I’ve never experienced such an emotional feeling when crossing a finish line like I did in yesterday’s Mighty Niagara Half Marathon. Talk about overwhelming, but absolutely amazing. I can now officially buy one of those 13.1 stickers to plaster all over my car (I won’t).
The weather leading up to and during the race was pretty awful. It was rainy and in the low 50’s, completely overcast and looked like there might be no end in sight. I was so thankful that I bought the cooler gear at the Under Armour store when I grabbed my packet on Thursday because I ended up wearing it for the entire race.
I had a quick warm-up and stretch after realizing there was no way I’d finish eating my bagel. Mostly, I sat in my car afterwards and ate some Chocolate Outrage Gu. When it got to be about 8:45, I started to find the starting line, which was not marked whatsoever. The race was set to start between 9-9:15, so there was a bit of panic for me if I didn’t make the start early enough. As it turns out, the start is down the main road to get into the parking lot so they had to cut it off around 9:00 to set it up. I managed to get settled right around the 1:50 and 1:55 pacers, thinking I’d just go run my race a little slower than both and see where it took me. When the gun went off, I might have been the only crazy person smiling in the rain, so happy that after four months of training the day was finally here.
I cruised comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, despite having a cramp switching sides and places in my stomach from the moment I crossed the starting line. I had another Gu around the 4 mile mark and my legs refused to slow down after that. I was behind the 1:55 group when I had it, but by the time my energy ran out (and my cramp grew in size and pain), I had caught up to the group and then some. I made sure to walk through every water station after mile 3 because I have a bad habit of choking down the water, plus it gave me a moment to recharge. I had my last Gu around mile 8, hoping it’d give me the same feeling as the first but I was pretty dead. Thankfully, there was a pretty big crowd through this point that gave me a little nudge to push through but it was rough. After this point, every water station was much needed but at the same time, it made it so much more difficult to get started again.
In the end, my last 5K was certainly the hardest of the race. People were passing me left and right, but I thought I was keeping my pace up. I kept looking for the 2:00 pacer, but I never saw him. I was convinced I wouldn’t meet my 2:00 time goal. As soon as the last mile came, I tried to reign it in but anytime my feet moved a little faster, I thought I was going to throw up. I’ve only pushed myself to that point three times in my life (twice in high school); they’ve been my best races. I know I couldn’t have run any harder, so even though it sucked to not push it harder, I felt I did my best. When we got to the last .1, I heard the crowd cheering but couldn’t see the finish, it just kept weaving and twisting through the park. Finally, I saw the big inflatable finish and got a boost I didn’t know I had (I always have that boost, even when I think I don’t — it’s my “thing”) and by-passed one man in my sprint. I crossed the finish at 1:59 or so, clock time!
I had to try really hard to not completely lose it once I crossed because my last half mile I was convinced I was going to vomit and cry all at the same time. I was still convinced when I finished that it would happen, but I held it together (you can be proud of me for this, trust me). My boyfriend met me at the finish and took a ridiculous amount of pictures, I’m a little surprised that I don’t look completely disheveled! Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of me during the race, but I’m anxiously awaiting them to be posted from the photographers. I might be suckered into buying a photo, given that they don’t cost an arm and a leg.
Overall, my chip time was 1:57:59. Given that I was aiming for 2:00, I took a full two weeks off, and it was my first half-marathon? I’m ecstatic.
I thought I might finish the half and feel like I could keep going, completely energized and then want to sign up for the Buffalo full marathon next May. Definitely not yet. My toes are recovering still (who needs toenails, anyways?) and though I’m not incredibly sore (thank you, ice baths), the thought of continuing another 13.1 miles is unbearable. That race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life… but I’m definitely signing up for another one!