Well, I did it. I ran 13.1 miles straight. I'm officially a half-marathoner, and I have the ridiculous blisters to prove it! (Gross, I know.) Although it was the inaugural year for Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh, there were very few hiccups, at least from my perspective! Sure, they ran out of official race bags at the expo, but that's alright. That's what we get for coming in the last hour (around 4:15) on Saturday!
Expo fun: John and I raced these little dinosaurs up the volcano. Even though I was wearing boots, I still beat poor John. Guess all my training paid off ;)
Ta-da! My mom insisted I get a picture in front of these cool balloons at the front of the expo.
We didn't spend much time inside the expo; it was closing down, and I didn't need to much, other than my check-in gear. I was surprised that it took me less than 2 minutes to get there, check-in, and get my bib and shirt! I went with a medium, since on Brooks site it said mediums fit size 6-8, but I like a looser fit when I'm running. I don't care about showing off my curves, so I wanted to exchange mine for a large. Sadly, I couldn't do this at the expo, but I was able to exchange my shirt on race day at an information booth. Again, it took, like, a minute to exchange it- the staff and volunteers were definitely prepared, at the expo, and on race day! (Shout out to my sweet boyfriend, who thought to bring the shirt with him so I could exchange it after I finished!)
Super nice Brooks technical shirt- can't go wrong with a basic black!
That evening, after the expo, I parted ways with my parents and John so I could go to the special Team in Training Inspiration Dinner. (If you're like WTF is Team in Training, see this post!) It was a yummy pasta buffet with salad, steamed veggies, breadsticks, and a variety of cookies and brownies for dessert. The food wasn't what made it special, though- we heard from incredibly motivational speakers who thanked us for our efforts raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The main speaker's personal story with TNT was incredibly touching, but the most moving part of the dinner was seeing how many people in the room stood up as blood cancer survivors. I lost it when I saw a little girl stand up proudly; it was moving and reminded me just why I was running. Even though Uncle Mike didn't make it, there are so many others who just might have a better chance through the research we're helping fund.
Shot of the Inspiration Dinner
Now that I was all fired up and motivated, it was time to prepare for race day! After I laid out my clothes and pinned on my bib, it was time for bed- that four a.m. alarm was going to seem super early if I waited too late!
Pre-race with John! My eyes look crazy because a. I was so jittery, and b. my mom's flash was blinding that early! I wanted to make sure my eyes were OPEN!
Four a.m probably sounds crazy early (because it is), but it gave me plenty of time to wake up at the hotel and get ready. We left the hotel at five on the dot, and I'm so glad we did. We made it to a super-close parking garage downtown without any problems! Sure, we were one of the first cars there, but I'd rather have time to eat a banana, talk to my family, and hang out with Team in Training friends before the race than completely stress out because I'm in a traffic jam at 6:30, just thirty minutes before the race is set to start!
Like I said, I met up with the 120-something other Team in Training participants to snap some group pictures before the race.
Katie was such an encouraging friend to train with! She's somewhat of a half-marathon pro- she's completed 10 and has her eleventh in just a couple weeks! As you can see from her bib, she was completely crazy and did the full marathon! People like Katie and my coach Dean made Team in Training such a fun experience.
I was amazed how quickly the time flew that morning. Before I knew it, it was time to head to my corral! I was in Corral 18, so I anxiously waited while the first 17 groups started the race. I chatted it up with a veteran runner next to me, and I soaked up all the enthusiastic energy around me. I knew I'd be needing it later!
Like I said, I knew I'd need that energy later... Like around mile 9. Look at that brutal incline! I sure didn't choose an easy first half as far as elevation!
Because running a half-marathon wasn't enough, this dude decided to dribble not one, but TWO basketballs while racing. Also pictured, Elvis. They don't call it the "Rock 'n' Roll" for nothing!
Before I knew it, I was off! I think I managed to pace myself really well at the beginning. I didn't feel burnt out or tired until mile ten-ish, and up until then, the race seemed to fly by! I think fueling myself throughout the race was crucial, but the fabulous weather certainly didn't hurt!
John took some happy pictures of me throughout the race! Here I was at my second family sighting! I was so excited, because I got the chance to read some pretty fun signs my mom made.
This sign really kept me going. I saw it, and I knew I wanted it to be my running mantra. Honestly, it may have been because I was feeling so emotional, but it struck a chord with me. I need to celebrate every moment, not only while I run, but also every other moment in life. It reminded me of my Uncle Mike, who celebrated little things, like playing frisbee and jumping in a freezing cold lake. His life may have been cut short, but at least he celebrated every moment before leukemia.
Muah! I got creative with my poses when I saw my family. John captured the kiss I blew him and my parents around Mile 6.
See that sign? 10k down, AKA almost half-way there! It's amazing to think that just a year ago, I was worn out after a 10k. This year, that wasn't even my halfway point, and my time was still better!
Like I said, the last few miles were brutal, but I kept on trucking, mainly because I thought of my family, all the people who've been affected by blood cancers, and how close I was to accomplishing a big dream. I kept repeating, "Own every mile. Cherish every moment," over and over again in my head, until I crossed the finish line 2 hours 29 minutes and 5 seconds after I started. I beat my personal goal for an under 2.5 hour finish!
I mean, if you say so...
As soon as I finished, I grabbed my medal, a water bottle, a cold towel, and headed for the Team in Training tent. They had plenty of goodies for me, including another medal (specifically for charity participants) and lots of food. I inhaled a cupcake and almost cried tears of joy when I saw mini packets of Swedish Fish. I was almost as happy when I reunited with my family. ;)
So glad he loves me even when I'm a sweaty mess!
My favorite sign.
This sign needs a little background... When I told my Uncle Mike I was going to run to raise money for cancer research, he told me "Atta girl!" This wasn't the first time he'd encouraged me with those words, but, sadly, it was the last. In fact, it was the second-to-last text I ever got from him. Seeing my dad hold up a sign with his brother on it, proudly cheering me on, meant more than I can say.
I am so, so, SO thankful my parents came out to support me! How precious is that sign my mom is holding, too?! Belle has always been my favorite princess!
Closeups on the bling ;)
Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better first half-marathon experience. Yes, I said first, and yes, I'm already scheming up my second one... There's a little truth behind the "addiction" part of running, although I'm looking forward to some weeks off! Finally, to everyone who supported me along this journey, either through donations or cheers, thank you so much! I know Uncle Mike would celebrate this moment!