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

Monday, May 2, 2011

Illinois 5K & Half Marathon Race Reports

So, if you hadn't figured it out, Kim and I ran two races this past weekend so we could get our "I-Challenge" medals. The above photo is from Friday night's 5K race. Which we tried to take easy, I swear. As Kim said, there aren't many times when you tell yourself to slow down during a 5K.

Anyway, we ran easy (for a 5K race, anyway) and enjoyed our finish in the football stadium.

Then it was back to my parents' house to make dinner and get ready for the goal race in the morning. Kim was sweet enough to print out a pace band and take charge of getting me to the finish line in under 2 hours.

The weather was a huge question mark as we did our final race prep. Highs were predicted to be in the 70s. And I knew that the 30+ mile an hour wind gusts that were supposed to show up could be brutal around the halfway point of the course.

We wore our matching blue tank tops and I decided to forgo wearing my fuel belt. The last time I tried that in a half marathon I totally bonked. But this time I thought I'd chance it. Still, I gave it to Jason so that he could hand it to me when I saw him on the course.

Kim and I ran a warm-up mile. My knee felt fine. My hip flexor was feeling okay, too. A little tight but not painful. And the weather seemed to be holding out. Overcast and low 50s at the start. And not too breezy.

The first few miles went by quickly although they were a bit crowded. Kim kept telling me to slow down a bit. We hung out behind the 2:00 pacer until about mile 2.5 or so. I was just so excited to be running through my hometown. The only downside is that you know just how far it is before the next turn on the course!

We ran through the campus where I went to graduate school, we ran past my former workplace, and when we ran past the strip club I asked the crowd of runners around us if anyone wanted to stop for a detour. No takers.

Shortly after passing the "seedy" part of town

We passed Jason and Kim's husband, Steven, near mile 4 or so. Then it was through some residental areas before turning into my parents' neighborhood. I'd been so excited for this part since I found out the course goes within yards of my parents' front door.

The view from near the front of my parents' house

As we got closer and closer I was so excited to see my parents. "I can see my house from here!" I shouted.

Then we rounded the corner and I saw them standing behind a barricade holding "the sign" and shouting. My mom wanted to know if we were cold. I shook my head, pumped my fist in the air and yelled, "THIS IS AWESOME!"

The red arrow on the left is pointing to my step-dad.

The course goes up a long incline from that corner and even though I've run it plenty of times before, I'd never run it after running 6+ miles. It was rough. I distracted myself by eating my Shot Bloks and I was thankful for the water station at the top where I slowed down to drink some water. I'd been worried that the water stations would be too far apart but they were perfectly spaced.

When my Garmin beeped at the next mile marker I said "What mile is this? Six?"

"Seven," Kim said. Oh, yeah. Duh. I knew my parents were between mile 6 and 7. I guess that was just evidence of how non-functional my brain was at that point. However, my legs felt great and I was still running with a huge smile on my face.

We ran through Meadowbrook Park and past all the sculptures and statues. Up and down hills and over wooden bridges. I started to get a little whiny around mile 9. "My butt hurts!" I exclaimed. But I knew I had a spectator waiting for me after the park and Kim kept telling me we were right on pace.

"Do I want to know what finish time you put on that pace band?" I asked. I knew it was sub-2 but I didn't know exactly what it was.

"Do you want me to tell you?" Kim replied.

"Actually, no. Don't. I'll just get psyched out if I know."

We left the park and I started scanning for my friend who said she'd be there cheering. I saw her and screamed her name! A quick high five and I was gone.

My friend's cheering support crew

Then we had a surprise husband sighting as Jason offered me my fuel belt shortly before mile 11. I waved him off and smiled to let him know I was doing fine.

Kim and I took a short walk break though the next water station because we were both starting to flag. Another surprise sighting of my parents at mile 11 gave me a much needed energy boost but that mile felt incredibly long. I distracted myself by looking at the spectators' signs. "Gas is $4.30. Keep running. It's cheaper." read one. "You're doing Moovelous" said another held by a woman dressed in a cow suit.

Photo from The News-Gazette/John Dixon

I don't remember much of mile 12. I do remember, however, that as we approached the stadium and knew I was going to finish in under 2 hours I had to remind myself to breathe. We surprised Jason and Steven as we rounded the third-to-last corner and Jason sprinted ahead to get one last photo of us.

I think it's appropriate that Kim is looking at her watch in this photo as that's how she spent most of the race.

I heard Mica cheer for us as we made our final descent into the football stadium. "I don't want to sprint to the finish," I said to Kim. But we still clasped hands and I screamed as we crossed the finish line.

Then we collapsed into a hug. I did it. I really did it. I ran a half marathon in under 2 hours. 1:57:33 officially. Turns out Kim had put 1:57:59 on the pace band. I'm so thankful for Kim, for everyone in the OPRC who believed in me, and everyone who came out to cheer.

And the next morning you know what photo was on the front of the local paper?

Photo from The News-Gazette

Can you see me in the lower left hand corner? Yep, the race photo with me in it made the front of the paper! I know, I'm just that awesome. Too bad the photographer cropped Kim out of the photo!

Regardless, it was an amazing weekend. I ran with my best friend, I enjoyed my hometown, and I made my sub-2:00 goal. Now, don't mind me, I'm going to go bask in it for awhile longer.

Illinois 5K by snmnstrz21 at Garmin Connect - Details

Illinois Half Marathon by snmnstrz21 at Garmin Connect - Details