First things first – I survived! I know some people were really worried (*ahem, grandmothers*) but never fear – 13.1 miles is nothing to me! Ok, that is a total lie. But I did finish!
Let’s back up to the beginning – my parents got in Friday night, and we had a relaxing dinner of pasta salad and bread (and several desserts) in our apartment.
At about 9pm, they headed to their hotel and I started to get ready for bed. First, I made sure that I had everything laid out and ready – didn’t want to have any surprises at 5:15am!
Shoes and socks, clothes, race number and timing tag for my shoe, chapstick, iPhone armband and headphones, gummies, road ID and Kleenex. I also laid out my breakfast, and some sunscreen to put on. I was ready to go! Of course, I proceeded to lay in my bed and read for awhile – I knew that it was going to be a tough battle to turn my brain off. But I finally got to sleep around 11pm.
At 5:15am, the first of my two alarms went off. Wasn’t taking any chances! I popped out of bed, downed a small coffee and my english muffin with peanut butter and a banana. I also started guzzling water. After about 45 minutes, I was dressed and ready…and antsy. I woke Sarah up and being the good roommate that she is, she drove me the 5 minutes to the start in Centennial Park. Would have been super convenient to still live across the street in the Vanderbilt Towers!
I walked around for a few minutes, then I sat down on the curb to compose my thoughts for a bit. Pretty soon I realized that I should probably get in line for the
bathrooms porta-potties. And thank goodness I did at that moment! Because even though it was only 6:25am, I stood in line until 6:50am. And yes, the race started at 7am. Crazy! Plus, they ran out of TP but luckily the woman in front of me was smart and had brought a roll. Notes to self: BYOTP and get in line the second you get to the starting village next time.
After using the restroom (and feeling sorry for the hundreds of poor souls who were still in line), I headed to line up in my corral: Corral 15. Right when I got there, they started to play the National Anthem. And 31,000 runners (and everyone spectating along the starting line) fell silent. Pretty cool moment!
At this point, I heard my name and looked to my right – my parents were standing right there, ready to watch me start! They were staying in the Marriott right next to Centennial, so it was incredibly convenient – albeit not necessarily the cheapest place in town!!
After about 20 minutes of shuffling forward as each corral took off, we were approaching the starting line.
They let each group (called corrals) off about every minute and a half or so, so that the course wouldn’t be super-crowded at the beginning. Not that it wouldn’t be crowded – there were 31,000 runners after all, between the half and the full marathon! – but it made the start a little less chaotic.
After a brief countdown, we were off!
Right when I crossed the starting line, I was excited. I had to constantly tell myself to go slowly – the nerves and adrenaline were seriously pumping, and I didn’t want to burn out early! Around the first half-mile or so, the full gravity of what I was about to do hit me: I have to run 13.1 miles. Wow. But I pushed that thought from my mind, and just tried to settle in to my pace.
The first mile was pretty much uphill the whole way, but we were running up Broadway into downtown so I was loving it. After so many nights spent on Broadway in college, it was cool to run to it during the daylight! Right before we turned off of Broadway, I saw my first favorite sign – “Worst Parade Ever”. There were actually several of these, which I loved!
Mile two was downhill down onto Broadway, and then we turned the corner to start heading back up towards the Vanderbilt area. Mile three was a pretty steep climb, because we had to get back up out of the valley that holds the downtown area, and there were a lot of people walking. But I was feeling good, and kept to my 10min/mile pace pretty well! I also had my first water right around the 3-mile mark.
I knew I was going to see my friends and family around mile four, so I had my eyes peeled on the sidelines. We started running up 17th avenue towards the Belmont area, and I spotted them pretty immediately thanks to their big yellow sign! My roomies (Sarah and Skyler), Sarah’s friend Laura, my friend Claire and my parents were all there cheering me on. It was a big boost to see them, and I gave them a thumbs up to let them know that I was feeling alright!
Miles four and five were part of our St. Patty’s Day 5k route, so I enjoyed reliving that race – even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy the big hill. We also came past the Belmont area during mile five, home to some of my favorite restaurants and coffeshops. Also home to a lot of enthusiastic spectators!
Miles six and seven were the first ones that I remember being pretty tough. I had just had the first of my energy chews, but they hadn’t kicked in yet. We were back more in a neighborhood, so the crowds were thinner and we went longer without a water station because of the lack of accessibility. I was definitely ready to get back into the 12th south area for mile eight!
Mile eight was pretty hilly, but it was also home to my favorite spectator of the day – minus my friends and family of course. A guy was holding up a sign that said “Do it for Katniss” a la the Hunger Games, and the racer in front of me did the three-fingered salute that Katniss did for District 8 in the movie. I was dying! The guy looked super shocked and entertained as well – it was the perfect boost to get me through that long stretch of hills and little shade.
I also knew that mile nine was going to bring me to my spectators again, which gave me another big boost! They told me afterward that I still looked pretty good when they saw me at the 9-mile mark, but by this point I was starting to feel more tired. The sun had also come out full force, and it was warming up!
After we came through the circle on Music Row (also part of our 5k course – although it was the finish line for that), we headed into one of my hardest miles: mile ten took us down into the Gulch, but the route getting there was brutally sunny and hot. Not a speck of shade in sight, plus some hills. By this point in the race, I was pretty ready to be done. We turned the corner on mile eleven and started heading towards the farmer’s market on mile twelve.
Miles twelve and thirteen were by far the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life. They were hot, they weren’t shady, they were pretty steadily uphill – everyone around me was walking. Mile thirteen was completely uphill the entire way. It also had numerous cutbacks through downtown, so I kept thinking that we were close to the finish but then we would head back away from the bridge across the river. I have never been so miserable, or so determined. All thoughts of times, or finishing under 2:10, flew from my mind: my only goal now was to finish that last mile without walking. Because pretty much everyone else had thrown in the towel. By God I was not going to run twelve miles just to stop and walk in the last one!
It was an exercise in absolute mental fortitude. I just kept telling myself that I can do anything for ten minutes. And I kept putting one foot in front of the other. It helped that some of my favorite songs came on at the very end – good thing I put so much work into my playlist! When we finally approached the bridge and saw that the last quarter-mile or so was all downhill, I kicked in what little speed I had left and decided to attempt to sprint at the end. It was a very slow sprint, but I managed to pass several people at the end so I felt good about that! I crossed the finish line with my hands up, thanking God that it was over and that I finished. My official time? 2:13:35. My secret goal was to make it in under 2:10, but I think that’s still pretty great for my first half-marathon. In hilly Nashville on a hot day? I’ll take it.
I weaved my way through the bottleneck of people, got my finisher’s medal, downed an entire bottle of water, and grabbed a cold towel. I also waved to my spectators to let them know that I was alive!
After snagging a Gatorade and some pretzels and a banana, I headed out to greet the crowds. And to give some sweaty hugs (I warned them to hug at their own risk). And to take an inordinate amount of pictures!
Next we wandered over into the finisher’s village. First stop? Get my medal engraved! It had a spot on the back for your name and time, which is pretty cool. And they even did it while you waited – much better than trying to track down someone to engrave it later on. Then we walked over to the swag tent, and my parents bought me the cute pink jacket that I had been coveting at the expo as a finisher’s gift. Aren’t they the best? And I even got a free t-shirt out of it, so now I’m totally fitted out with Country Music Marathon 2012 gear.
At this point, we found our friend Jason who had also run the 5k with us. He finished right around the same time I did!
By now, it had been almost an hour since I had finished, so we decided to begin the long trek back to the car. Now I appreciate more what we put Kelsey through last year! We headed back across the pedestrian bridge towards downtown, away from the craziness of LP Field where the finish line was.
It was home for a quick stretch and shower, and then off to Mad Donna’s for brunch! The Bloody Mary bar was calling our names…
After a quick trip to the outlet mall (I know – the least likely post-marathon excursion ever), my parents headed home and I headed to dinner at the Pharmacy and drinks at Holland House with Sarah and Laura. I think I was still being fueled by adrenaline and a serious runner’s high! By the time we got home around 10pm, I crashed in my bed. All in all, it was a pretty great day. One that I will for sure remember for the rest of my life!
Today we’re off to the flea market, and then squeezing in a little pool time. My legs are certainly sore, but nothing a little R&R and medicine can’t handle! I just want to say again how thankful I am for everyone who supported this crazy goal of mine, in any way, shape or form. There is no way that I would have crossed that finish line without y’all!