I did it! I reached my goal of running my first Pittsburgh Half Marathon and earning the title of "Runner of Steel." This is a goal that I have had for a very long time. I spent years wanting to be one of those runners. I wanted to run those 13.1 miles all over the city.
I was very intimidated by the course though, I had always heard about how tough it was and all the hills along the course. I decided that in order for me to prepare for the course, I was going to incorporate strength training and cross training into my training. I have to say, that it worked!
I went in to the half with a plan. I had tried out intervals of running/walking to figure out what timing I wanted to go with so that I could keep a steady pace. I have done intervals before for a half marathon but the timing wasn't quite right and I wanted to make sure that I got it right this time. I decided on a 4:1 interval. Four minutes of running and 1 minute of walking....the entire course.
Okay, so training was done, a plan was in place and I was ready to go!
The process of getting into the corrals and waiting for the race to start is almost torture. You are mentally getting ready and the anticipation is rising. You just want to get going. There are thousands and thousands of people all around, there are helicopters flying overhead and again, the anticipation is rising. This is when most people are hoping that they don't have to go to the bathroom from all of the anxiety. It is something that most runners experience and some people don't tell you about that haha.
The race is getting started. My excitement is building as I am frantically messaging with another runner that is farther up in the corral. We are supposed to run the intervals together but I've never met her and I have no idea how I am going to find her. We were messaging back and forth for a few minutes as my corral was walking toward the start line. She stops near an Arby's to wait for me. Thank goodness, I didn't really want to run alone. We are walking in the sea of people all there for a common goal. Rock this race course.
And we are off!! We are trying to jog/run but it is kind of hard when there are so many people. I found that to be the hardest part for me. I wanted to speed up and go but we really couldn't. I asked her around mile 1-2 if and when the crowd thins out and we can move...she said, "never." Oh. I was sort of frustrated because even though my goal was to simply finish the race, I had a time goal in the back of my mind. I really wanted to finish around the 2:20-2:30 mark but it wasn't happening, not at the pace we were going. It was then that I decided that I need to stop looking at my watch. I needed to stop being fixating on the pace. My second goal was to enjoy the run and take in the surroundings. I did that. I am so very happy I did that.
I was loving the run, I was loving the surroundings and I just kept saying how much I love the intervals we were running. It was perfect. The weather was great, the crowd was great and I couldn't have asked for a better run.
My parents were there to see me run and they said that they would be somewhere between PNC Park and Heinz Field....well okay then. Amazingly, I found them and was able to give my mom a hug and high five my dad. I love that they were there to support me. It really helps me keep going.
Okay, back to the run. As the race went on, I actually was feeling better and better. I was getting into the rhythm of what we were running, the hills weren't strenuous and the scenery was amazing. I was really enjoying the run. My running buddy and I were able to talk about our families, our running history and all sorts of things. It's funny that I met up with her minutes before starting and we ran together for over two hours.
As we kept going, the temperature was rising, which was one of my concerns. I hate running and being overheated so I said a little prayer that I would finish before it got too hot.
We were approaching the part of the course where the runners split. The half marathoners go to the left and the full marathoners go to the right. At this point, I was getting excited because I knew that my race was almost over and I was getting so close to saying that I finished!
I had some final hills to tackle and then it was all downhill to the finish. I sped up a bit at that point because the crowd was very thinned out and I had the open road ahead. I could see the finish line!! I continued on at a steady pace and ditched the intervals and decided that I could run the rest of the way. It felt so good to cross that finish line and be done! I felt great, no soreness, no pain at all. Thank goodness!!
All in all, the experience was a wonderful one. I was a bit surprised by how I felt because I almost felt as though it wasn't as much of a challenge as I thought it would be. That means two things...I was very well prepared for it physically and that I most likely could have run at a faster pace.
I am already excited to run it again next year and I will run the same intervals but I think I will challenge myself to run faster and get a PR. It is quite possible that if I continue training well and smart, I could get a much better time. I finished in 2:39 and although that isn't a bad time, I know I can push myself to bring that down to 2:20. That is my goal for next year!!
You can see my race photos here
I love them all, too bad they are insanely expensive to buy!! :(