I’d go through the whole schpeel (is that how you spell that? that’s how it sounds in my head. is that a real word? I’m second-guessing myself now. no matter) about how I’ve meant to blog and I want to catch you guys up on everything that’s been going on and so on and so forth, but let’s be real. I can’t catch you up, I can’t seem to keep up with blogging and I don’t even know what I’ve been doing.
What I do want to do is not forget a single second of the Aramco Half Marathon that I ran a million and a half years ago [or a little over a week, whatever]. So let’s get to race recapping. It might be a long one. I’m not really sure. You might want to grab a glass of wine or something.
I went into the half marathon feeling unprepared. Four weeks (ish) before the race, I developed some IT band nastiness. Running outside irritated it. Running long distances irritated it. Running around my office irritated it. And it completely demoralized me. In those four weeks my long runs consisted of 12 miles (the beginning of the end), 4 miles (the run where I completely gave up out frustration), 7 miles (where I ran with Britt and copped out early. was supposed to be 15), and 8 miles (where I was in so much pain the last 1/2 mile that I cut what was supposed to be a 10 mile run to 8 and went home wanting to swear off running forever).
At that point, other than weekend runs, I was running the majority of my runs on the treadmill and I was so over running. I hated it.
The week leading up to the race I was stressed out from work and not sleeping at all. I think I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night that Monday – Friday. I was working around the clock. The fact that I managed to fit in any workouts at all was a small miracle. I was so unenthused about the race that I considered just sending a super pathetic email to the race directors asking that I be able to defer. Luckily, I was too busy to even do that, so on Saturday I drove very begrudgingly down to the expo.
I feel like I should mention that I tried really hard to pump myself up. To everyone other than Sean I feigned excitement. But I really felt pretty discouraged. When George R. Brown [where the expo was] came into sight, I seriously almost broke down and cried. I was so bummed that I wasn’t running the full and that I felt so out of shape and unready.
I ran into Tara and her friend at the expo, which cheered me up immensely, went and saw Dr. Hinson, who told me repeatedly to not worry about my time [ha! and also: foreshadowing! I should probably be a writer or something with my exemplary story set up skills], and then came home and furiously cleaned the house and tried to drum up some excitement. I wasn’t expecting any PRs or any great running breakthroughs, I was just going to have a good time, walk if I needed, and let myself take a break from running after the race.
The morning of the race it was raining and cold. I was predictably silent on the drive to the race, which drives Sean insane. He asked what my goals were. I scoffed and said I just wanted to finish. Then I revised and told him that my ultimate goal was to go sub-1:50, but that I didn’t think I was in good enough shape to do so. So I just wanted to have a good race. While the temperatures were ideal for running, between the wind and the rain it was pretty uncomfortable weather. But I was excited. For the first time in weeks, I was pumped I was running. Running the Houston marathon or the half marathon is infectious – you can’t help but get excited when you’re around so many other people who are thrilled to be out there running – weather be damned. We passed a guy that had “21 year veteran” on his bib. We passed people of all shapes and sizes. There were shirtless guys and people in full on sweatsuits. But we were all there for one reason: to run.
I mean, I don’t really think it gets more beautiful than that right there folks. Look how awake and happy I look. This picture completely captures how I was feeling right then. No. No it does not. I’m fairly positive that I thought I looked excited when that picture was taken. Instead I just look tired. How very sad.
When 6:40am came around I kissed Sean goodbye and wriggled my way up to the 8 min/mile pacers. While I had no intentions of running 8 min/miles, I also had no intentions of running 9 min/miles, so I tried to plant myself directly in the middle. In what seemed like seconds, we were off. I crossed the start line two minutes after, yelled a quick hello and threw a smile to Sean when I finally found him in the crowd, and put my head down and went for it.
And then it started raining.
This isn’t actually from mile 1, it’s from mile 7. But I refuse to post any of the other pictures Sean took before the race. Because they are awful. Also, Dr. Hinson, avert your eyes from this photo. There is absolutely no heel striking going on here. None.
In the first mile of the half marathon [and the marathon for that matter] you run uphill. It’s nothing crazy, but it was enough to make me wonder what the eff I was doing out there. I spent the first two miles wondering what would happen if I pulled off to the side. Wondering what the logistics are of DNFing a race. Wondering how fast I was running. Wondering why I ran in the first place.
I ran the first 5k in 26:16.
When I hit the 5k pad, my only thought was “you have to make it at least to the 10k before you drop out.” Super motivating, I know.
Around mile 4 or 5, my IT band flared up. HELL NO. That’s all I could think. There was no way this was happening. And in that moment I was so irritated with my body, that something absolutely ridiculous happened. I told my leg to shut the hell up, put my head down, and I ran.
I ran the next 5k in 25:51.
Just running along. Just passed Sean here, even though we haven’t actually gotten to that point in the story. He had the camera on ‘burst’ so it caught several consecutive photos of me running after I passed him. So all you get is my backside. I’m not sure if that was intentional on his part or not.
At mile 7 this song came on:
a side note: I have been trying to get this video to embed for a solid 20 minutes now and I’m done. You’re just going to have to click on the link.
And I got the biggest, shit-eating grin on my face. I sped up. I sang along. I danced while I was running. I hit repeat. I laughed. I shook my head. I didn’t give a damn if anyone thought I looked crazy. Because I was out running a half marathon. I took five months off of running in 2012 and here I was holding an 8:15 pace running a half marathon. I had the most demoralizing year of my life in terms of running in 2012 and I was starting 2013 off with a bang.
Around mile 7.5 I saw Sean squinting and looking for me. I yelled to him and smiled, waved and kept running. 2 seconds later I saw my father in law, jumping up and down, cheering me on.
This is my father-in-law. He is not jumping up and down because this is after the race. But he was jumping up and down the first time I saw him during the race. Promise.
Best feeling ever.
At this point, my garmin wasn’t tracking my miles and I had no idea where I was on the course or how much longer I had. I ran up to a guy, wondering when we were going to hit the 8 mile marker, and asked where we were. He said we were at mile 9 – almost 10. I almost cried from happiness.
We hit the turn around and I felt free.
I ran the third 5k in 25:14
From there on out it was all downhill, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I felt like I was slogging along, but my watch told me that I was holding steady around 8:08 – 8:15. I passed people who were walking and tried to offer up encouragement. I thanked every single person that was out there volunteering. I remembered why I loved running. I praised myself for dropping to the half marathon, because I was having the time of my life.
I ran the fourth 5k in 25:17
It was raining, it was cold, and I was exhausted by mile 12, but I kept telling myself that no one was ever happy for almost giving their all. So I ran.
Mile 12.5, and I’m ticking down the minutes until I’m through. Because at this point, I’m quite literally only minutes away.
Mile 12.7, and I’m downtown and the wind is pushing me. And I’m smiling.
Mile 12.85, and I’m a quarter mile away. I can see the crowds. I can hear the finish line. And I’m pumped. And I’m ready.
YES! YES YES YES!!! HERE I COME!
Turning that corner for the final sprint was one of the best moments of my life. I pumped my fist in the air. I yelled out in excitement. I gave it every ounce of energy I had left.
GOOOOOOOO!!!!! YOU ARE DOING IT, RACHAEL! I frequently talk to myself, by the way. Normal.
I crossed the finish line in 1:47:44, smashing through the 1:50 time goal I had only dreamed of breaking this race.
The road to this race was not perfect. I didn’t follow a training plan. I didn’t go into the race feeling like I trained well. I didn’t go into this race with confidence.
But after a year of feeling like I wasn’t a runner, I ran one of the best races of my life.
While I’ve no doubt that if I hadn’t been injured I’d have ran an even faster race, I have no ounce of disappointment in me with how this one turned out. It exceeded everything I wanted. And it was everything I needed.