Yesterday, I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon, winding my way through Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky on foot on a very hot day. It was a blast – and I’m already looking for another half marathon to run.
The race was scheduled to start at six-thirty – right before sunrise. I’ve been running early in the morning since I started training for the half back in January, but I had a long walk to the start. I woke up at four to be on the safe side, to allow myself enough time to scarf some PowerBar energy chews and some pita and almond butter, get changed, meet up with Erica, and make our way down into the corrals.
The start was well-organized, and we were both excited to see that Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals) was open, with operational bathrooms and places to sit and stretch. We took advantage of the bathrooms, knowing our only options from that point on would be port-a-potties, before finding Corral G and the 2:45 (for the half) pace group. I wanted to finish in 2:30, but knew with the heat and high humidity, that 2:45 was a good goal to have.
(numbers blurred for privacy reasons)
I carried my phone with me through the whole race, and we used it to take this picture at the starting line, as we waited for the race to begin. Before we knew it, they were counting down “three, set, GO!” and the runners in corrals A-F were off. We watched as thousands of runners set off, and I was hit with the realization that I was about to run my first half marathon. Fifteen short minutes later, we were off and running, crossing the starting line and heading into downtown, before crossing the bridge into Newport, and then into Covington.
The crowd was incredible, and I could not stop smiling as we wound our way through the early miles of the race course and Northern Kentucky. We stopped at the water stop at the third mile to get Gatorade, and became very aware of how warm it actually was. The humidity was at least 80%, and the temperature was slowly climbing into the mid and upper seventies. While we were running across the Clay Wade Bailey bridge, I made the decision to move my race bib to my shorts, so I could run in my sports bra if I wanted. The bridge was bouncing as the runners made their way across, so we were happy once we got moving again and into the fourth mile.
Miles four and five flew by. There were tons of spectators, and we were lucky enough to pass a pit stop that was offering granola bars, bottles of water, and other refreshments. We flew by, each grabbing a bottle of water to carry for the next few miles – the heat was intense, and we were both happy to be handed some Otter Pops by a pair of girls as we started making our way up into Eden Park.
Erica had been dealing with some tendonitis in the days leading up to the race, so at mile six she sent me running ahead of her while she walked for a bit, and as I jogged up the hill, I rapidly texted The Boy – I wanted him to have her Bib info so we could find her at the finish. I didn’t want to miss her crossing the finish line!
The next three miles were amazing, as we wound through Eden Park, and when we reached the apex of the hill, the view of the city below was breathtaking. The hills were painful, but I worked to power through them, trying to keep the elevation chart in mind. I knew that I wasn’t done with the hills, and I did my best to pace myself, but when I reached mile nine, I found myself struggling to power ahead, and made the decision to walk for a little bit. I ended up walking almost the entire mile before making a quick bathroom break. At that point, I made the decision to power ahead – my goal going into the race was to finish, and to finish strong, and that was what I was going to do.
Imagine my surprise when I rounded a corner after the tenth mile marker and saw Erica jogging just ahead of me. I sprinted ahead, tapped her on the shoulder, and we decided that we were going to finish the race together. We had three miles left – we could do it. Every muscle in my body was aching. My knees hurt, my feet hurt, and I wanted to sit down with a box of popsicles, but I was going to finish this thing – with my friend by my side.
As we ran down the hills back into downtown, we ended up alternating walking and running. I told Erica I didn’t know if I wanted to do another one, and we joked we wouldn’t talk about it for at least a day after we crossed the finish. Finally, we reached the turn around at mile twelve. We had just over a mile left. The finish line was in reach, and at that point, I knew we had it in the bag – we just had to keep. Moving.
As we ran down Eggleston and around the corner, racing toward the ballpark, the crowd cheering us on started to get bigger, and louder, and as we reached the thirteenth mile marker and met up again with the marathon group (which had split off from the half just before mile nine), the sounds of the crowd grew to a roar. We could hear the announcers at the finish calling out the names of those crossing the Finish Swine, and we could see it just yards ahead.
I was all smiles as I crossed the Finish Swine, so much so that I forgot to stop my Garmin. I was grinning ear-to-ear when I felt my phone vibrate, reached for it, and saw a text from The Boy, congratulating me on my finish. I did it – I ran the half, and I finished. I was thirsty, and when I stopped to pick up my medal and mylar my calves and quads immediately started to cramp up. Erica and I made our way to get some water and to find a spot to rest while we waited for The Boy to meet up with us. Once we grabbed a seat, he was able to tell me that we finished the race in 2:52:12 – seven minutes slower than what we set out for. I didn’t care how slow I was. I finished.
The rest of this week I’ll be resting – taking the week off from running and the gym. Next week, I’m back to it, and probably picking my next half marathon. Right now, I’m thrilled to say I did it: I’m a half-marathoner, and I can’t wait to see what comes in the future.