That Time I Ran a Half Marathon On A Whim

I’m going to try not to spew word vomit here, but I just have so much to say about my experience at the Rock N Roll D.C. half marathon. Not only was it my first RnR race, but it was also my first time running in D.C.

Of course, there’s a bit of a back story here (it wouldn’t be a #seecourtrun blog entry without a back story).

This summer, I registered for the big 26.2. I took the plunge and signed up to run the Rock n Roll D.C. marathon and fundraise for the kids of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Signing up felt exhilarating, but I didn’t quite feel mentally ready to tackle the full marathon distance. I believe that I physically would have been able to do it with proper training, but as we all know, marathons are quite the mental game.

None the less, I wanted to finish what I started, so I kept on keeping on. I kept up my fundraising as best I could, and I made sure everyone knew I was ready to tackle the marathon distance. Soon, four of my friends signed up with me. We were D.C. bound!

And then about a month later…the Youngstown Marathon fell into my lap. I was suddenly race director for our city’s first 26.2 course ever. Within the span of a six minute phone call, I became an RD, a community leader, and someone who didn’t have time to train for a marathon.

I sadly informed my friends that I would have to drop out of the race. They were sad; I was sad.

As the race day got closer and things with the Youngstown Marathon chilled out a bit (thanks to the help of a fantastic race committee that includes Second Sole and Chemical Bank), I thought, “Hmmm. I never get to go on trips with my best girlfriends. I’ll run the 5k.” That same weekend, I ran 8 miles.

I drove into Washington D.C. on Friday afternoon. Our first stop was the Holocaust Memorial MuseumIt was the most disturbing thing I’d seen in quite some time. When I saw how many people (and babies/children) were killed by such horrible means, I couldn’t even walk straight.

The room with the shoes really got me, though. On each side of me were clear bins of shoes. Shoes worn by thousands of Jewish people whose lives were senselessly stolen because of hate. Shoes that were worn by people who probably never had the chance to run a mile. Shoes that were worn by people who marched to their death instead of running to a finish line. I was horrified, and I couldn’t get it out my head. I still can’t stop seeing those shoes and remembering the smell of worn leather that wafted through that room.

With two hours until the expo closed, I went with a couple of friends to register for the 5k (I had no other choice but to wait until the expo at this point). When I walked up to the registration table, that vision popped into my head again – those shoes.

“Which event would you like to register for?” asked the volunteer.

“The half marathon,” I said.

Say what? I just said that like it was my plan since day one. What the hell?! I haven’t even run ten miles recently!

And that was that. I was running for people who never had the chance. I was running for people who didn’t get free will to make choices. I was running for love. I was running to dissolve hate.

****

In the morning, we took the underground metro to the start. This race was extremely organized. Some of us were in corral 6, and others were all the way in corral 24. The half marathon and marathon did not start together, and I assume this was to stagger 50k runners as much as possible. When we did start, though, the corrals took off every minute or so.

I didn’t have my watch. I didn’t bring it because I wasn’t planning to run 13.1 miles! When my corral took off, though, I knew I made the right decision. I ran at a pace that was comfortable. This was the very first half marathon where I did not take any walk breaks.

My favorite mile was Rock Park, even though it was the hill from HELL (see below). This was the #runtoremember mile, and there were photos of fallen soldiers the whole way up the hill. Our US Military was also there cheering us on and motivating us to keep going. It was very emotional, especially considering that I took on this distance – randomly – for Holocaust victims.

Screen Shot 2017-03-13 at 9.08.54 PM
Elevation profile for Rock Park. We went from 36 feet to 188 feet over ONE MILE.

When I finished the race at 2:21:24, I was a little shocked. I didn’t train for this distance, and while I did not beat my PR of 2:15:38, I beat my last half time by nearly five minutes. I have some theories about that…

1. I didn’t have time to get mental about it. Typically, I go crazy before a race like this. I set unrealistic time goals; I get into my head about everything. This time, I didn’t really have enough time to do that! This supports my theory that running is just as much mental as it is physical.

2. I’m in shape. A lot. I’ve been strength training every single night. I do 100+ squats holding a 15 pound weight, core work, and a lot of pushups. I finished this race quicker than my last half, and I didn’t get injured. I attribute a lot of that to strength training.

3. I’m ready for the marathon. I truly believe I am ready for the marathon distance after this race. If a half marathon is something I can do on a whim, then I am ready to train for the marathon. I cannot wait to start training for Columbus.

****

This is truly a race I will never forget. I’ll never forget the first time I ran a half marathon randomly because I wanted to give people a voice and a chance who never had one. This race truly showed me what I was capable of, and I am more than proud of myself.

peace, love, & running

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