“It’s not so much that I began to run, but that I continued.”
– Hal Higdon, American runner and writer
I started to write this post a million times since this past Saturday. I’ve been manic in my recap thoughts. How can something be simultaneously OMGTHEBESTEVER and OMGYOUCANDOSOMUCHBETTER at the same time? I finally get what SarahOUAL was saying in her Long Beach Half Recap post about accepting the PR. When I first read it, I thought to myself, “If I got a PR, I would NEVER be down on myself for not getting the time I wanted/was capable of.” Fastforward to now, and I totally get you, girl. But that cart is way ahead of the horse. Let’s start with the Expo, and go from there.
I met GS in Unitas Plaza outside of the Ravens Stadium on Thursday around noon. I was happy that the Expo was held at the mothership since it’s always fun to go to the stadium – game or no game – and parking is way more convenient there as opposed to the convention center. When I walked across the Hanover Street bridge, I saw the sign above and started to get butterflies. The race that I’d been training for since the first week of July was FINALLY HERE! So far, so good.
While at the expo, I (naturally) spent way more money than was necessary. I bought new kicks (Brooks Adreneline love!), a new shirt, some Gu Chomps, two SweatyBands: (my absolute favorite headband to run in – they don’t slip!) a Missonian and Run Baltimore, and… do we really need to get into it? It was a lot, ok?
I also ran into an old high school friend (technically we went to school together from 5-12 grades) who was running the marathon – her first! She ran crosscountry in high school and told me how psyched she was to see (all over my freakin’ facebook page) how much I loved running. Somehow, just running into her made my nerves jump from a 3 to a 9 on a scale of 1-10. In a good way.
The Expo wasn’t heavy on the freebies, but I did manage to score some larabars (yum), peanuts, and some other stuff, including my new favorite bracelet from Under Armour:
Here’s the loot that I snapped a photo of when I got home:
Not too shabby, self. Not. Too. Shabby.
Since I had been feeling crappy for the week prior to this day (damn stomach virus), I knew it was in my best interest to lay low and play it cool. So I focused on the really important things like the upcoming Orioles game and my nails.
Yes, a sad, sad attempt at Ravens purple with Orioles orange tips. Oh well. It made me happy. (Sidenote: I’m sad that the Orioles lost to the-team-that-shall-not-be-named, but I’m still incredibly proud of those dudes. What an exciting season!)
And then it was Friday. I was house/preteen sitting so I had to make sure that I pre-packed everything I needed… from breakfast to race day to post-race day. For normal people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. For me, it took four hours. I may have watched old episodes of Glee while packing but still. ridiculous.
Here’s what I finally settled on and laid-out Friday night before trying to fall asleep:
BTW, a big thank you to TF for the Dickinson sweatshirt that he didn’t know he gave me. I wore it before the race started to ensure that I’d stay warm, and then I discarded it seconds before the race started. All discarded clothes are collected and donated to a charity which is great. So… hopefully you didn’t want that sweatshirt back, TF!
Four hours of not-really-sleeping later, it was time to run this town! While the half marathon didn’t start until 9:45 a.m. (so late!), I had to get to the Sports Legends Museum by 7 a.m. for the Back on My Feet (BOMF) Baltimore circle-up:
Biggest circle ever! Most of you know that I fundRACED for BOMF and I’m happy to report that I raised $675 dollars – $175 more than I pledged to! Big thanks to those of you that donated… the money will not go to waste, that I can assure you.
I saw my friend Mary (she’s organizing and running the Miami –> Key West relay I’m doing in January) because she’s a super BOMFer and got in a few quick hugs and high-fives because this was Mary’s very first marathon!
(Spoiler Alert: Mary killed it! Totally finished AND finished in the time she wanted!) The other women in this picture are two really good running friends of mine. We met in February training for the Sole of the City 10k and because fast friends. They’ll be running from Miami to Key West with me also. Basically – that’s going to be the experience of a lifetime!
Funny coincidence… as I was walking towards the meet-up place, through Camden Yards, and the combo of the still dark sky with lights and these four dudes walking made me want to snap a (fuzzy) picture:
Approximately four seconds after I snapped the picture, they turned around and I realized it was some of my teammates. Even better! Smalltimore, indeed. Isn’t Camden Yards pretty the day after an inspiring season ends?
As soon as I walked through OPACY, I knew it was going to be quite a thrill to run through it to the finish line! Spoiler Alert: It was!
After the BOMF circle-up, I met up with some of my Charm City Run half-marathon training group friends and we went to watch the start of the marathon and cheer some of our friends on. Here are some pictures from the start, which began on time at 8 a.m.:
As we walked back to Pickles Pub – an Orioles institution that Charm City Run had rented out a portion of for the people that participated in their training group – we saw the start of the 5k, the aftermath of the 5k confetti, and right then is when I knew I was ready to run! Let’s get this show on the road! My first Baltimore Running Festival!
While at Pickles, I ran into BR (she ran with my running group) who was also getting ready and equally as nervous/excited as me. We talked about a lot of last-minute raceday things, including our pace goals. When we realized they were the same, we decided to start the race off together. If we broke apart – cool. But if not, it’d be great to have the company. BEST DECISION EVER.
Her boyfriend snapped this picture of us as we walked from Pickles to the starting line:
BR is adorable. I, on the other hand, look jacked-up and confused. But try not to judge too harshly because I was, in fact, really excited!
We met up with some of our other training-group friends, and talked out our nerves and jitters. Somehow, my playlist never transferred to my iPhone, so I scrambled to make a new one. (Turns out, I didn’t need to, as I didn’t listen to music the entire race.) I tied, re-tied, and tied my shoes a million times:
Then, the crowd started moving, and it was time to get my game face on and RUN BALTIMORE!
I know what you’re thinking. MOLLY! HOW DID THE RACE GO?
I will tell you… it went GREAT! BR is the best running partner. We kept each other from going out too hard in the first half, and we encouraged each other during the many, many hills that are an infamous part of the Baltimore Running Festival profile:
We’d say things like, “This is why we trained hard,” and “WWMD (What Would Matt (our running coach) Do?” (wherein the answer was always – chop those hills and attack ’em like you love ’em), “These hills are so much smaller than what we trained on,” and “You can do it! Only a little further, and then we get some downhill time,” and other things like that. I can’t express how useful and helpful this was.
Also helpful? Seeing all the fun costumes… like this orange man:
We basically ran next to him the whole time.
Each of my miles were sub-11, which was the goal. Many of them were sub 10:40s, which was a mini-goal. Miles 8-10 were, predictably, my hardest miles, but miles 11-13.1 were the fastest ones of the whole day… this is due, in large part to playing it conservatively in the first half of the race, the relatively flat second half, and seeing my mom and her friend around mile 10! When I try and explain to people how helpful it is to have people spectate, cheer, and support you during a race, I also try and tell them how much fun it is. It’s something you have to do to believe, and something tells me that my mom will now forever be a spectator if/when I continue to race. She had a ball, and it meant the world to see her at the point in the race.
Can we talk about how much fun this course is? Sure, there are hills, but nothing close to the torture we put ourselves through in training. And after each up, comes a down to recover on. I loved snaking through the city and seeing all the support. So many people cheering, singing, dancing, hand-slapping, and high-fiving… it was a ball.
BR and I killed it, running hard all the way in through Camden Yards and across the finish line! I got chills, maybe cried a few happy tears, and am pleased to report I snagged a 13-minute PR! That always feels good.
Nothing left to do now but drink with GS, RL, and other friends… and celebrate our PRs:
I think what I’m most proud of, as the quote at the front of this post alludes to, is that I’m still running. It was in January that I ran my very first half marathon, and two halves later, I just completed my third. And I can’t WAIT to run another and another and another. I’m still shaving mad time off my races and I know that won’t last forever, but as I continue to train and work hard, there is still so much room for improvement… and that thought, alone, makes me so excited for the races waiting for me in the future.
I’m looking at you, Rehoboth Beach half marathon!
So why do I feel like I can do better? Because I can. I was too conservative. And I know that now, and wasn’t ready to believe it before – no matter how many times my running coach told me to challenge myself and race this one. I could have maintained a faster pace. I know this because I wasn’t sore at the finish (though I was out of breath because, as I mentioned earlier, the last three miles were our fastest the whole race!), and I felt totally fine the next day. I was exhausted, but my legs weren’t tired. Sure – that means I was well prepared, but it also means I could have done more. And I really wish I did push it harder. Gone out faster in the beginning. Really cranked it up more the last two miles. Fueled better and put Nuun in my water in my handheld. There are so many things that could have allowed me a faster time. But that’s another thing you learn when you race yourself: What works, what doesn’t, and what you’re capable of. And I’m totally capable of more. Still, a 13-minute PR is one I’ll happily take… for now.
Anyone else have ideas for favorite fall/winter half marathons I could maybe run? Preferably in the mid-Atlantic to east coast region, and prior to January as I have a relay I’m going to run then (more on that later).
PS – Here’s a picture of (most of) my running group:
This group was amazing. AMAZING. Supportive, helpful, friendly, motivational, cheerful, thoughtful, and powerfully committed runners. I was honored to be a part of the group and I got so much more out of it than I ever could have imagined. We’re all sweaty in this picture after a hard hills workout, but notice the smiles? We all loved it. I’ll miss you all, but hopefully see you running soon. And at happy hour on Thursday 🙂