The day has finally arrived that I will run my first half marathon. I start my day by waking up at 3 am, which I am not overly thrilled about. The race is 2 hours away and we will have to get there early enough to park, catch the shuttle, pick up our bibs, do bag check, and get prepared before our 8 am start time. On the drive down, I was so tired (I drove). We got to our destination around 6:10 but the shuttles had not started to run yet so I decided to close my eyes for a few minutes to get myself energized. I set my alarm for 6:30, woke up, grabbed my stuff, and headed for the shuttle bus. Upon arrival, my excitement really started to kick in. I didn’t feel nervous, just so happy that today was the day I will reach yet another goal that I set for this year.
As we walked around the festival area, the announcers named some really cool points of interest that we will be passing during our run. I had never been to Trenton before so to see what our state capitol had to offer was an added bonus. Some points of interest were the State House, Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge, Cadwalader Park, and the Arm & Hammer Park which is the home of the Trenton Thunder. We picked up our bibs, fueled up, checked our bags and headed to the start line where there was a Revolutionary War fife and drum band playing. It was quite chilly and I had to keep moving as my toes & fingers were starting to get numb. As we lined up in the starting corral, I made my way to the 10 minute pacer and waited for the race to begin. I saw Wendy, the woman who suggested I run this half marathon, and her husband as they made their way to the starting corral and we wished each other good luck. I put in my ear buds, got my music cued up, and started to get really excited once the Star Spangled Banner played. Next thing I know, I hear the sound of the start gun & we are off!
For the first mile as usual I thought, what have I gotten myself into? Why am I running this when it is so far? Damn it is cold out here! By the time I reached mile 3 I thought, if this were a 5K I would be done right about now, but I still have 10 miles to go. What have I gotten myself into? As we merged with the 10K group and crossed the Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge the grated terrain would cause my knees to start to feel very sore, but I pressed on. Reaching the water station after mile 6 I thought to myself, you can do this, you are already halfway there. The next few miles seemed to go on forever and as I headed up the hill & into Cadwalader Park at mile 8 my body started to feel fatigued. This time I had fueled and alternated water & Gatorade so I didn’t understand why my body felt this way. I realized later that much of it was in my head. I had lost my groove as I felt the pain in my knees and foot, but I knew I had to get my head back into it & press on.
As we looped back around and headed down the hill I saw one of the familiar faces I knew, Anna-Marie, at this event running with her husband that had recently been in the hospital and she was pushing her daughter in a jogger up the hill. She and her husband had completed the Marine Corps Marathon just a few weeks earlier and now they were doing this half marathon. I was so impressed with this and thought to myself, what an inspiration they are and what a great example are they setting by doing this as a family! I also thought, what am I whining about? She is pushing her daughter up hills and I am just running myself. Seeing this, I finally started to get back into my running zone.
Pretty much the entire race, another friend I was running with was always a few strides ahead and every time I would catch up, he would go faster and pull away from me again. This continued from mile 1 until about mile 10. I maintained a slow and steady pace and didn’t want to go too hard too early on and risk cramping before the finish line. Just as I passed the mile 10 marker my legs started to feel better and I began to feel more energized. I thought to myself, heck you just have to run this 5K now, before was your warm up. My friend, Troy, who I had been behind pretty much the whole race, started to get sore and began to cramp and that is where I was finally able to pass him. I wouldn’t see him again until the finish line. I was in the zone and just kept running. As I approached the last mile, I see runners that had finished before me walking by and cheering us on and telling us that the finish line was so close.
As I ran towards the Arm & Hammer ballpark, I began to become emotional. I felt so proud that I was about to have accomplished yet another goal that I had set out to complete this year. My heart started to pound and my adrenaline started to really get going. I picked up my speed and as I entered the stadium to take that final lap around the ballpark to cross the finish line I realized that I had done it and in a much better time than I had hoped and would beat my goal by 15 minutes! As I ran across the finish line, I felt such a sense of accomplishment! I waited for my friend who had been in front of me until mile 10 and we walked over to get out medals together. Our legs were so sore, that we had to walk around, but waited for my other two friends to cross the line and took some post race pics.
As we stood on the lawn, we were able to see the youngest person ever to run a half marathon cross the finish line. He was 5 years old and after he finished the race, he hugged his dad, received his medal and walked over to the lawn where a few of us gave him hi-5’s! After a little rest, we headed up the stadium stairs to get our post run pretzel and banana and to take some pictures and we saw Anna-Marie as she was on her way to pick up her daughter’s bib so she could race in the kids run. We didn’t have time for a group photo as she was in a hurry so I wished her daughter well and we headed down to get our bags and put our coats on since I was freezing! After getting out bags from bag check & putting our coats on we headed to check out the merchandise and then headed over the after party to get our free beer!
After our beer, we got on the shuttle bus and headed back to the parking lot and then went to Applebee’s to celebrate our achievement. We couldn’t stay long as we had places to get to, for me it was my son’s football game. I made it there just as the clock was winding down in the 4th quarter and by the time I parked and made it to the field, the game was over. My son’s team won and I had missed it. I felt bad and went over to my son and said “mommy just got here and I missed you play, I am sorry buddy” and he responded in the cutest way. He said, “well did you win or come in last?” I said “no, I was about in the middle” and then he asked to see my medal and said “it’s ok mommy, that is a cool medal and I am proud of you”. That meant so much to me!
There was a lot of family there to support my son at his game and they ended up coming back to my house afterwards. I was so tired and and as soon as they left around 8 pm I finally showered, ate, and laid down to ice my knees and rest. As I laid there in bed, I recalled what a great day it was and felt proud of my accomplishment. I was already wondering when my next one would be and where.