When we first landed in DC, I felt like it would be forever before it was finally race day! We had so much planned that it was easy to forget that we had to run 13.1 miles come Sunday morning.
But when the alarm went off at 4AM on Sunday, I knew that the day I had been waiting for for so long was finally here. I jumped out of bed and washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put on my race day outfit. I pulled back my hair, put on my headband that Kathleen had gotten the three of us to wear for the race, and had a pretty good feeling about the day.
Kathleen and Phu were also getting ready, and while they were preparing, I ate my Clif Bar and drank my Advocare Spark energy drink to get me focused and ready for the race. I probably didn’t even need the extra energy though just because I had so much adrenaline going through me in anticipation of the race!
Once we all got ready at around 5AM, we took our bags to the front desk and checked them in the back because we were worried we wouldn’t get back in time before we had to check out of our room at Noon. The staff took the bags into the back room, and then we headed out the door and to the Metro station to head downtown.
There were many people on the train going to the same place we were, but luckily we got a seat so we could sit down and relax for a bit before the race. Before we knew it, we were down near the Capitol building and by the start line. We went to the bathroom and just hung out a bit before checking our bags. We had plenty of time to wait, but I was happy just to be there and pleased that I didn’t feel rushed at all getting to the race. I also didn’t want to put my jacket in my bag and check it until I absolutely had to! (It was a bit chilly that early in the morning!)
At about 6:20AM we checked our gear bags, and headed towards the corrals. We were each in separate corrals, so at about 6:30AM, we wished eachother luck,said goodbye, and went to our spots. I always feel like the standing around waiting for the race to start is definitely the worst part of the race. There were two DJ’s talking as we were waiting, I know they were trying to be entertaining, but they were getting quite annoying as they kept repeating the same things over and over!
Finally it was 7AM and the race was about to start. There were three seperate waves that went off, and my corral was in the 2nd wave, which went off about 8 minutes after the first wave left. It felt like forever to wait around after the first wave got off, but it was eventually mine turn to start! The start line was located right in front of the Capital, so it was a very cool experience to be running straight into such a famous and prestigious building.
But wow, the beginning was SO congested! I knew this would be a problem, because there were just so many runners going off at the same time. I spent at least a mile weaving in and out of traffic, but it probably was actually even longer than that. Because of my constant weaving, I was going at a much faster pace than I wanted to. My first mile was in the low 8 minute range, and my second mile was less than 8 minutes. I should have known not to do this, but I had so much energy and it didn’t feel like it was that fast.
I continued on in the 8:30/mile range for quite a few miles. It wasn’t until about mile 7 that my legs started to feel pretty heavy. I knew this was not a good sign, because I was already getting tired, but I still had many miles to go. So I tried to keep up the pace and not get too slow, because I was still thinking that I could still accomplish a sub 2 hour half marathon. Unfortunately, this would not be the case.
But I kept pushing and it was easier to keep running just because of the constant crowd support and entertainment. I thought that the Rock n Roll half marathons I have done had a lot of crowd support, but that seemed like nothing compared to this half! I felt like there were always people around cheering us on, and it is hard to stop when you have all this support. And, I never want to look stupid in front of a crowd of people, so it keeps me motivated to not stop when I have so many people cheering. The signs along the way also kept me laughing and going. Some of my favorites were: “You run better than healthcare.gov” and “Run faster if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by Regina George”. Classic.
By mile 9, I was exhausted. My pace slowed down significantly, and I was running about 9:30/mile. I never stopped though because I still thought there might be a chance I could go below 2 hours, but I was simply exhausted and knew that I had burned myself out too quickly at the start. It was frustrating to say the least, but I knew if I stopped and took a walk break, there was absolutely no way I was getting below 2 or even a PR.
The last mile was definitely the longest! I felt like when I got to about 12.5 miles, we were twisting and turning and I thought I would never see the finish line! But I finally saw the yellow finish line straight ahead and I pushed myself to get to the finish. My GPS was a bit off, so I wasn’t exactly sure what my time was going to be. But when I crossed the finish line I knew that my dream of getting below 2 hours was not going to happen for this race. The clock time said something in the 2:09 range, and since I knew I took off 8 minutes after the first wave of runners, I was just above the 2:00 hour range. I called Justin to have him check my time on the computer, and he confirmed my fear. My official time was 2:01:41. Just short of my big goal. This was a PR so I couldn’t be too upset, but honestly at the time I was crushed. I wanted to go under 2 hours so badly, and had been training so hard, and I just felt so disappointed. I tried to hide my disappointment because I didn’t want to seem like a cry baby, but it was difficult. This probably best sums up my feelings at the time, and even now:
I realize that I still got a PR, so that’s something to be proud of. And Justin said it best, I can get under 2 hours in the next half marathon, it’s not like this was my only shot. I think it was especially hard because the conditions were perfect, the course was flat, I wasn’t injured or in any pain, so there was no real excuse for not achieving this goal. But I do now really realize now that I have to have a better plan coming into races. Justin suggested that I write down goals for each mile and that by doing this I will be able to keep myself at a more steady pace. I definitely love this idea and will be incorporating this into my training and upcoming races.
Once I crossed the finish line and spoke with Justin, I got my bag of food from Whole Foods, and then I went on to grab my beautiful Tiffany’s necklace. In all my disappointment, I had almost forgot about this amazing perk of the race! I stood in a short line, and then an ROTC member in a tuxedo handed me that coveted little blue box. I had already seen what the necklace would look like the night before, but it was awesome to actually have it in my possession. I absolutely love the design and am not sure if a day will go by that I won’t wear it!
After receiving my necklace, I went through the finishers tent where there were makeup/retouch stations, photo opportunities, stretching areas, and places where you could charge your phone. I didn’t stop at any of the stations just because it was pretty crowded and I wanted to get to the next tent where the finisher’s merchandise was. I waited in the line for the merchandise for about 10 minutes and then bought myself the black finishers t-shirt.
While I was waiting in line, I got a text from Kathleen saying that she was done with the race. She also let me know that she smashed her previous PR and got a 2:16. I was really happy for her because I knew that her big goal was to go under 2:20 and she definitely did just that and more! My phone died shortly after I received her text, but luckily after a while of looking around for her in the masses of people, I was able to find her and reunite.
A little after Kathleen finished, Phu was also done and I really think she did such an amazing job for her first half! She was so worried about getting picked up by the bus ( I feel like this is a popular worry among first time half marathoners!) but this wasn’t even close to happening!
Once we all reunited, we grabbed our stuff from the gear check, and grabbed a metro to the Shake Shack where we were meeting up with some of Kathleen’s friends. I don’t know if it’s just because I was starving, but that was some of the best food I’ve ever had! I’m really hoping they bring one of those to St. Louis so I can indulge more often!
Even though my finishing time in the race was disappointing, I can’t forget that I ran my best half marathon ever (previous best – 2:03:02, about a month ago at the Relay and Run for 21K Half) and the race as a whole was an amazing experience. I felt like I didn’t see as many of the landmarks along the route because I was so focused on my running, but it was a once in a lifetime experience to get to run in this race and in our nation’s capital. Not like it was much of a surprise, but Nike puts on an absolutely first-class race. I hope one day I will be able to run the Nike Half in San Francisco and I am hoping even more that they bring a race to the Midwest region. It was an awesome weekend with my sister and my best friend Phu, and definitely a race that I will always remember.