So the big day was approaching, and I was doing all I could to get ready – stretching, eating well, and sleeping well…or trying to sleep well.
Two nights before the race, Handsome had a cough. He slept through all of the hacking; I did not.
Then the day before the race, we drove to the location of the race and spent the night in a nearby hotel. We tried to go to bed early, but it took a while to get in and get everything settled. Then about midnight our not-so-friendly neighbors came back to their room, having indulged in a bit too much of the happy-drink and wanting to share their conversation with the entire floor! They were SO loud, it was ridiculous! And the party continued until at least 3am. I slept a bit, but 5am came very, very early – and rudely.
My eyes were bloodshot, my whole body felt like jelly, and I more than anything wanted to crawl back into bed – especially when Handsome told me that it was raining out.
Sure ‘nough, it was raining out. My knight in shining armor allowed me to wait in a dry spot while he got the car, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that not only was I going to be very wet, but I was going to be very cold before it was all said and done. And I was probably going to have a lot of blisters too – wet shoes can do that.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the race venue, this is what we saw:
(Please note: This video is not ours. We did not take our camera, but had we taken it this is exactly what it would have recorded, right down to the lady’s look of horror!)
We waited in the car until the last possible minute, then stepped out into the parking-lot-turned-pond where the water was so deep that instantly my feet were not just wet and cold but completely submerged.
Dashing to the starting area, I began to look around and wish that I was wearing the latest in running gear – the ever stylish trash bag! Everyone had one…well everyone but us and the other folks who underestimated hurricane Ike.
After trying to warm-up for a good little while, I gave up. Warming up seemed a little senseless when with every move I just exposed more of my body to the wind and rain.
Then came 6:45 – time for the race to start.
Then came 6:50 – I moved from being cold and wet to just being miserable and wondering what on earth I was thinking.
Then came 7:05 – I told Handsome that I just don’t think I can do this. He told me that he’ll give me the key. Give me the key!?! No, crazy man, you’re supposed to go back to the warmth of the car WITH me! So I stood there some more, ’cause I just couldn’t give up alone – after all this was my idea.
Then came 7:10, and I was shaking so hard that I thought I might vomit. Mental note: bring warmer clothes next time.
And finally, they started the race about 30 minutes late.
I had never run with 4,999 people before, so the start was a bit dizzying for me. I just worked at putting one foot in front of the other and not stepping on anyone else. At one point, not long into the race I remember thinking that there was no way my popsicle of a body was going to cooperate for the whole 13.1 miles. Shortly after that, I realized that either we were going really, really slowly (in which case I was just going to walk back to the car and give up) or that the first mile marker had blown away! And not too long after that, the first water station was just around the bed – mile 2, and I didn’t even know that I had passed mile one! Whew!
The rest of the race was a deluge of sideways rain that blew into our faces like a billion little daggers, gusts of wind that threatened to sweep runners into the next county, ironic water stops where people stood in the drenching ran holding out paper cups and calling, “Water, water!”, shoes that squished with every step, and lots of laughter over the notion that this was my first race ever!
We celebrated a bit as we passed the seven mile mark, as we were over half-way there!
When we got to the eight mile mark, we noticed that there was a slight course change, but it was another half mile or so before we were told by a man breezing by on a bike that everyone was finishing at ten miles. While I was sad to not run the 13.1 miles (and had actually run longer in training than I did in the race), I was exhausted at the end of the ten miles. The wind and rain really took it out of me! Perhaps a better competitor would have not taken the ribbon, but I gladly snatched that ribbon out of the volunteer’s hand and proudly put around my neck (well, I put it around my neck because I wanted my hands free to get food and drink…but I am proud that I have it)!
I signed up to run a half marathon. I only ran ten miles, but I figure I used enough energy for about twenty miles on a good day!
And a couple days later, we received an e-mail that explained the course changes; here is a bit of it:
When the event started, we had every intention of allowing everyone to complete the entire distance. Both courses were runnable and we believed given the latest weather reports that they would continue to be so. Unfortunately, the combination of (1) the storm dropping over 5″ of rain (as compared to the 3″ that had been expected) and (2) much of that rain falling immediately before the start of the race (in part due to the delay that resulted because the police were understandably late getting to their positions because they were busy working a multitude of traffic accidents) caused a flash flood that swamped a long stretch of the north section of our course just minutes before the first runners were to arrive. When we received the reports of the flash flooding approximately 30 minutes into the race, we immediately responded by safely altering the course to avoid the flooded area…. We apologize for not effectively communicating the mid-race course change to you via our aid station volunteers, but the storm knocked out our radio communications, leaving many of them ill-informed, as well. To make matters worse, our finish line sound system was also put out of commission by the storm, so information could not be effectively delivered post-race, either.
And so ends the story of my first half marathon…or not.
(If you want to see the clever graphics the organizers are using to sum up the hurricane-blown marathon and more of the details, click here.)
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