One year after we ran the SunTrust National Marathon — our first 26.2 race ever — Epod, Heather, and I were back at RFK on Sunday to race the event again. This time, though, we “only” did the half.
Eight months after they moved to Denver, Heather and her boyfriend D were back in DC to visit and run the National Half. Their goals were to beat a certain time, maybe even get a PR. My goal? To run the whole race pain-free.
Also, to not fall while filming it:
Race week started with a couple of 5+-mile runs that felt great. I had been icing and stretching and foam-rolling my right knee all week, determined not to fall apart at the end of the half on Saturday. By Friday, I was feeling strong and confident as we went to the Stadium Armory for packet pickup.
There, I met a couple of giants in the racing world. Kara Goucher, who’s running Boston next month and who seemed genuinely excited to meet me (celebrities sure seem taller in person):
And Dana Casanave, who last year raised thousands of dollars for an African charity by running 52 marathons in 52 weeks last year. She gave a really inspirational speech and was super nice to random people approaching her and asking for photos (also, VERY tall):
On race eve, Epod, Heather, D, and I went to Pasta Mia for a carbo-loading dinner. We consumed two bottles of wine, two baskets of bread, and four plates of enough pasta to feed a small village. Seriously, we could have split one dish and I still would have eaten enough glycogen to get me through the race. But since I’m not a quitter, I ate way too much and followed dinner up with a few beers at a buddy’s BBQ that evening (not the way to get a PR, by the way).
I had trouble sleeping and woke up at 4:30am on Saturday groggy and bleary-eyed. I picked up Kate and we all drove to the madness that was RFK, where no one knew anything about parking or where to go but where we luckily found a spot on East Capitol that a cop implied would “probably” be OK to park in.
My goal, like I said, really was to just run pain-free. For the first time in a while, I had no number in my head when it came to a time goal, so it felt sort of liberating not to worry about a quantifiable target. I knew that if I ran too hard and aggravated my IT band, I would be pissed at myself. And I knew I couldn’t break my PR of 1:54:44 so I decided to just have fun.
This goal was further cemented by the fact that there would be a huge hill around mile 7 that would wipe me out if I didn’t conserve enough energy. Running up Connecticut and Columbia avenues is not the most fun aspect of running; luckily, there is so much support from Dupont to Adams Morgan that the time flies by.
Race support matters so much it’s almost surprising. Random strangers cheering you on just makes you happier and you (subconsciously, at least) run better hearing their cheers.
I also had several friends who came out to watch: MJ at mile 4 on Constitution Ave, and Ryan and Nicole both at mile 7-ish on Columbia. I like to stop and say hi when I see friends but they seem to think I’m in a hurry or something and often make me keep going. How about a breather, come on!
By mile 9, I was dragging and it was all too easy to walk a bit longer during water breaks. But at mile 9.3, just as I was about to eat my second serving of shot blocks, I felt a hard slap on my ass as a runner flew by, her blonde ponytail swinging side-to-side. “Fuck!” I yelled as I realized Epod, who had taken an early 3-minute port-a-pottie break, had caught up and passed me.
No time for shot blocks, I thought, my competitive juices flowing. I cannot let her beat me. I picked up the pace and started to trail her in the hopes of reeling her in.
Yet step after step, I could not catch her. Her stride looked effortless and I knew she was running a special race. Passing her would just be a dick move, I thought, even if I could catch up to her. By mile 12.5, when I knew my knee would be OK, I finally ran faster and caught her.
We ran the rest of the way together, with Epod showing a surprising kick that left me in the dust the last few yards. We ran the last mile or so at an 8:45 pace and finished with the same chip time of 2:08:38.
It was my third slowest half marathon time but one of my most enjoyable. It was Epod’s PI-PR (post-injury personal record), which gave her a runner’s high the rest of the day.
We got through the clusterfuck of the finish line and food tent and met up with D and Heather, who ran a PR of 1:42:04 (maybe a slight hangover is good for running). We also saw MJ, who I know wished she had been able to run it with us.
We warmed up inside the Armory and then went back out to cheer on Kate, who was running her first full marathon. We saw her just as she crossed the finish line in 3:27:56 and had so much energy she was reportedly dancing at mile 16.
Kate invited us to her place for a post-race brunch. One of the great benefits of running is how tasty food is after a long race. We scarffed down cookies, quiche, fruit, banana bread, and mimosas like it was going out of style.
When we got home that afternoon, Epod and I fell asleep and snoozed for I don’t know how many hours before waking up around 6pm. It was a great race day, one I won’t forget anytime soon.
Next race? Cherry Blossom 10-miler this Sunday!