See my pre-race recap here.
When the gun went off for the 1st corral, the excitement inside me grew and grew. I just wanted to get going! As we inched along and waited for the 9 corrals ahead of us to get going, I realized that I forgot to factor in the “Wave Start” into the times that I told my fan group (that we called Shmabforce) that I should get to each mile marker. I was worried that they would have to wait too long or would think that I already passed and then they would leave and miss me. However, I spent $5 for the RNR (Rock’N’Roll) team to send text messages to 5 people of my choosing. The text messages were updates of my start, progress, and finish, so when I started at 7:43am (start time was 7:30am), they all got a text notifying them and then deducted my predicted times from there. I also added my mom and brother on there because I knew they wanted to be able to be involved and cheer me on from Pennsylvania. Good purchase, and I would recommend purchasing it if you run a race and this service is offered.
When I crossed the starting line and officially started the race, it was surreal. All of a sudden it was like “Oh…I’m running a half marathon. What?” As we were weaving in and out of Foggy Bottom, trotting around the neighborhood I lived in for 4 years during college, it hit me: running is a pretty solo sport, but when I crossed that start line, all of a sudden I had 25,000 teammates. For a moment in time, we were pounding the pavement together, and while we would all have unique experiences of this race, while we all had different expectations and goals…for a brief moment in time we were one.
(Thank you, MarathonFoto, for taking great photos throughout the race. Please do not be upset that I screenshot this photo for purposes of my blog–my dad is buying a bunch of photos so you will be compensated, I promise).
The girl in the left of this picture is my friend from work–she also happens to be the very girl who motivated me to sign up for this race, my first half-marathon. She is super speedy though and took off ahead of me soon after this. Can you see the Lincoln Memorial in the background? The first couple miles of the race sped by. Although I knew I had to pace myself, the excitement, crowds, and music shot me out of the gate. I ran my first 3.1 miles in 26.5 minutes. That’s a pretty fast 5k for me, but I felt great. After passing the Lincoln and crossing the Memorial bridge into Virginia and coming back, we headed onto the Rock Creek Parkway. I run Rock Creek often, as it is near my house, but after the excitement of the crowds and music that the race started off with, I actually found this part of the race to be a little boring and mentally tough. I also knew that this hill was coming up:
This hill was brutal, especially after pushing myself for 5.5 miles leading up to this. The thing that kept me going was that I knew I had a couple of friends who would be at the top of the hill, so I just kept repeating to myself “You’ll see your friends soon. You’ll see your friends soon.” I got to the top of the hill and almost immediately saw Shelby, Jeremy, and Katie. Shelby is one of my best friends (whom I lived with for four years) from college, and Jeremy is her boyfriend, who is also a really good friend of mine. Katie is another friend from college who was in the same honor’s fraternity with me–we have recently bonded over Pretty Little Liars. As soon as Jeremy spotted me, I heard him yell to Shelby–HEY! It’s Abby! And Shelby and Katie saw me and started waving signs and jumping up and down. It was just what I needed after that monster hill. Soon after, I realized that my friend Mari was on the other side of the street, which was an added bonus and yet another great face to spot in the crowd. Shelby later told me that I looked like I was just going on an easy jog, that it didn’t look hard to me at all, but that’s because she didn’t see me as I was actually running up the hill and wondering if I would make it. I continued on and saw my friends Leighann and Mat, who actually started cheering me on at mile 1 and did their own Saturday morning run to meet me at different mile markers along the way. (Mat took the above picture.)
The crowd after the hill was tenfold what it was along Rock Creek Park. With that being said, I still very much appreciated everyone who cheered us on during the RCP stretch–every fan is valued and appreciated and added more spark and bounce to my step. About a quarter mile after the hill, there was another incline that I knew was coming because it’s near my house and I bike up it all the time. While it was only a slight incline, I still was begging for downhill or flat stretches as a break from the first hill. I made it up the incline and ran onto Columbia Heights, where I saw Chris and his friend Brian. This was right at the halfway point, and seeing their faces pushed me along for the second half of the race.
Leighann and Matt met me again at mile 11…When they saw me, I heard Leighann yell “YOU GOT IT ABS, TWO MILES LEFT. ALMOST THERE!” and I couldn’t believe that I was almost 2 miles away from finishing my first half marathon. And I had already run further than I have ever run before, as my Double Digits 10-mile run was my furthest distance to date. Mat had his camera out again so of course I posed.
The rest of the race was tough, as my body was tired, but it was easy in some ways as I just kept thinking about how close I was. I am thankful I had my Garmin, as it kept me pushing myself the entire time, but also knew to hold back a little when I got up to a 8:15-8:20 pace out of excitement.
For a small part of the race, the mathematician inside of me thought I could beat 2 hours if I pushed, but during the last mile of the race I just knew it wasn’t going to happen, and I was fine with that. I originally anticipated running at an avg. pace of 10 min/mile and finishing around 2 hours and 30 minutes, so a time of 2:02:36 was still thrilling to me.
I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and collected my medal, a blanket, and some drinks and treats.
As I was getting to the end of the secure area, I saw Chris and Brian, who had metro’d down to the Stadium Armory to meet me at the finish and see the headliner–The Head and The Heart.
My first race was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to get back on the streets and trails and to sign up for another race. Maybe this one?
I feel so lucky to have the support system I have. Without them and the other thousands of supporters on the trail, I don’t think my first half marathon would have been such a fulfilling and exciting experience. 13.1 baby!!