As a part of our double-race weekend, Jon and I had an amazing time running the Cox Providence half marathon in Rhode Island yesterday. I have to admit that I was a little envious as the marathoners lined up at 7:30am. For us, this half was intended as a training run; our marathon is in 2 weeks. Yet as I stood there, I couldn’t help but wish I was doing the full.
I love runners. Runners tend to be some of the most laid-back, positive, genuine people you’ll ever meet. Nowhere is that more evident than at the starting line of a race. Sure, we were all competing against each other…but from the way everyone was laughing, joking, and complimenting one another’s gear, you’d never know it. The starting line of a race breeds camaradarie; everyone is in it together, running the same race.
The half marathon was set to begin at 8:00am. As the horn sounded, we slowly made our way to the starting line.
Runners took off in waves, and soon we were at the front. I started out as fast as I could, trying to find my place in the crowd. Finding the physical space to run at your pace is a big challenge to a start of any large race. This race had over 2,000 runners.
After about 2 miles, the crowd thinned; soon I was coasting. For a while, I kept checking my watch, trying to get comfortable with what my pace felt like in a race setting. However, I was having a hard time running at the pace I thought I should be keeping: 8:00 min/mile. I found myself feeling like I could go faster. After about 4 miles, I decided to stop staring at my watch. Instead, I started pacing myself based on how I felt. I ran at a pace that felt right to me: 7:30 min/mile; it was still challenging, but allowed me to keep some juice in the tank for later.
Before the race, I had decided to try something new with my nutrition. While I know it is risky to change something up on race day, I felt it could really pay off in preparing for the marathon. Sometimes when I take an entire Gu at once, even if I take it with water, the Gu can sit in my stomach like a rock. During this race, I took my Gu in thirds: part at mile 7, part at mile 9, and part at mile 11. I found this really worked well! I had some calories to push me through the 7-mile slump, but I had some calories left for my kick at the end.
As the race pressed on, I recalled how awesome race spectators are. I’m so glad I decided to bypass my music and listen to my surroundings. People that I had never seen before were cheering me on!
To the little kids that high-fived me at 7.5 miles, to all the Boston marathoners in your jackets with your tambourines and cowbells, to the lady handing out Twizzlers at mile 10, and to the couple that the set-up the extra water station outside your house: thank you!
If you’ve ever taken hours out of your day to hang out along the side of a race course and cheer for people you don’t even know: you are the best. It does matter, in a big way.
This course had some challenging uphills, as does any course in New England. However, the downhills always make the uphills worth it. We passed through the downtown, through some beautiful residential neighborhoods, and we ended the race along the water.
The last 2 miles were the most challenging. There was a sizable uphill (that would eventually descend into the finish line), and it was windy..so windy!
As I trucked up the last hill, the police officer maintaining the barricade along the route said, “Just get to the top of the hill, and then you’re done!” I heard the cheering crowd, heard the race MC announcing people’s names as they crossed the finish line, and I knew it was time.
I took all the energy I had left stored up, and I sprinted.
I ran as fast and hard as my legs would allow, gasping for breath and being careful not to trip. It wasn’t pretty, but I knew if I kept pushing, my time would be better than I expected. I saw the clock around 1:42:20 when I came in. I was excited, as I had been shooting for 1:43:00, and I knew my official time would be better.
I slammed my foot down on the pad at the finish line, grabbed my medal, stopped my Runkeeper, and then doubled over to catch my breath. When I finally checked my time, I couldn’t believe it: 1:40:08. I had beat my PR by 7 minutes!
I met up with Jon, and we snapped some post-race pictures. While there were lots of great food and drink options for runners after, we couldn’t stick around. We grabbed some waters, bananas, and lots of protein bars and headed to the car.
We left Providence in high spirits: we had both done better than we’d hoped, and we felt ready for the upcoming marathon. It had been an awesome weekend of races, and my love for running was raging strong.
I ended up placing 16th out of 414 females in the 20-29 age group with a time of 1:40:08. However, numbers aside, I was so happy with how I felt during my run. Feeling confident about your race makes every early morning workout worth it.