty was, and he told me it was nearby, around the corner. HA.
“This is the worst. This is super rainy. This hill is super hard. God it is windy. My face hurts. OWW!”
This picture really doesn’t do it justice. It was one of those slow, steep hills right by the Anchorage airport, so it was in a big exposed area. We had headwinds of around 40MPH with 50 degree temps and RAIN pouring down. The rain stung when it hit, and everyone around me was walking. It was literally blowing me around the road to where I accidentally stepped too close to the edge of the road and fell off. I fell down. I laid there for a minute thinking “This is how people die.” but then realized I was at least a mile away from the nearest aid station and that I was super far from my car and house. I must persevere. This was also the point where I really started to have to use the bathroom.
“OH THANK GOD WE’RE OFF THIS WINDY HILL. IT CAN’T GET MUCH WORSE THAN THAT! dammit. This is way worse.”
Around mile 6.25, the course left the windy road and entered a nature path. When it’s dry, it’s a nice path. When it’s wet, it’s a mud pit. It was so muddy and rough that most everyone had to walk the almost mile of mud. It was also super steep, making it so much more rough.
A lot of people were falling down, and it felt like a cross-country meet on a shitty course. It was tough.
“Yay, we’re back on the paved trail! We’re over half-way! I got this! I am awesome!”
Mile 7 is also where a lot of people saw a moose. Matt was one of them (I was 15 minutes behind him and did not see it. Sad.) Matt told me that a lot of out-of-towners got so excited and that he had to yell at a lady to NOT WALK TOWARDS THE MOOSE! It is super exciting to see a moose in the wild, but they’re super dangerous, especially this time of year when they usually have their babies near them and become super aggressive. I like to think Matt saved a life.
“Man Alaska is pretty. It’s so cool I get to live somewhere so pretty. These mountains look so beautiful! Man, town is super far away. I gotta run all the way back. Just 4 miles left. That’s totally do-able. C’mon legs! Only a 5k left! We run 5k’s all the time! Ok, not all the time but pretty frequently. Yeahhhhhh! I’ll walk for a minute and take a selfie with the 10 mile sign and post it to instagram to give my legs a break. They’ll appreciate that.”
“I’m getting warm, I’ll take off my jacket. I always feel so 90s when I tie a jacket around my waist. I think it’s coming back in style to tie things around your waist. I’m so glad Megan is responding to my texts. She’s such a good cheerleader from so far away. I should call my mom. She’s tell me super encouraging things. Oh cool, I got to talk to my grandma too! This has been great and distracting! Yay legs! We got this! Where are my super cool friends? I need a pick me up. This guy running beside me I’m chatting with is nice! He is saying bad words too! YAY! THERE ARE MY FRIENDS! OMG OMG OMG!”
Hands down, Stephanie, Erin & Erin were the best spectators on the course. They had lots of signs, and were giving out a lot of high 5’s. All the runners around me were commenting on how they made them feel they could power through. I am so proud to know them, and so happy they spent their Saturday morning in the rain cheering on me and all of our friends that were running. I want to give them all hot coffees.
“OK WE’RE ALMOST DONE! My watch say’s we’re at 13.1, why is that sign only saying that it’s mile 26 for the marathoners? That means there’s .2 miles left? But I should be done. WHY AREN’T I DONE? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY AREN’T WE DONE?! Dammit I forgot about this hill. This hill is the worst. Why does every race in Alaska end on a hill? Cool, you just ran a lot, here’s a big hill to make you fall over and die. UGHHH”
The last mile was a super big hill from the Coastal trail to the Delaney Park Strip. I knew it was steep and miserable because the 12k I ran last month ended on it, and since the park strip is elevated (compared to the trails around the area) I knew no matter which way we went that it would end on a hill. But after that many miles it felt like a mean tease.
Mile 13.1 (actually mile 13.2-13.38):
“OMG THERE IS THE FINISH LINE! I can’t believe I’ve done it. I just ran a half marathon. I just need to cross the line. WHY AM I CRYING! I CAN’T BREATHE! MY CRYING IS MAKING IT TO WHERE I CAN’T BREATHE! I hope I don’t have an ugly cry. Oh I know it’s an ugly cry. THERE’S MATT! I made it! I crossed the finish line! Why are these people hugging me?! Do they think I’m from North Pole? I don’t care, I’ll accept their bear hugs and cheek kisses, I JUST RAN A DAMN HALF MARATHON!”
Once I ran across the finisher’s mat, I was still crying (barely breathing) and went to accept my medal. The girl putting it on my head made me feel like an Olympian, and I never felt like I worked harder for anything in my life. It took me 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 47 seconds.
Matt came and met me and gave me a banana (man, he’s awesome) and I went to pick up my finisher’s shirt. I immediately put it on because I was cold, and we walked over to the beer tent to get our well deserved trophies. (the beer being the true trophy.)
We saw a lot of people we knew at the end, and it was awesome to get caught up in the camaraderie of it all. My friend Bart beat me by 30 seconds, and I was so surprised I never saw him on the course! Immediately after Matt & I swore never again. A few hours later, we were talking about how, if we trained, we could do so much better at the Big Wild Life Runs in August. The fact that we are willing to put ourselves through that again makes me think we’re a little bit crazy.
Overall, it was a strange experience. It was hard, really really hard. When I was looking at people’s photos and tweets from the events, I felt a lot better reading captions like “I’ve run over 40 half-marathons and this was the most brutal I’ve ever done!” The fact that seasoned runners were saying how hard it was made me feel proud that such a tough race was our first and confident in that we can only get better. It also made me irrationally mad, like the sport was trying to weed me out and convince me not to do this again.
On the way home, we stopped by the liquor store to get champagne to celebrate our huge accomplishment! Champagne and a cold bath, followed by a hot shower and we were ready to meet up with our friends. I felt surprisingly good for having just put my body though huge trauma, and danced the night away at the free Spin Doctor’s concert happening downtown, and then at one of our favorite bars. Matt, on the other hand, was not feeling as spry. He could barely move his legs and has been walking at a glacial pace since after the race. That’s what he gets for having 6 months to train and not doing any at all.
So, less than two months until the Big Wild Life Runs Half-Marathon! Who wants to come to Alaska and run it with us?