A story of going from being a non-runner to planning for a marathon in three years...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Illinois Half Marathon Race Report

Oh my goodness. Where to start? I suppose I'll start at the beginning. Warning: this post will be long and possibly picture-heavy.



Friday I went over to the Expo to pick up my chip, bib, and goody bag. I was really hoping to check out a One More Mile booth or a Skirt Sports booth or some fun food booths. You know, do a little running shopping. Alas, it was not to be. The expo mostly consisted of booths for other races or running teams, a few booths selling books, a booth for The Stick, a few booths for local businesses (chiropractors, nutritionists, restaurants, etc) and, of course, a huge section devoted to the wares stocked by the local running store (Body 'n Sole). I didn't end up purchasing anything and there wasn't even anything good being given away for free. Thankfully, the chip and goody bag pick-up was extremely well-organized. And I got a cute photo out of the deal:


I tried my hardest to carb-up on Friday night and I even made the exact same oatmeal for breakfast Saturday morning as I ate before my awesome 10 mile run last weekend. Sadly, my stomach was having none of it. I had intestinal issues starting Friday and continuing until shortly before I left for the start line on Saturday morning.

The weather report for Saturday called for sunny skies, highs in the upper 50s, and a slight breeze. Unfortunately, the temperature at the start line was closer to 30 than 50. Thankfully the sun was out. I looked for some of the people I knew were running the race but couldn't find them among the MASSIVE and DISORGANIZED crowd. Seriously. If you had any crowd anxiety this start line would have been your worst nightmare. Sure, the pacers were standing in the middle holding their signs up, but other than that there was no differentiation or corrals or areas or anything. Just one long street filled edge to edge with people. Almost 9,000 people.

I tried to situate myself near the 4:15 Marathon Pacer but ended up losing him within seconds of the start. As the MC counted down the minutes to the start of the race, I chatted with a few girls standing next to me and tried to keep warm. I took deep breaths and when the MC said, "You've trained for months for this and now you're down to ONE MINUTE" I went over my goals.

Goal A: Finish. Preferably under 2:30
Goal B: Pace at 9:45 minutes/mile overall. Start out slightly slower. Run faster in the second half of the race. Finish under 2:10
Goal C: Pace around 10:00 minutes/mile. Finish under 2:20

And then we were off.

Mile one went by in a blur. I hit it at almost exactly 9:45. Mile two went well. I saw a friend on the sidelines cheering and yelled to him. I did this mile a little too fast. 9:38. Slow down, I told myself. Mile 3 I did in 9:45 again. Gotta slow down. And I did. A little bit. I started to get warm. Even before mile two I had unzipped my fleeced and it was flapping in the wind. I wanted to ditch it so badly but I also didn't want to loose it. I thought I wasn't going to see my husband and my parents again until mile 10. I knew I would have to tie it around my waist at some point. I decided to do that at mile five when I slowed down to eat my first round of Sports Beans.

I sipped water from my bottle at every mile marker. I walked quickly while scarfing Beans. I paused for a minute to tie my fleece around my waist. The walking and the pausing certainly took a toll on my time. That was one of my slowest miles of the race. I've also discovered that my training bike path may be doing me an injustice. Because the path crosses several major streets I have to stop and wait for a break in cars before I can continue running. Therefore, I get three to four rests each direction for a total of six to eight running breaks. I should have taken those during the race. I didn't. And it really hurt me later. Also, I think I'm going to turn off the Auto Pause function on my Garmin during training so that I have a more accurate picture of how long it's actually taking me to run my training miles.

My family surprised me at mile seven. I was SO happy to see them that as soon as they came into view I made an immediate bee-line for them. I could get rid of my fleece three miles earlier than I'd thought!

I shoved the fleece at my husband, hugged him and my parents, and took off running. You can see what a huge moral booster it was to see them. My time dropped by almost a minute for that mile!

And then the wheels started to fall off.

When I saw my husband at mile seven he told me there would be a surprise for me between miles nine and ten. That helped keep me motivated, but I admit I had to walk for a few seconds during mile 8 and mile 9. Just a few seconds. Maybe a few hundredths of a mile. It was about this time I was passed by a group of rabbits:

And what was my surprise at mile ten? Not only that my parents and my husband were there cheering for me, but some friends of ours drove all the way down from Chicago to cheer for me! I had no idea they were going to be there!

I think I must have looked like a total fool as I waved to them. Those Beans I ate at mile 5 were starting to wear off by this point. I'm doing a Phoebe-esque move (if you've seen that episode of "Friends" you'll know what I'm talking about") and I believe I yelled "THANK YOU" at them. Whatever I did, it definitely caused the runners next to me to stare.


Shortly after I passed my parents, I slowed to a walk to eat my second bag of Sports Beans. My plan all along had been to sip water at each mile and eat Beans at miles five and ten. I realized, though, at mile ten that my body had apparently not absorbed any nutrition from the food I'd eaten the day before. Those intestinal issues were definitely coming back to haunt me. The bottom of my right foot hurt. My legs felt like dead weights. I really did want to cry. In addition, in some part of my hind-brain I was realizing that I'd now run farther than I ever had before in my life and I still had 3 miles to go. But I knew I couldn't give up. I had more spectators waiting for me at mile 11!

Another friend of mine came out to cheer me on. Here's her sign:

When I saw her I paused for a quick hug and then trudge along. The last few miles were hard. So very, very hard. But when I hit the mile 12 marker, I knew I had to keep running. And run I did. Again, as you can see from the splits table, my last mile was the first one back under 10:00 since mile seven. Unfortunately, as I turned the corner to what I thought was going to be the last 300 or so yards, I realized that we actually had quite a ways further to go! Instead of turning the corner, going a short ways and then turning left towards the entrance to the finish line, we had to turn the corner, run PAST the entrance to the finish line, and loop back. Thankfully, I managed to hold off on the afterburners a little while longer. And when I headed into the tunnel towards the finish line, I was actually smiling.


Only 150 more yards to go!

As I rounded the final turn to the finish line, I honestly didn't know how much I had left in me. But I dug deep and passed a few people on the final sprint. I was grunting and I'm pretty sure that if the race photographer got a picture of my face you'll see a grimace instead of a smile on it. The race clock said 2:16 something when I run under it and I was hoping that it took me at least six minutes to cross the start line. I had enough brain power to remember to his stop on my Garmin and it was pretty close to the race clock. I didn't have enough brain power left to figure out what that meant. I took the medal that was handed to me, shuffled off the one side and stood there with my head hanging down and my hands on my knees while I tried to catch my breath. My iPod was still playing but it wasn't registering. Above the sound, though, I heard someone ask if I was okay. I told a nice medic that I was fine and he informed me that I should wearing, not holding my medal. He took it from my hand and put it around my neck.

Shortly afterward I found my friends and family. The post-race areas were total chaos. My husband went to find me water. My friend lent me a coat to warm up. We fought stairs and crowds to find food. My blood sugar was so low I was about to bite someone's head off and my back and legs hurt so much that all I wanted to do was sit down. I knew I needed food and I knew I needed to keep moving, so we pushed through the crowds for bananas and granola bars. There was hot food, too, but I couldn't wait. I eyed the massage area with envy but couldn't face fighting the crowds to get there. I looked around for a spiffy Mylar blanket but apparently there weren't any. I never did find the chip removal and am still confused about whether or not we get to keep them. My mom claims she heard them announced that they were commemorative chips but yet we were given a return envelop for it that says we'll be charged the standard $30 if we don't return it. It is a little spiffier than your standard chip, though.

I could go on and on about how disappointed I was in the organization or lack-thereof of the post-race festivities , but I think I'll focus on the positive. Remember those goals I listed way back at the beginning of this post? Well, I achieved two out of the three with an official time of 2:13:25. And I really think the third is do-able. At one point during the race I thought about one of my life goals is to run a full marathon next year. I thought about how crazy that was. I was in so much pain during this half, how could I go double the distance? But, of course, as anyone who has been bitten by the running bug knows, the pain is secondary to the goal. I will get my half-marathon time under 2:10. And I will run a full marathon.

For now, though, I will be proud of 2:13:25. I am a half-marathon finisher. And I've got the medal to prove it.

Oh yeah, and I'm buying myself one of these for my car:

P.S. All photos here were taken either by me or my husband. Professional photos or photos taken by my parents may be posted at a later date.

P.P.S Again, there are not enough words to express how thankful I am to every single one of you who either supported me in person or online or both. You have a few months and then I'll be ramping the training back up for my next half-marathon in July :-)


And, in case anyone cares, here are my stats from the race:


Route:--Elev. Avg:733 ft
Location:Champaign, ILElev. Gain:-30 ft
Date:04/11/09Up/Downhill: [+229/-259]
Time:08:07 AMDifficulty:3.1 / 5.0
 45 F temp; 47% humidity
 45 F heat index; winds NE 13

Distance: 13.17 miles
Speed:5.9 mph
Pace:10' 08 /mi
Elevation (ft)
Pace (min/mile)

Posted from bimactive.com


RunningLaur said...

Comgratulations!!! You're a half marathoner, and with a fantastic time! Hooray hooray hooray!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a real battle but you were VICTORIOUS!! You look so cute in your pink, too. I think I might wear my pink shirt next weekend. Or maybe my purple tank. Not sure.

Anyways. Distracted.

You did great and hey, the first one is just a jumping off point! heheheh. Now you're really gonna push me and we'll get under 2:10 TOGETHER in July. But yes, let's take some time OFF. I will do little bitty things in the next couple of weeks but will not really start training again until Mid-may. I'm doing Bay to Breakers (7 miles) for fun (not speed at all) on May 17th, then the following weekend will be my next long run. So about 2 months before the half. Sound doable? We'll hammer out training details around then, k?

I think YOU ROCK!!! I am so proud of you for all this work you've done and how hard core you staying through all your training. And I can't wait to do it together. ♥

Rae said...


That is absolutely awe-inspiring. I'm so impressed and proud of you!

Lindsay said...

This was a great race recap! Good job on the half marathon. I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one that had doubts & thinking how crazy it was to double the distance while running the half!

I was thinking of you while I was out running. I was debating sending you a text message but I didn't know how available you could get to your phone.

Congrats again! You were so great! I'm glad to say that I ran with you!

Kelly said...

Wow. Congratulations! Sounds like it went awesome. Can't wait to hear about July, in under 2:10 of course! :D

kristen said...

Way to go Erin. Sounds like a wonderful experience -- epcially if you thought about running a marathon DURING your half-marathon.

All the trining certianly paid off. Looking forword to hearing about your next goals.

Running Through Life said...

Congratulations!!! Job well done. All your training paid off and made it worthwhile. I hope you had a nice chance to get some celebrating in after that accomplishment.

Bayjb said...

OMG what a great post and pictures! Sounds like quite a day and experience. I'm so glad to hear it went well, great job!

Brandi said...

Congrats on the finish! I have been reading your blog for awhile! I completed my first half marathon back in October and I thought it was one of the hardest things I had ever done. What did I do next? I signed up for the Little Rock Marathon and did it in March! So don't worry, you will go further and be sooo proud that you did! Congratulations again for a job well done!!!!

Mica said...

Congratulations on your first half! The start and finish organization was a little shoddy, but I think it was great overall.

Ahh, I'm mad I missed you at the Expo! I was ringing up 372940284320 people for Body N Sole.

Also, you get to keep the chip. No worries. :)

Run it next year, and we'll find each other, kay?

kilax said...

Congratulations! What a great report. You CAN do a full next year! You'll keep training and you'll look back at 13.1 thinking it's an easy run! (hee hee!)

This was the first year of the race, right? I told a friend of mine I wanted to do it, and she was pretty negative, saying it would be super unorganized. I am sad to hear she was right. And I was really surprised to hear that you had to pause to pass cars. But I guess for a half or full, they cannot have cops there blocking the street the whole time? Who knows. This makes me kind of nervous for my half.

How are you feeling this week? Like a rock star? YOU SHOULD! You kicked butt!

Aaron Cunningham said...

A slightly belated, but well deserved congratulations!

You did 13.1! 26.2 is just around the corner. Keep up the good work!

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