In a sea of 39,692 people from all 50 states and 17 countries, we were but four. But we were a mighty foursome who trained for and ran Cincinnati's Flying Pig half marathon. For four months, we ran in every kind of weather, together and apart. We bought running gear and clothing; worried about hydration and nutrition; and spent time and money fixing our injuries. Now that the day has come and gone, we wanted to share our race day reactions. Read on to find out how we all fared in the piggiest race of them all!
There's a saying that goes something like, "The pain is nothing compared to what it feels like to quit." That certainly held true on race day. It wasn't easy, and it didn't always feel good, but the exhilaration of crossing the finish line made it all worthwhile.
The morning of the Flying Pig dawned, drizzly and chilly, but Mother Nature cut us a break shortly after the 6:30 a.m. start, when the rain stopped and the sun made an unexpected appearance. All week, the forecasters had painted a stormy, gloomy picture of race day, so we weren't expecting the dry skies and summer-like humidity, which led to dozens of happily discarded ponchos and jackets along the route.
I felt great for the first few minutes. Then, right after I passed the first mile marker, my ankle decided to make things interesting. It started as an annoying little twinge; I rolled my foot in circles to get rid of it, but it didn't go away. It finally subsided maybe a half mile later, only to continue popping up every so often like a game of pain peek-a-boo. At one point about halfway through the race, I started to worry that I was going to have to stop. Then I remembered something ultra-marathoner Beth Weinstein once said about using mantras to "talk" her body out of being injured during a race. Feeling a little silly at first, I started saying under my breath, over and over: "My ankle feels great. I'm strong. I'm not stopping." It may have been a coincidence, but the pain disappeared shortly after that.
Admittedly, I didn't reach the distance I'd hoped to during my training, and I felt it. Around mile eight, my body was unpleasantly surprised that I intended to keep pushing it for five more miles, and it registered a few complaints in protest. The hills were tough and slow, and at some points my legs felt like lead. But then, at mile 10, the course dipped downhill for a merciful couple of miles, and I was able to pick up the pace and enjoy some lovely breezes. The last mile flattened out, and the combination of hot sun and fatigued legs didn't make for an easy finish. I did find myself in a head-to-head, quarter-mile race against a girl who I'd been pacing with for the past few minutes. In the last stretch, I was able to muster some energy from some deep, dark place and push past her across the finish. Victory.
I barely made my time goal with just 45 seconds to spare—one more water stop and I would have missed it. Overall, I had fun but I'm happy it's behind me. After a few weeks, the runner's amnesia will kick in, and I'll start thinking about next year. Until then, I'm licking my wounds and sticking to walking.
I was worried I wouldn't sleep the night before the Flying Pig. With a looming 4 a.m. wake-up call, I packed everything I would need for pre- and post-race day and hit the sack at 10 p.m. The morning of, I put my race-day clothes on over my KT taped-up legs and slipped my hot-pink compression sleeve over my right calf, grabbed a banana, a bagel with peanut butter, coffee, water and my duffel bag and headed out the door for my 5 a.m. meet up with Melissa.
We carpooled to the race, met up with Mike and Dominic, took some pictures in the light drizzle and walked to our corresponding starting time corrals.
As usual, the first couple of miles were not great, but that's where I usually work the kinks out. By mile three, I was feeling good. I figured the tightness in my calf would go away eventually, but when it got worse around mile five, I knew it was not going to get better. I considered walking for a while, but I told myself before I started that I was running the entire race and I wasn't about to stop at mile five. (Disclaimer: There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking, and there were plenty of walkers. I just had the mindset that I was going to run, so that was that.)
I said to myself, "It hurts, and it's not going to go away. You could walk, but you'll be done faster running." So, run I did. The crowd was awesome. All the cheers and happy, encouraging faces really did help take my mind off the pain. When I saw my husband and kids around mile nine, I nearly cried. I hugged them and kept going.
Even though the race was mostly hills, it actually hurt less to run up the hills than down. Unfortunately that meant that when I finally hit the downhill portion, instead of feeling relief, I just felt more pain. At the bottom of the final hill, we headed back into downtown Cincinnati with less than two miles left in the course. The finish line was close, but that was the longest two miles of my entire life.
I finally, finally crossed the finish line where someone handed me a water and a medal. I met Mike who helped me hobble to the EMT tent where I got some ice wrapped around my calf. Because of the pain, I wasn't able to walk much, which put a damper on enjoying the post-race festivities. I'm going to be really sore for a while, but I'm so glad I ran the race. For now, I'm crossing this off my bucket list and moving on. One half marathon in a lifetime is good enough for me.
The alarm went off at 4 a.m., which is way too early for me. I quickly gathered my things, got dressed, ate a bit of breakfast, then hurried out to pick up a friend I "tricked" into signing up for the race. After arriving downtown, I met up with my Fleet Feet training group and the rest of the SparkPeople team. There was a slight drizzle as we all nervously milled around and got our group picture taken before walking over to the starting line. The sun started to come up and the rain stopped as we neared the corrals. A sea of tens of thousands of people spread out before me as we approached and the only word that crossed my mind was just "wow." We filed into our appropriate corrals just in time for the starting gun and we were off.
The race itself went great—or as good as running 13.1 miles can go, I suppose. There were people cheering on the runners nearly the entire route. I recognized my training really paying off as I climbed the dreaded hill at mile seven and I still felt strong. But then, the downhill. My thighs were screaming by the time I got to the bottom. The last mile and a half was the most difficult running of my life. My stubborn nature is the only thing that kept me running, as I willed myself to the finish line. Finally, after months of training, I could say, "I did it!" as I crossed.
After meeting up with Elizabeth and making a few stops for ice, water and refueling goodies, we met the rest of the group and took some post-event pictures. Then, the crash: After making it home and hitting the shower, the recliner grabbed me and held me tight the rest of the day.
As I reflect upon the race one day later, I have to say I feel great. Starting four months ago, I ran through ice, snow, rain and sunshine. I learned a lot from the support of the Fleet Feet running group. Without their support and the support of my friends and family, I'm not sure I would have made it to that finish line. I did it, though, and never again. Maybe. Just not this month.
Overall, the race went pretty well for me. The night before, I made sure to go to bed early with my car packed and race day clothes laid out and ready to go.
When the race started, I felt great for the first seven miles or so. After that, I started to get a bit of knee soreness, but I was still able to keep my pace without too many issues. The crowds and event staff were great motivators, as well. There weren't many stretches on the route without people cheering, which helped keep me moving.
For me, the hardest part about the race were the details surrounding it: The mile walk to and from the starting line, 4:30 a.m. wake-up call to get downtown on time, the walk back to the car and standing around for long stretches of time. The technicalities of a race as large as the Flying Pig added up, making the event itself a bit more difficult than a normal training run. I also wonder if my knee would have been sore if I wasn't on my feet for an hour or more before the race even started. All said and done, though, I felt pretty good throughout the race and am glad I did it!
Thanks for coming on this journey with us, SparkPeople friends! Your comments have been hugely helpful and we hope we inspired you to think about signing up for a race in the future. Any other Flying Pigs or half-marathon rookies out there? Tell us your post-race day reactions below!
* photos courtesy of Flying Pig Marathon
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