notes from a creative writing PhD candidate
I completed my second half marathon yesterday–and beat my first time by nearly 5 minutes!
As most runners will tell you, once you complete a half, you’re addicted. As I was driving to the WWBHM yesterday at 5 a.m. with my fiance, I griped about the cold (it was 38 degrees and we’d just experienced a major cold snap), my not-yet-totally-perfectly-broken-in running shoes, my hectic schedule and half-assed training plan. I distinctly remember uttering this phrase as I jumped out of the car to head to the starting line: “This is the last race I run, I swear. It’s too expensive and too time-consuming.”
The first thing I said after I completed the race: “That was awesome! Which half should I do next?!” (Quickly followed by, “WHERE’S MY FREE BEER!?!!”)
I ran my first half marathon, the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, in May of this year. The next day, sore and muscles still spasming, I signed up for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon, a point-to-point race that begins at Mount Vernon (George Washington’s home) and ends at the National Harbor, in Maryland. It’s pretty cool to run a race that goes through VA, DC and MD–I bet there aren’t many half marathons in the world that go through three different “states.”
Since it’s not a circular route, runners have to park at the National Harbor and take a shuttle to the race start. Everything was well-organized and clearly marked. My fiance dropped me off at 5:30–the buses stop running, supposedly, at 5:45–so I barely made it in time. The race didn’t begin until 7 a.m. so I spent an hour or so just dancing around in the freezing cold. I did get a glimpse of the elite runners warming up, which was pretty amazing. They looked so light on their feet; it appeared as though they were running only on their toes, and their shoes were extremely minimalistic. (I did see one guy running in socks on the course; that was odd. He seemed to be doing fine, though.)
My biggest complaint with this race is the lack of bathrooms. At the start there were only a dozen port-a-johns–a ridiculous number for 2,500 runners. Much to my chagrin, I went in the woods–twice. Hopefully next year the bathroom situation is handled better.
While I may have been griping about the cold at 5 a.m., I was grateful for the autumn chill once I began running. It was between 41-43 degrees during the race: perfect running weather. I wore leggings, a tank top, and a turtleneck (all wicking material) and was completely comfortable. My buff kept my ears warm, the hair and sweat off my face, and my earbuds in; if you’re a female runner, I definitely suggest investing in one of these for races or training runs.
Water stations had tons of volunteers and also offered Gatorade; some even had GUs, which was convenient because I left mine in the car in my hurry to catch the bus to the start. Although the race is advertised as “fast and flat,” I’m not quite sure I’d agree with the “flat” part; the majority of the race is flat, but the first 4 or 5 miles are all rolling hills. There weren’t a ton of cheerleaders/spectators along the course until the end, when we hit downtown Alexandria. And mile twelve–ouch! All uphill going over the Wilson Bridge, but an easy downhill one-mile sprint to the finish. This race is completely on the road, and the constant pounding on asphalt beat up my lower shins and ankles a bit.
I was thrilled that of-age runners were given a beverage ticket for a free beer post-race. (Ah, the little things.) The ticket, though, was barely hanging onto the bib when I received it at the expo; as soon as my bib was pinned and I started walking around, I noticed the ticket was about to fall off. Hopefully the bib-makers (?) can secure it better next year to avoid people complaining that they lost their beverage ticket during the race.
My biggest regret: not training more often. I may have done longer runs in preparation for this race, but I didn’t run as frequently as I should have. Also, I didn’t push myself hard enough at the end; I think I easily could have shaved 10 minutes off my time if I had ramped it up the last two miles. Instead I maintained my pace and ended the race feeling not completely exhausted, which kind-of disappointed me. I did run negative splits (when you run each mile a little faster as you progress through the race) but wish I had gone all-out at the end. Oh, well. Guess I’ll just have to run another one next spring.