(Be warned; this is a long post) This past weekend was just amazing! I not only got to run the Columbus Marathon half marathon race as a Children’s Champion for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, but I got to run the race with two friends who were going to complete their second major distance race; visit with my brother and sister-in-law; and catch up with a high school friend, his wife, and adorable son. Win-win-win-win!
Saturday morning, Raymond and I made out way down to C-bus. Traffic was a bit on the ridiculous side. With construction, race traffic, OSU game traffic, and rainy weather, the trip took much longer than expected. We finally made to Columbus Convention Center for the Expo and were even able to score street parking close the entrance. Gotta love the fact Raym has a small car instead of a boat like my van.
We parked and made our way to the ballroom. You could feel the excitement when we talked in. Columbus is a huge race, so it’s pretty hard not to get excited when you see the banners and signs. We made our way to the top level where the race bibs, shirts, and goodie bags are, and there was a special area for Children’s Champions.
Because I was able to raise over $500 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Raymond and I were able to attend a VIP breakfast before the race and gain access to a special tent following the race. I also received a shirt to proudly wear on race day. I didn’t even care that it was orange, which is my least favorite color; I was so happy to wear this shirt in support of the children and my family and friends who donated.
After packet pick-up, we did a little shopping because who doesn’t enjoy hitting up the vendors?! I had already planned on snagging an Homage Columbus Marathon shirt and was happy to see Columbus Running Company was selling them there. I also got matching shirts for Lex and me to wear at her first 5K on Sunday, October 27. The vendor was running a great deal – 2 for $15 and they printed them right there! I thought the shirt would give Lex a little spring in her step for race day and make her even more excited to run.
The coolest part of the Expo didn’t come in the form of a purchase. I knew the Cleveland Marathon was going to have a booth there, and when I am at a race where they are present, I always make it a point to stop and say hi. (Gotta support my hometown race!) I was happy to see Cleveland’s race director, Mr. Jack Staph, working there. How cool is it that the head honcho of the Cleveland Marathon was working their booth?! I went up, introduced myself, and said that I was one of the official bloggers for 2013’s race. I have to say that I was completely floored when he knew who I was! And he recognized Raymond! And he said that he reads my blog! We talked a bit about the Cleveland race for 2014 and blogging. I’m not going to provide a spoiler alert but just know that something really cool is in the works. I walked away from the table kinda awestruck, like I talked to a celebrity.
The rest of the day was a lot of fun. We met up with my brother and S-I-L at a local sports bar to cheer on the Buckeyes, did a little shopping at Easton, and had dinner at Piada (a place I have been waiting to try). After a busy day I was ready to crash and knew I needed the sleep to be ready for race day. I also made sure I got my special bib ready for the morning.
The alarm went off at 4:15am, and I crawled out of bed. I strayed a bit from my usual race morning routine because Raymond and I were going to have breakfast at the Children’s Champions tent. After a quick thaw of the windshield, we were on our way to downtown Columbus. I was freaking out a little about the traffic. Last year was crazy, and with having the special breakfast, I wanted to make sure we were there early enough to park, walk to the tent, eat, and have enough time to get physically and mentally ready for the race. Raymond, the king of street parking, found a spot not far from the tent.
I was extremely excited when I saw the Children’s Champion tent. I knew some of the Patient Champions, who would later be lining the race course, would be there along with their families. There were also a few extra perks like a private gear check and “fancy” port-o-potties with flush action and hot running water! We grabbed some food and shared a table with a young kids (okay, he was 22, but that is way younger than me) who was running his 6th marathon. Based on the fact he was in corral A and had “fast running gear” (shorts and a singlet with arm warmers), I assumed he was pretty speedy. I also met two lovely ladies in the bathroom who were running in honor of their family members. The one lady was running for a Patient Champion, and the other was running in memory of her daughter. I was pretty bummed that when I was waiting to use the bathroom, they made an announcement about all the Patient Champions at the breakfast. At least Raymond got to hear it.
One delicious breakfast later and we were ready to make our way to the start. I said goodbye to Raym and headed to the Athletes’ Only area. I had to get in contact with my friends Susie and Bee because we were running together on this race. Thank goodness for cell phones! It would have been impossible otherwise to find them. I tried to meet up with my friends Christian, Kelly, and Sarah, but the sea of people made it very difficult. Bee, Susie, and I had to wait on the sidewalk because the corral was overflowing. The elite runners and corral A runners had their start, and soon it was our turn.
The weather was freezing, but I ditched my ugly pants and sweatshirt before the race. I figured it would only take a few miles to warm up anyway. The announcer called our corral to the start, the fireworks went off, and we were running! Spectators lined the streets to cheer on all of the runners, and their energy was great!
It was a little hard at the beginning to keep a good pace with all of the people, but we weren’t going for time. Our goal for this race was to finish. Poor Bee hadn’t run for about 6 weeks due to an injury, but she was determined to run the race. Before I knew it, we were already at the 5K mark and were keeping a pretty good time (30:30). We slowed down a little around mile 6, and Bee told us to go ahead. Our answer – NO! We were in this as a team. When she needed a little walk break, we slowed down and stayed with her. Finishing together was always the plan.
We made it to mile 8, and I was happy to see Raymond waiting there for us. I ran over to the side and gave him a high five as we passed. Susie, Bee, and I kept moving along the course and kept passing the mile markers. I think we were all relieved to see the mile 10 marker, which meant only a 5K left!
We made it to mile 12, and I knew this would be the most emotional mile of the race. Each mile had a Patient Champion, a child who was/is a patient at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and the mile is dedicated to him/her. Many of the children were out cheering on the runners, and that was a huge source of motivation. Mile 12 was the Angel Mile, dedicated to all of the children who have finished their race and earned their wings. When we ran through, there were many parents lined up along the course with signs and banners in memory of their child. When they saw I was a Children’s Champion, they began cheering for me and yelling my name (which was on my bib). I ran over and did a whole line of high fives and thanked them for their support. And then I cried. I don’t know if even the most hardened individual could hold it together with all of that. It was, by far, my proudest race moment and was sweeter than any PR.
It was easy to tell we were headed toward the finish because of the amount of people lining both sides of the street. There were so many spectators cheering on the runners, and I kept smiling. I was so proud of Susie and Bee for completing this race! Raymond saw us and encouraged us as we passed.
The three of us made it up the incline and rounded the corner for the finish. I grabbed Bee’s and Susie’s hands and held them high in the air as the three of us crossed the finish line. We did it! Susie and Bee completed their second half marathon, and I ended my three-halfs-in-three-weeks streak! We made our way over to get our medals, have a picture snapped, and grab some much needed food, and then we met up with Raymond and had him commemorate our accomplishment.
Susie and Bee left, and Raymond and I headed to the Children’s Champion tent near the finish. We were both thankful for the lunch they provided, and I was happy that the tent had a heater. I chatted a bit with two volunteers before leaving and thanked them for this great experience. Before leaving the race, I got one last picture.
Shortly after the race, Raymond, Stevie, Tracy, and I met up with my childhood friend Max, his wife Sheli, and their son Elliot, who was a cute as could be. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen them, and I was happy when he messaged me about getting together when we were in Columbus. Max and Sheli are two of the nicest people I’ve met, and seeing them was a perfect way to cap off the weekend.
I absolutely love this race! After I ran the full last year, I knew I had to run again. The course was beautiful, the energy and excitement surrounding the race were contagious, and the sponsorship of Nationwide Children’s Hospital was amazing. Signing on to be a Children’s Champion has proven to be one of my most rewarding experiences of my life, and I am going to do it again next year. One thing I really liked was because I was not running for time, I was able to slow down and enjoy the race, cheer on the Patient Champions, and encourage my friends. Although I loved the half, I want the complete Columbus marathon experience next year, so I would like to sign up for the full marathon. The challenge of a marathon makes the finish so much sweeter, and I am going to work even hard as a Children’s Champion to help make an impact in the lives of others.
And to all of the donors who supported my running efforts through their generous donations to Nationwide Children’s Hospital – THANK YOU! My goal was to raise $500, and you smashed that goal. Thanks to you, the final contribution from my donation page was $655!
Columbus, see you again on October 19, 2014!
Oh, and because I like random things thrown in my posts, here’s a rundown of some of my favorite race signs.
1. Run faster, someone farted
2. If this race were any easier, it would be your mom
3. May the course be with you
4. Naked guys ahead (held by a guy wearing only tiny shorts which were hidden behind the sign…he had to be freezing!)
5. Your feet only hurt because you’re kicking ass
6. You’re running better than our government
7. That’s not sweat; it’s liquid awesome
8. Smile if you’re not wearing underwear
9. Chuck Norris never ran a marathon
10. My mommy is faster than your mommy