Do you have a friend who is always down for crazy, spur of the moment ideas? My friend, Natalie, who lives in Boston is one of those friends.
Natalie and I “met” through Instagram. Last December, she and I both ran the Happy Holidays Half Merrython in Gloucester, MA. We didn’t know each other, but while looking at race photos on Instagram, we connected and started following each other. Fast forward to summer 2016 – I was walking into my gym and lo and behold, Natalie was walking out! How crazy is it that we both go to the same gym, let alone live in the same neighborhood?! So, we kept in touch and earlier this fall, decided to go on a long run together. We decided to meet at 6:30am on a Saturday, run 14 miles, and then we had a fun idea – run a 5k race! So we did, and crushed 17.1 miles total that morning.
Anyway, the week after I ran the Charlotte Marathon (so in mid-November), I walked into the gym for a spinning class, and Natalie was there lifting weights. I walked over to her and said, “Crazy idea – wanna run a half marathon in 3 weeks?” Natalie’s response was, “You know I can’t say no!”
So, it was settled. She and I both registered for the Frosty Half Marathon in Raynham, MA. Because it was just a few weeks after the Charlotte Marathon, I didn’t do any long training runs. In fact, I only ran six or seven times between the Charlotte Marathon on November 12th, and the half marathon on December 11th. These runs were short (3-4 miles) and at a recovery pace (10-11 minute miles). I knew giving my legs the rest they deserved after the marathon was important, but in the back of my mind I kept worrying that I was getting “out of shape”.
Race day came, and Natalie’s brother, Nick, ended up joining us for the half marathon. We carpooled out to Raynham (about a 45 minute drive) and arrived at 7:15am for Packet Pickup. You wouldn’t believe the temperature when we got there – 9 degrees!!
Race day outfit.
The race didn’t start until 8:30am, so all the runners were hanging out in the cafeteria where it was warm. The race started and ended at a middle school, and it finally warmed up to 12 degrees! 😉 While waiting in the cafeteria, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and a very sweet woman named Sara introduced herself. She mentioned how she follows my running/weight loss Instagram account (@elizabeth_healthy_life), and just wanted to say good luck before the race. I absolutely love meeting people through Instagram – first Natalie and now Sara. The running community is truly one of a kind.
Once it was 8:30am, the half marathon started and we were off! I had a few goals for this run: A) Don’t check my pace on my Garmin, B) Stay with Natalie, C) have fun, and D) don’t get hypothermia.
Nice and warm 🙂
I wore three upper body layers during the run (Under Armour base, wick T-shirt, shell), a warm headband, gloves, and Oiselle leggings. During the first mile, my fingers were pretty cold and slowly became numb. My two base layers also started bunching up to above my belly button – such an uncomfortable feeling. So I took my gloves off, pulled the two shirts down (luckily I had a shell jacket over them so no one could see my stomach), and put my gloves back on. Literally ten seconds later, the two shirts start bunching up again, rolled up to above my belly button, and pulled my FlipBelt up with them too! So now I had three things up around my rib cage, and my stomach was freezing. So, I took my gloves off again, fixed everything, and put my gloves back on (all while running). I had to do this FOUR TIMES during the first mile. Not exactly how you want to start off a race. Finally, my shirts and FlipBelt stayed put starting at mile 2. Phew!
Raynham is a very residential town so we were just running through neighborhoods. There weren’t many people watching, but I didn’t mind. It was nice to have a quiet run.
Around mile 4, I refueled with my first Gu. I always keep the Gu’s in the back of my FlipBelt but because of all my layers it was hard to reach in the back and grab one. I finally got one after about a minute of fiddling around with my belt.
At mile 4, my iPod suddenly came unhooked from my headphones and crashed on the road. I turned around, ran back and got it, dropped it again, picked it up, and then started running, trying to make up for lost time. I kept thinking, “Wow, this really isn’t my race”. My iPod has never fallen out of my FlipBelt before.
I kept telling myself everything was okay and that I really hadn’t lost much time at all despite the constant setbacks. (I wasn’t 100% sure about that, but just tried to stay as positive as possible). At mile 4.5, I tried skipping a song on my iPod, but I guess I hit a different button because my music suddenly went off. I kept hitting different buttons but no music came back on. “Oh well”, I thought, “Guess I’ll just listen to myself breathing for the rest of the race”. So, I ran the next three miles without music. Honestly, I was totally fine with this because I do all of my training without music, and just listen to it during races.
At mile 6, I noticed that I kept kicking myself in the ankles while taking steps. I never do that and am not sure why I was doing it on Sunday. After I got back home, I took off my socks and I have two small bruises, one on the inside of each ankle. I guess I was kicking myself a lot harder than I realized!
Because of all that happened within the first six miles, I was starting to feel pretty defeated, and like it just wasn’t my day. Even though I felt strong physically, my mental strength was starting to fade quickly. But, I started thinking about how this was probably my last race until March – 3 whole months! And if I didn’t push it now, I wouldn’t have the chance to prove my mental and physical strength to myself until then. So I told myself to turn off all negative feelings, and instead I started thinking about my brother, Robert.
I thought about how much he loved to run. How positive he was and how he always made small jokes to make others laugh. I thought about how he always cheered me on no matter how bad I felt. Even though I was not nearly as strong a runner as I am now, he was always down to go for a run with me. Robert slowed his pace dramatically just so I could keep up with him. At the end of each run, he always claimed he really didn’t slow down much at all, and that I was just a faster runner than I thought I was. That was Robert. He did anything in his power to make his family and friends feel special.
These memories lit a spark in me. “C’mon Elizabeth”, I thought, “You CAN do this. You CAN push past these obstacles. Just run for it. Run for Robert.”
And so I did. I started moving my legs faster and took control of my breathing. I pressed a random button on my iPod to try to get music playing one more time, and music started blaring through my headphones. Mile after mile I pushed myself mentally. I felt like the runner version of The Little Engine That Could. I stayed with a group of runners starting at mile 8, and way ahead of me, I could see Natalie.
At mile 10, Natalie was getting water at the water station, and I ran passed her. She caught up to me and yelled something. I couldn’t hear her because of my music, but I had a feeling I knew what she was saying. I had a feeling she was telling me that if I kept that pace up, I would PR.
So what did I do? I ran even faster. There were only 3.1 miles left in the course, and I told myself to stay close to Natalie no matter what it took. It’s like she had a rope and was pulling me along the course. I was not going to let her get out of sight, and I was not going to let this PR slip away.
Mile 11 passed. I thought about things like, “Ok, only one more mile marker until we’re almost there.” Mile 12 and the final water station passed, and I thought, “The next time I see a mile marker, I’m there”. Finally, I saw the Mile 13 sign way down the road. There was one man between Natalie and me. I started sprinting, passing the man, and closing the gap between Natalie and me. Natalie pushed on to the finish, and I turned the final corner and saw the timer at 1:49:04. “Oh my gosh. I did it. I PR’ed!!”, I thought. I approached and crossed the finish line with the biggest smile on my face, and with a time of 1:49:26, a 2 1/2 minute PR.
Natalie and me.
Natalie, Nick, and me.
After the race, I was so excited and couldn’t stop hugging Natalie. All runners were welcome to a free hot breakfast buffet in the school’s cafeteria. Natalie, Nick, and I were so excited about the food, and kept joking around about how the buffet was motivating us during the run. Or were we serious? 😉
Go big or go home.
This was my 7th half marathon. Soon after the race ended, I learned that I had placed 7th in my age group (Females 20-29). Robert’s lucky number was 7.
This medal has quite the story.
I was in shock. I still am thinking about how I think this race is a sign from Robert. My 7th half, and placing 7th. I always look out for signs from Robert, and I have a feeling this is another sign from him. He was the one telling me I could do it at mile 6. I believe he was running with me and motivating me to run for it. And I did.