So, the big race finally arrived. Actually it was only ten weeks since I signed up but it felt like so much longer than that. We arrived in Williamsburg on Saturday in order to pick up our race numbers and complimentary tickets for Colonial Williamsburg, which was a lovely touch. It was an incredibly hot afternoon so we were glad of the chance to hide out inside the (probably not authentically 18th century) air-conditioned buildings and learn how the Americans gained their independence from us. We followed this with an equally hot wander around the very 21st century shopping outlet, where I got two spectacular new pairs of Converse:
By the end of the afternoon we were slowly melting and wondering how we would cope with the same heat and humidity for a whole 13.1 miles the following morning. Even with a 7am start it was forecast to be 90% humidity and around 25c.
For our evening meal we had been recommended a local restaurant, Food For Thought, which I have to say is probably the best restaurant I have eaten at in this country. The food choices for me were amazing, way more than the usual veggie lasagna/black bean burger/mac & cheese from the kids menu. I plumped for two vegan “chicken” breasts, one in a coriander and lime sauce and one in a spicy mango salsa, and it was spectacular. The staff were also brilliant, not only our server but also the manager who came to meet us and see what we thought of the place. Also, in case we ran out of conversation, they supply conversation cards on each table and thoughtful quotes dotted around the walls. Just perfection. Oh, and they gave us a 5% discount voucher for a return visit – like we need any persuasion!
We then decamped to our Bates Motel for an early night, and it turned out to be pretty darn good, for $38 per night. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there on my own, but I have to say it was clean, had two double beds in the room, and a working fridge for all the supplies we had brought with us, basically meeting all our needs for the one night.
This didn’t mean I could sleep at all though. Stateside Husband was straight off to sleep while I laid down with my eyes shut, breathing slowly and trying to fool myself into sleeping. I figured that being motionless must at least count as rest somehow. After an hour I tried some relaxation techniques. Rather than counting sheep, I started listing Daniel Day Lewis films. I have no idea why I chose him, I don’t even know that I’ve seen any of his films, but I suppose that’s what happens when you’re tired. So my thought process went “Gangs of New York, My Left Foot, Michael-something-the-Irish-one, … Michael Collins? Or is that the Tom Hanks one about the astronaut? And was he in Harry Potter? No that was Ralph Fiennes. Has anyone ever seen them together in the same room?”. With the benefit of imdb.com I now know that the Irish film I was thinking of was actually In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins was another Irish film with Liam Neeson, and Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, so why was I thinking of him?
Anyway, at some point I must have fallen asleep, because suddenly it was race day!!!! By 5.30am we were at the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru, amusingly behind a police car picking up the day’s doughnut rations. I love Dunkin, not least because they supplied us with buckets of coffee and some pretty good oatmeal, perfect pre-run fuel.
When I started running as a hobby, I didn’t expect my new weekend activities to include sunrise car-park breakfasts and collecting safety pins, but these do now appear to be two of my most regular occupations, and this weekend was no exception. We managed to meet up with one of our running group buddies early on, and then with a second one at the start line. Both of them have run many half-marathons before so we didn’t run together as we all had different goal times in mind. The race kicked off, not only with the traditional national anthem but also with the Colonial Williamsburg fife and drum band, which was pretty special. Then I started my iPod and among the first few songs were Eye of the Tiger and The Final Countdown, so I knew it was going to be a good race.
We had been warned, by every other runner and by the official guidance on the race website, that the course was a really hilly one, however I have to say that it really didn’t seem that bad to me. I think I had imagined it to be a lot worse and so the reality was a lot nicer/flatter than expected. There were some annoying slight uphills towards the end, one after the other, but none of the massive mountains for which I had been mentally preparing myself. We were also fortunate with the weather; it was hot and fairly humid but not quite as bad as expected and a lot of the course ran through shaded areas, including a long stretch through a park, so we escaped a lot of the sunshine. The course was really lovely as it not only wound through the aforesaid park but also through the centre of Colonial Williamsburg and some other rather picturesque streets, plus a stretch along a major road (where I suddenly realised I could get run over if I accidentally strayed a millimeter to the left of the tiny bollards) and all the traffic coming onto the road had to stop and wait for us, which is not something that happens for me every day. The best thing for me was that it was a completely unknown course so I never had any idea what was coming next nor could I visualise how much further I had to go, which is normally the killer for me.
I didn’t experience any low point, amazingly, because even on a 5K run I usually get about three-quarters of the way through and get really grumpy. I enjoyed the whole thing, even managing to leap up and down a bit around the 9 mile mark when a particularly good song started playing (Damn Dog by Manic Street Preachers, in case you’re interested). I walked quickly through the water stops where I needed a drink, and some of the uphills were incredibly slow despite me working my hardest to power through them (which I found particularly amusing, clearly getting to the hysterical stage by then) but I’m pleased to say I didn’t stop at any point, except for a toilet stop but I never tired enough to need to just stop for a rest.
I had a goal time of 2 hours 15 minutes, and my official time was 2:15:55, so I’m exceedingly happy with that, especially considering the heat, humidity and hills. My watch said 2:14:33 because it paused during the toilet stop, and mysteriously it also said I had run 13.2 miles, so maybe I actually did better. I crossed the finish line hand in hand with Stateside Husband, which was the best part of the race ❤
Officially I finished 526th out of 1308 runners, 180th out of 705 women, and 29th out of 128 in my age group. Not bad for a first timer.
It’s definitely time to take it easier for the summer, concentrating on shorter runs for a while before the next half marathon in November. But first it’s time for a well-earned pedicure!!