I am a little late getting to this recap, but I have to dish about my race this past weekend. Before Sunday, I had only run one official half marathon, and that was the Cleveland Marathon half in 2011. Every major race after that had been a full marathon. Due to the lack of time to train with work and personal commitments, I thought that running a few halfs would be fun. They are challenging enough but don’t require the huge training and time commitments that fulls do.
First up for my half marathon month was the Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleveland Half Marathon. This was the inaugural year, and I was excited to be a part of it. We kicked off the weekend with the expo on Saturday. I did a little shopping (nothing too crazy; just some Gu Chomps and PowerBars) and enjoyed looking at the vendors. The official merchandise was really nice, but I chose to save money instead of spending. I did sneak in a photo op in one of their mirrors.
With going to sleep super early the night before, I was up and ready to go at 4:30 am on race morning. I like to have plenty of time to get ready, eat, etc. I got up, did my hair and makeup (yep, I wear makeup to races), and made breakfast – toast with chocolate peanut butter and banana on top. I swear that is magical fuel for races. Even though Raymond can’t run, he still comes to my races, which I am thankful for. And I am even more thankful that he is willing to drive me downtown because I hate it.
We left the house around 5:45 am and arrived in Cleveland around 6:15 am. Luckily, we were able to snag street parking that wasn’t too far from the finish. We made our way to the start near the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and I make a last-minute bathroom stop. Near the Rock Hall, we found our friends Jeffrey, Janine, and Jeff. Jeffrey always makes me laugh. He doesn’t really train, pretty much eats and drinks whatever he wants before a race, and still busts out some amazing times. There is something to be said for people with natural talent.
Soon the sun was coming up, and it was time to line up in the start corrals. I had to admit that I was amazed I was in corral 3 out of 8. I don’t consider myself a fast runner, so when I realized I was that close to the start, it was kinda cool. The first two corrals had their start, and then it was my turn. I was ready.
I had a hard time getting a steady pace for the first few miles. I don’t run with people during training, so when I get in a group, it is hard for me to monitor how fast or slow I’m going unless I am constantly looking at my watch. The fact that I am getting a little speedier doesn’t make it easy either. I went out fast and was surprised at my 5K time. I didn’t sweat it, though, because I felt great and knew I would eventually settle down. Finally, I got into a good rhythm around miles 4 and 5. During those first few miles, I was happy to see my own little cheering section on the side of the course. Raymond, Janine, and Jeff were yelling and cheering me on, and their support was greatly appreciated.
As I continued to run I was amazed at the hills that were included in the course. I guess I was expecting something like the Cleveland Marathon’s course, which is touted as being fast and flat. This, on the other hand – not so much. We had the gradual hill up from Brown’s stadium at the start, the hill by St. Malachi Church near the beginning, and then a lot of hills in the second half when we were down by the Flats. Honestly, I lost track of the number of hills in this race. The discouraging part was most of the people around me were walking. I’m not knocking the walkers, but it makes it hard to press on when everyone around you is walking. But press I did! I was very pleased that despite the significantly slower pace, I did not walk up any of the hills.
The miles clicked by, and I was feeling great! I remember getting to mile 10 and shouting, “Only a 5K left!” I heard some cheers but mostly groans from the people surrounding me, probably because we were headed up a hill at that point. Around mile 11, I heard a shout from across one of the bridges. My friend from college, Marcia, was also running the half, and she spotted me. Her encouragement was so helpful.
I admit I started to fade a little as I made my way over the Carnegie Bridge and back into downtown. I thought I would feel more energized at this point because of being so close to the end, but I didn’t. I kept going, knowing that the finish was indeed coming. When I rounded the corner toward the finish line, my left calf cramped. Stopping was no option at this point, and I kept running. The finish felt a lot longer than I anticipated, kinda like I was running forever to reach it. At last I crossed and stopped my watch – 2 hours 3 minutes 56 seconds, which was a 9:28 pace. When I stopped, I saw Raymond and walked over to him. He offered some congratulations, which I can’t remember at this point, and I mumbled something about my stupid calf cramping. But it didn’t matter; I had a major PR to celebrate! I continued walking through the finishers’ area, collected my medal, grabbed some food and chocolate milk, and met up with Raymond. I was so excited about the new PR and honored it with the free, celebratory beer.
This really was a great race, and I ran better than expected. My goal was to shoot for a 9:40 pace, and I surpassed that, even with all of the hills. The spectators helped keep my motivation level high, and the amount of support was greatly appreciated. From the course entertainment to the volunteers to the effort the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series put into the inaugural event, I couldn’t have asked for a better race. Well, maybe a few less hills would be nice.
Here are a few random things I wanted to mention.
- The race had motivational signs on the side of the course, especially when we were going up the hills. My personal favorite of the race was, “Sweat like a pig. Look like a fox.” I don’t know how foxy I looked, but with the heat, I was certainly sweaty.
- No matter how many times I’ve seen this spectator sign, it never fails to make me laugh – “Smile if you peed a little.”
- Cleveland running events have a great fan base! I love the number of spectators who come out to cheer us on. Although I love them all, I have to say Ohio City/Tremont areas are my favorite. Running through there is so energizing!
- I am not sure if I have ever seen a barefoot runner in a major race, but I definitely noticed a guy on Sunday. He was coming back over one of the bridges when I saw him and was hauling in nothing but a pair of shorts! As a person who hates to be barefoot, I don’t even like to walk outside, so the thought of running through busy city streets is completely amazing (and gross) to me. I made sure I cheered loudly as he passed.
- Holy hotness! When I signed up for this race, I was worried about the weather being cold but had the opposite issue. I never expected to be able to wear a tank top and running skirt and not freeze my butt off. It was kinda nice.
So what’s next for my half marathon month? I’m running the Northern Ohio Half Marathon on Sunday, October 13. I wasn’t originally thinking this would be a huge race because it’s another first-year event, but with the government shutting down the national parks, the Towpath Marathon was cancelled. Thankfully, the race coordinators for the Northern Ohio event opened up spots for racers in the marathon and half marathon to accommodate the runners who would be missing out on the Towpath (which thankfully has been rescheduled for November 3). I know a few people who will be running on Sunday, so good luck to all of them!
So what’s my race plan? My original plan was to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half with a PR in mind and back off for the next two halfs, but I revised that after Cleveland. Even though I gained a pretty significant PR, I am going to try to beat my time. I’m not setting a time goal or anything, but if I can run faster than 2:03:56, it will be amazing! The weather should be cooler, and the course doesn’t seem to have as many hills. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. And I am thinking of adding one more half, you know, for good measure. You might see me on the Towpath on November 3, making 4 half marathons in a few days shy of a month. #craziness