Originally, October’s Towpath Marathon, Half Marathon, and 10K wasn’t even on my radar, but thanks to a little thing called the government shutdown, the rescheduled race was on a day that I was able to run. Seeing that I was trained up and my friend Susie wanted to race another half, the Towpath half seemed like a great choice. Our goal was a PR for her.
The rescheduled date was Sunday, November 3. That date was also conveniently the end of Daylight Saving Time. I always set the alarm to have plenty of time in the morning. The plan was for Susie and me to leave around 5:45-6:00ish, so you can imagine how quickly I bolted out of bed when I saw 5:20am on the clock. I started freaking out, thinking that I slept through my alarm, and it wasn’t until I looked at my phone a few minutes later that I realized the alarm clock didn’t fall back and my alarm had not even gone off. I was under the impression atomic clocks did that on their own, but obviously this one didn’t want to cooperate. Thankfully, a crisis was averted, and I carried out my normal pre-race routine.
Susie and I made our way to Brandywine Ski Resort, which was the starting point for the half marathon and 10K runners. We met up with Dan, who I had never met but felt like I already knew from Twitter, and his friend Crystal. He was going to run with us, and the plan was to help pace Susie for a PR. He was also the self-proclaimed photog for the race. All of us were freezing, so instead of waiting outside, we chose to stay in the car with the heater. At about 7:15, we walked to the starting area. I was happy to see two friends, Jessica and Ryan, warming up as we passed. Seriously, those two are so cute, and they are going to have the fastest babies ever. I mean, those kids are going to come out of the womb running a sub-3 marathon. When we reached the starting area, all we could see was a gigantic line for the bathroom. Of course we needed to make one more pit stop before the race, so we hopped in line and waited…and waited…and waited. And we got colder and colder and colder. The bright spot about waiting was I got to see my friend Amanda, who was running the 10K.
After half an hour, we reached the front of the line. The bad part was once we all finished, we had about 5 minutes or so before the start of the race, which didn’t leave much time for a warm-up or stretching. We were starting, ready or not! Our plan was to go at a little faster pace for the first 5K and then hang around a 10:00 mile for the rest of the race. It was really hard in the beginning to even go at a 10:30 pace with all of the people around, but it thinned out around the second mile. As we were starting, I saw Joe, a fellow 2013 Cleveland Marathon blogger, and we exchanged some good luck comments. The course was already a little hillier than I thought. Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking. I had never run that portion of the Towpath before, and I guess I was thinking it was similar to the Towpath 10-10 race in the summer. I was wrong, but we were doing just fine.
Around mile 3ish (I think) we hit the finishers’ village at Boston Mills where the race turned on to the actual Towpath. I was happy to see Jessica and Stephanie on the side, and they yelled as we passed. It was so encouraging to see people I knew.
Not being a regular Towpath runner, I was surprised when we turned onto this part. I guess I was expecting a paved path, but I loved the trail kinda feel and the beautiful scenery. It was at this point in the race that I realized although I had my earbuds in, I had no music on. I also didn’t feel like I needed it, so I made the decision to not turn it on until I absolutely needed it. This was a new challenge for me because I always run with music.
The next few miles went by relatively quickly for me. Susie was doing well, too. Our pace had slowed a little, but we were still on course for her PR. Dan was snapping pics of the scenery and awesome signs that were posted along the course, and we were all having a great time (at least in my opinion).
We saw Ryan, who is super speedy, already on his way back to the finish. Of course I yelled to cheer him on, and it made me smile when he yelled back. Once we got about halfway in, Susie’s legs started acting up. I think the combination of cold weather and lack of stretch time didn’t help her hamstrings, and she said they were really tight. It wasn’t until the turnaround two miles or so later that we stopped, so she could stretch her legs a bit.
The last 4-5 miles of the race didn’t go as planned. Susie had to stop a few more times to stretch, but we never walked. Dan and I were acting as her own personal coaches, encouraging (or potentially frustrating) her through the rest of the course. I made a few short stops to save innocent wollybears from certain death as they crawled along the path, and I am sure I looked ridiculous. Some of the other runners who were around us were struggling a little, too, and they said they were happy to have Dan and me around for support (I told you the running community was awesome). We were in the home stretch when we saw Jeffrey and Allison with shouts of encouragement and some rather colorful signs.
Toward the end, we let go of the idea of a PR, and finishing the race without walking was the goal. You could see from Susie’s face that it was a struggle, but I admired the fact she kept going. I kept telling her crying is perfectly acceptable in running, hoping that it would make her laugh instead. We ran into the finisher’s area, past the people who were cheering for us, and through the finish line. We did it! It wasn’t as fast as we had hoped, but despite the stops, she was only off from a PR by about 2 minutes. Not too shabby, and this was a much more difficult course than Columbus or Cleveland, her two previous halfs. We smiled and hung our medals around our necks.
After the race, I had someone come up to me and ask if I was stephplusfour (my Twitter handle). It was a lady named Ashley, who recognized me from my blog and Twitter, and we had been chatting on Twitter for a while. I was happy to finally meet her, and that was the first time that someone at a race recognized me from social media. It was kind of a big deal (Thanks, Ashley! You made my day). I was happy that I also got to meet up with Joe, who I saw at the beginning. He was pretty sure he ran his first sub-2 hour half and was awaiting the actual results. That was awesome news, and I was proud of him.
After we left the finishers’ area, we made our way to the tent for a well-deserved drink but not before chatting it up with Amanda and her boyfriend, Zak. Both of them rocked their races! Jeffrey met up with us at the tent, and we talked for a bit before heading to the shuttle to take us back to Brandywine. Dan, Susie, and I decided that our accomplishment wouldn’t be complete without a little Mitchell’s, so it was on to Westlake for a little post-race ice cream feast.
All in all, I loved this race. The course was beautiful, the support at the aid stations was amazing, and it was so nice to see so many friends! We didn’t get that PR for Susie like we had hoped, but the entire race experience was enjoyable. I am definitely looking forward to another Towpath run in the future. Oh, and I have a little run brag that I would like to share. I actually ran the entire half without music. For a girl who doesn’t even run a 5K without it, that was quite an accomplishment.
So, what’s next? Well, I wrapped up my month of half marathons, firmly securing my Half Fanatic status. Yes, there are such things as Half Fanatics, and I am official member #5223. And yes, I ran 4 half marathons in less than a month. Since I am already trained up, I would love to run the Fall Classic Half near the end of this month. I was told it was fast and flat, and I would love to beat my current PR, even by a few seconds, so if anyone is willing to babysit, hit me up (don’t all call at once). If I can’t do that race, I have the Hot Chocolate 15K to look forward to in Columbus on November 17, and with being a blogger ambassador for them, I am really looking forward to it. Race season will be wrapped up in early December when Lex and I do the Christmas Story Run 5K. Oh yeah, she has the running bug and wanted to do another race, and thanks to Susie, she got a free entry. After that, I am fully committed to training because I have my sights set on the Cleveland Marathon in May. I have a feeling I will crush it this year. Third time’s a charm!