For about a week leading up to the race, it was basically all I could think about! On the day before the big day, I went for a short 2-mile shakeout run in the morning with my friend Anna. After so many Saturday long runs, two miles felt like nothing! I was able to skip the fanfare of the expo (sorry, “Expotique”) because they offered early packet pickup for local runners the weekend before. I loved this feature because having my bib and corral bracelet ahead of time saved me from the stress of long lines and crowds on race weekend. I tried to go to bed early, but that 4:30am alarm still came way too early. For breakfast I ate my usual pre-run morning meal: a sliced banana and peanut butter on an English muffin and hot tea. We took the metro downtown from our house in Greenbelt and arrived at the race area just a few minutes after six. There were already so many people around, and I definitely felt both excited and nervous!
I was in the 8:00-8:59 pace corral, and I was very glad to see that it wasn’t too crowded so I could stand very close to the front. The gun went off at 7:00am, and I was able to cross the start line just 20 seconds later. My husband told me that it took much longer for people in other corrals to start, so I was lucky to be so close to the front!
My plan was to run the first three miles as a warm-up, nice and easy around 8:50-9:10 pace, then settle in to my race pace of 8:30-8:45 until mile ten, and see how I feel for the last three miles. I should say, that was Jess’s plan for me, and it sounded like a smart approach, so that’s what I intended to do. But…it didn’t really happen.
I went out pretty quickly for the first mile, and the second mile, and the third, and I felt great. For the first 9 miles I was able to run a fairly steady 8:30 pace, and I was so excited because that was faster than I had been in my training runs. The crowds cheering us on were fantastic, the course was completely beautiful, and the weather couldn’t have been better for a spring race. I was fueling pretty well throughout, but by mile 10 my quads really cramped up and I realized I hadn’t hydrated for a while. I got some water and slowed down for miles 10 and 11 to regroup and check in with my body. After mile 11 I said to myself (and everyone around me), I have two miles left in me! Another runner nearby heard me and agreed that two miles is nothing, we could do it, and that little motivation helped pick me up for the finish.
Once I hit the 12 mile marker I wanted to pick up the pace to finish strong. I saw my husband and two of our awesome friends cheering right around mile 12.5, and their encouragement was exactly what I needed at that point to get me across the finish line. Right after I passed them I turned the corner and the finish line was in sight! The race clock was at 1:54 at that point, so I gave it everything I had left in my legs (not much!) to try to finish under 1:55, but my end time was just over at 1:55:12. It was still a PR, so I’ll take it!
Have I mentioned that the finisher’s award for this race is a Tiffany necklace that is given to you by a handsome man wearing a tuxedo? Yes, seriously. After getting my little blue box from a guy in a tux, I met up with Joe and our friends, snapped a few pictures to celebrate, and headed back toward home for a huge breakfast at one of my favorite diners. My legs were already very sore and I had a terrible blister on one of my toes, but I was really happy that I was done!
I felt like everything came together perfectly for the race, and I’m not sure how much of that was good preparation and how much was just good luck, but I’ll take it. I do wish I had run a slightly smarter race, paced myself a little more evenly, and stuck more closely to my race plan. I definitely raced this one by feel rather than by my watch, and now I want to sign up for more races to see what else I’m capable of! Maybe a 10k next?