It’s been a whirlwind two weeks!
2 weekends ago, I was in Pennsylvania, kicking its hilly BEE-hind.
Last weekend, I showed the Air Force Half Marathon who’s BOSS.
After my rockin’ PR in hilly Bird-in-Hand, I wasn’t sure what to expect at Air Force, but I knew that I had a sub-2 hour half marathon in me. My plan was to wait until Indy Monumental in November to go for it, but I also knew deep down I wouldn’t be able to resist trying for it on the fast and flat Air Force course.
Last year, the Air Force was my first marathon, and it didn’t go so well – “stomach issues” aplenty. I was seeking major redemption this year, and after bailing early on the #Whole30 diet, I was hopeful.
SInce the half marathon didn’t start until 8:30, I didn’t have to wake up super early – just my normal 6am wake up time (sidenote: I never thought I’d say that…). I ate my toast, PB, and banana, and we skedattled a little early to pick up the crucial piece of my pre-race meal: COFFEE.
I don’t know about you guys, but coffee is the one MUST EAT (er drink?) for me on race day. If I don’t drink it, I’m in for a world of hurt… and that’s all I’m going to say about that.
We leisurely rolled around town, stopping at good ole McD’s for my black gold, and arrived about 45 minutes before race time. During the drive, I thought back to this time of year last year – I was about to run my first marathon, and had only done one other half marathon. Everything for race weekend was planned out to the most minute detail.
This time around, I barely bothered to check the weather, didn’t look up directions until we were in the car, and treated it just like another race. After all, it was my 8th half marathon in less than 2 years. Race morning is becoming old hat in the best kind of way.
We pulled into Wright-Patterson Air Force Base without issue and walked to the start line. I “did my thang” in a bay of approximately one bajillion Port-O-Potties (seriously… no wait!), handed off my jacket and pants to my #1 fan…
And with a flyover, some skydivers, and a gunshot, we were off!
The first 2 ticked by at 9:13 and 8:53 respectively. I felt GREAT, but hoped I wasn’t pushing it too hard too fast. I was overcome with the fact that this is my life – that I’m lucky enough to do these amazing things weekend after weekend, that I’m healthy enough to push my body to the limit, and that I’m blessed to have such supportive family and friends who respect and are proud of what I do.
I passed the mile 3 marker, and about a 1/2 mile later, there was a smallish “Oh, shit!” moment. We had just started to spread out comfortably, when the mass of runners took a right turn… which apparantly, was the wrong turn. About .2 miles down the road, a security guy started waving his arms and yelling the one thing runners never want to hear : “You’re going the wrong way -TURN AROUND!!”
I muttered (or did I yell?) “Oh, fuuuu….” and turned my little butt around as fast as I could. I was going to have some time to make up. I was fortunate, though – I found out later that some of the faster half marathoners ended up adding upwards of 1.5 miles to their race! Eek!
Anywho, I got back on track and realized as I passed mile marker 4 that I had added about .4 miles. I ran mile 4 in 8:35, trying to make up for lost time and prayed that I would still have some kick left in 9 miles.
Around miles 5-7, I was running near the 2:00 pacer… who was driving me BONKERS. I don’t mean to rag on anybody, especially someone who’s out to help runners achieve their goals, but this guy Would.Not.Stop.Talking. about our little course snafu, and kept yelling, “I know the course, follow me!” No offense, dude, but you already went the wrong way once, so sorry if I don’t take your word.
I was over it by this point and wanted to move on and concentrate on running a solid race. Thankfully, Mr. 9:10 pace took off running 8:20s not long after that, so I was left in peace. Miles 6-8 stayed under 9:00 minute miles, and around mile 10, I started to feel really fatigued. I kept pushing as hard as I could, keeping the pace just over 9:00 minutes before turning on whatever kick I had left, finishing mile 13 in 8:52.
The course does a notorious dog leg that leads you past the finish line and loop around. I thought back to this point of the course last year, when I wanted desperately to run, but was reduced to a walk. I pushed hard down the long side, and heard the announcer state that those halfers wanting to finish in under 2 hours had about 1 minute on the clock. My fellow runners and I groaned, but I knew that I’d be stopping my Garmin at 13.1, official time be damned. I was under 2:00, and by God, I was going to count, it!
I pushed hard and hit my Garmin at…
That’s right, baby. I’m a sub-2:00 half marathoner!!
Unfortunately, I still had almost a 1/2 mile to run, but I considered it my victory lap. The last .1 of the Air Force Marathon is one of the coolest finishes I’ve ever experienced – you enter the final chute and run underneath the wings of HUGE military aircraft, and it. is. AWESOME!
This last .1 was rough… I haven’t pushed this hard in a race in a long time, possibly ever. And I basked in it. It was a moment I won’t soon forget.
And before I knew it, I was done. Official time? 2:00:34, but I honestly don’t give a damn. I ran 13.1 miles in 1:57:34, and I’m claiming it.
I was spent. Like, tunnel-vision, exhausted, hobbling back to the car kind of spent, and I haven’t felt like that after a half marathon since my very first. I welcomed every sore muscle, ache, and pain as my reward for pushing hard and never giving up, despite being thrown a challenge early on in the race.
Speaking of which…
There has (understandably) been a lot of chatter on the USAFM Facebook page. Some runners are calling this situation “soul-crushing,” “unacceptable,” and “a disgrace.” PRs were ruined, months of training wasted, and hours of travel time for naught.
Yes, there were some mistakes made, and some big ones – including a pretty slow-to-come and kind of weak apology. That being said, if running some extra miles on a beautiful day is your biggest complaint of the weekend, I think you should be counting your blessings rather than demanding “restitution.”
Without that extra kick in the pants, I doubt I would have run as well. It just goes to show that situations are what you make them. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you react, for better or for worse.
The Air Force Marathon weekend will always hold a special place in my heart – I ran my very first marathon here, and I finally went sub-2 here. Despite the mishaps, I still maintain that they know how to put on a quality race with lots of heart, and it’s a race you definitely don’t want to miss!