Half-marathon #5 is in the books! (Or, can I now say that I’ve run 2 1/2 marathons?! Just kidding.)
This one was a repeat–the second time I’ve run the Kansas City half-marathon. Last year was the infamous IT-band injuring event. Even so, it was a fabulous race then. This year did not disappoint either.
I was thrilled to get to run this race with my best friend, Kelly. This was her fifth half-marathon, too, yet we’d never run one together. After doing a couple of training runs together in the past month, we set a goal of getting as close to two hours as possible, and to be sure we crushed Kelly’s PR of 2:09.
Friday night, I was hit with typical pre-race jitters. This prompted me to lay out all of my gear for the next morning, even pinning on my bib and tying on my shoe tag in advance.
I slept pretty well that night, but woke up 30 minutes before my 5:10am alarm, fully awake. So, I took that time to braid my hair and make sure it was secured for the 13.1 miles of bounce.
My dad and Kelly met us (me and B) in our parking lot at 5:30am, and the four of us headed downtown. We got there plenty early, and ended up waiting inside Union Station for about 30 minutes. It’s a good place to wait, since there are nice bathrooms to use before the race. (I went once, but then continued to drink water until race time. This was a mistake. You’ll see why…)
Finally, it was time to walk over to the starting line. Upon getting there, we took a few more pictures:
When we waded into the starting corral, we decided to hang out around the 2:10 pacers, and the sign that said 10-minute miles.
We started out with a comfortable pace, chatting about our race plan (walking through aid stations to eat our chews and drink our water), and catching up on our girl talk. We talked about Kelly’s upcoming wedding, the plans for her bachelorette party and bridal shower. We talked about family members, and the new kitten she and her mom were going to look at that afternoon. Before we knew it, we were seeing B and my dad at Mile 2. (We honestly didn’t even know we’d finished the first mile!)
We hit a frustrating point in the course between Mile 2 and Mile 3.5ish. The course wrapped up by the Liberty Memorial, which was a beautiful view–but a very narrow street. There were cars parked bumper-to-bumper along the road, and we were shoulder-to-shoulder with other runners. It didn’t help that there was a huge hill along that stretch, which lead to a major slow-down. At times, it felt like we were practically running in place.
As we merged onto a wider road, and fell into our groove, our pace started to increase. We started passing people… and passing people… and passing people. We heard some guys who we passed say, “Ugh, relay-ers!” (Implying that we were running the marathon relay, therefore running a shorter distance.) I couldn’t let it go. I turned around and, looking at them, said, “Nope!” in a friendly way. Hey, we were rocking it! I wanted credit where credit was due!
Before we knew it, we were running right behind the 2:05 pacers. Both of us were feeling strong, so we decided to go with it and kept pushing the pace. Within an hour, we were at the half-way point. By this time, I was feeling too warm in my jacket, so I stripped it off and handed it off to my mom at Mile 6.5.
At this point, we rounded the corner into the Westport and Plaza area. The course got pretty congested again, but luckily the course split for the marathon/half-marathon was right ahead, so the crowd dispersed quickly.
We were still plugging along… until about mile 8. We started to slow on a long, long stretch of road. This was the point last year where my knee really started to hurt, and I found myself looking at every tree we passed, wondering if it was the one I’d held on to the year before while trying (unsuccessfully) to stretch and ease the intense IT-band pain. I think my focus on this negative aspect of my previous race must have sent out some bad race juju, because we really started to drag.
I haven’t mentioned yet that literally since Mile 1 of the race so far, I’d needed to pee. Like, really needed to pee. Unfortunately, every Porta-Potty we’d passed had a line of at least five people. So, instead of stopping, I’d sipped less water than usual and tried to use my full bladder as motivation to get to the finish line FASTER. It had worked so far, but now that we were slowing down…
At the Mile 10 aid station, we came across a toilet with no line, and I decided to go for it. After convincing my fingers that they needed to be functional enough to pull off my running skirt (Does anyone else’s fingers go numb and decrease in functionality when running?), I was in-and-out in two minutes or less. Kelly had waited for me, but I still needed to grab a drink and take my energy chew, so I told her to start jogging ahead. I quickly chewed and chugged my cup of water, then sprinted to catch up with her. (Resulting in a stomach cramp, which luckily only lasted about 1/2 mile.)
This little break really did us some good. Kelly was feeling more energized, and I no longer had an extra 20 oz or so sloshing around in my belly. We checked the time on MapMyRun–1:34. “Kelly, if we really, really push it, we might be able to break two hours,” I pointed out. This was enough motivation for us. We started booking it.
At the 11 mile mark we were at 1:42. “Just two 9-minute miles,” I said. “C’mon, we can do it!” Those last two miles are kind of a blur. Not because they went by quickly (believe me, that is definitely not why), but because we were pushing our pace so hard. I could tell Kelly was struggling a couple of times (and so was I!), so I tried to distract her by rambling on about parking signs I saw, finish line pictures, and other useless tidbits. Being the polite friend she is, she was humoring me with, “Oh” and “Yeah” periodically, until finally I told her she didn’t have to respond, I would just keep talking to distract us both.
Finally, we rounded the corner. My dad was standing right at Mile 13. I high-fived him, then Amy’s husband Cory, and looked at Kelly. “Let’s go! We’ve got this!” As we pushed that last tenth of a mile, we saw the clock: 2:03:45. (Remember, it was 4:20 when we started.) “Kelly, we can do it! C’mon!” We absolutely sprinted the last fifty yards or so. “I’m going to throw up!” Kelly cried as we got close. “No, you’re not! C’mon!” We crossed the finish line just in time.
“We did it! We did it! Under two hours!” We kept saying. We were so excited. We made our way through the finishing chute, collected our water, medals, chocolate milk, pretzels, and bananas. Then we met up with my dad, and eventually the rest of the group.
As we were taking pictures, B turned around and noticed that Amy was standing right behind us! Amy is a good friend of mine from both running and Faith Club. You may remember that we ran Hospital Hill together in June. Oh, and she also writes a great blog about running and her life with two adorable daughters.
During all of these finish line festivities, Kelly whipped out her iPhone to look up our official time. “Oh, my gosh, Katie,” she said, phone in hand. “What?” “2 hours… and 4 seconds.”
So, we hadn’t quite broken that two hour mark. What would have made the difference? If I hadn’t stopped to pee? If the course hadn’t been so packed around Mile 3? If we’d pushed it a little harder in that last stretch towards the finish line?
Even though that was a little disappointing, Kelly and I are both still thrilled with how the race went. We enjoyed spending the time together, we pushed ourselves (and each other!), and finished feeling strong and proud. Plus, those extra four seconds are great motivation to do it again!
Kelly and I will be running the Gobbler Grind half-marathon together on Nov. 18. We’ve heard it’s a tough course, though, so we’re not planning to try for that two-hour mark then. It’ll be more of a shake-out run, and a way to burn some extra calories the weekend before Thanksgiving :-)
How was your weekend? Did you run a race? Did you achieve a goal? Did you almost achieve a goal? Have you ever missed a milestone race time by just a few seconds?