Sunday, October 19 was the day I had been waiting for since the end of the Nike Half Marathon in April. When I crossed the finish line of the Nike Half, I had an immediate feeling of utter disappointment in myself because even though I did not yet know my official time, I knew that I did not reach my goal of finishing in under 2 hours. I remember wanting to cry and feel sorry for myself, but then I called Justin and he just told me that I would do it in October at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, home in St. Louis. That was the only thing that made me feel better that day, knowing that I would have another shot in 2014 of reaching my goal.
So, when the day was finally here, I wasn’t really nervous as much I was excited that I had another chance. And deep down, I knew that this was the race that I was going to go under 2 hours. I realized this when I had looked at what pace I needed to be at – 9:09. I had been consistently going under 9 minutes per mile for all my training runs pretty easily, so I knew that as long as I didn’t get hurt or didn’t stop, the odds were in my favor.
The race had an early start of 7AM, so I woke up at 5AM. I wanted to make sure I had enough time to eat a small breakfast, get my outfit on, and then just to relax. We left around 6:15AM. This was DEFINITELY a mistake!
Justin was just going to drop me off and then go back home, so I thought it would be no problem to be able to have him drop me off close to the start line. I was wrong! I should have read all the notices about parking and road closures, so this is my fault. We left and about 5 minutes into our drive there was already roads blocked off. We turned to go another way and those roads were also blocked. This KEPT happening! We realized that not only the roads close to the start and the first few miles would be blocked off already, but it was the entire course. We kept driving around hoping to find a closer spot for him to drop me off, but at about 6:45AM we realized that about a mile away was the closest we were going to get. So I had Justin pull over and drop me off and then I ran probably about a mile to get to the start. I actually ended up not minding this though because it was a good warm-up and also I didn’t have to worry about standing around in the cooler weather!
I was in Corral 5, so it took me a while to weave into there since most of the people were already where they needed to be. I didn’t want to be a jerk and push people around, so when I got to Corral 6 and saw there was very little room to navigate myself to the corral I was supposed to be in, I just decided it was no big deal for me to stay put there and start one corral behind.
Not that I want to be cutting it so close on time in my future races, but I will say it was very nice to not have to stand around forever. By the time I got to Corral 6 the national anthem was playing so I knew it wouldn’t be long until the race started!
The first few miles of the race seemed to be constantly up and down on the rolling hills of St. Louis. I was really starting to feel it in my thighs around mile 5 and I was a bit worried that I would be too sore already to keep going at the pace I wanted to. But I just told myself that I had to keep going at that pace and of course it was going to hurt, but I had the rest of the day to lay on the couch! It was not time to relax or slow down!
My favorite part of this race is the race course itself. We had the chance to run by so many landmarks in St. Louis and through so many of the city’s beautiful neighborhoods. There were crowds of onlookers along the way that were so encouraging and gave me so much energy. The best part was a little after mile 8. This mile went around my own neighborhood and Justin and Lilli were able to find me and even ran along with me while they were on the sidewalk so that was definitely the highlight of the race! Seeing how excited my little puppy was to see me filled me with so much happiness and it was a great distraction to the tiredness I was feeling!
Once I got to mile 10, I told myself that it was just a 5K to go. I kept up with my pace and really felt pretty strong as I headed to the finish. Around mile 12 I really realized that I was not only going to achieve my goal of going under 2 hours, I was going to do it pretty easily. It was a very overwhelming feeling.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:53:52. I was so happy I almost felt like crying! It was a great feeling to achieve my goal and it was special to do it in my city. I also am really proud of myself and the progress I have made in my running this past year. Just one year earlier at this same exact race, I finished with a time of 2:12:09. I am going to keep up with my training and I can’t wait to see what time I am capable of at this race in 2015.
Overall, I was happy with this race but I was disappointed with a few things, including:
Packet Pickup: Rock ‘n’ Roll races are one of the few I am aware of that you have to be in person to pick up your packet. Many other races allow you to have someone else pick it up for you as long as you have a copy of your ID and signed consent. I am really not sure why Rock ‘n’ Roll can also not have a similar procedure. They claim it is for security purposes, but I think that is bogus. I think it’s about money. I think they want you to be there in person because the person running the race is more likely to purchase something at the Expo than someone who is not running the race. If they are going to have these rules, they need to have better hours for the Expo. On Friday, the hours were 9AM-6PM, and on Saturday 10AM-5PM. Myself and most people I know work 9-5, so it is very difficult to make it for the Friday Expo if you are busy on Saturday. I think it would be better for the Expo to be open until at least 8PM on one of those days to accommodate more people’s schedules.
Bands on the race course: I was really disappointed in the lack of bands throughout the course. That is supposed to be one of the big elements of this race, and I noticed (along with other runners) that there were not that many bands. Last year, it seemed like there were bands every mile, but this year I would say I saw 5 or 6 on the half marathon course.
GU Station: The funny thing about the promised GU station on the half marathon course was – there wasn’t one! There was supposed to be a GU station around mile 8, but I did not see one and several other runners commented on the Facebook page that they didn’t see one either. I’m not a huge GU fan, but I was planning on taking one since there was supposed to be an exclusive flavor for Rock ‘n’ Roll races. I’m not sure what happened here, I really doubt that they had already ran out by the time I was there because it’s not like I was that far back.
Post race results: Our live unofficial results were posted immediately upon finishing which was nice. But then once the race was over, they took those results down and had nothing up for awhile. I was waiting to see my official time. Waiting. And waiting…. And waiting. After a while, they posted on Facebook that they would be up at 7PM. So I log back on at 7PM, and the results say they are up. I search for my name and nothing appears. I search my bib number and it’s a person from Denver. Then I realized…Rock ‘n’ Roll had put up the results from their Denver race on the St. Louis page! Doesn’t seem like this would be too hard to correct, right?! Wrong! It took them forever to fix this and when I and many other runners commented on the error page the Rock ‘n’ Roll person kept commenting that they were up! Yes, there were results up BUT they weren’t for anyone running the St. Louis race! Finally around 10PM the page was fixed and our results were up. Even if they were up at 7PM this seems like a ridiculous amount of time to wait, and since all of us pay a lot of money to run this race, we expect things to be a little more efficient.
Even though I had these issues, I know that I will continue to run in this race every year. I absolutely love the route of the course and that makes it worth it to me to run in this race. A lot of people commented on the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis page about disappointments similar to mine, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll staff told us to include our issues in the post race survey. I filled out the survey and let them know about my problems, so hopefully they will read mine and others complaints and actually do something about them to improve on next year’s race.