Over two weeks ago, I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. It was the fourth time I’ve run the half and the fifth time I’ve been involved in their series of races (2011 26.2). Each year, I loved it. Despite three years of rain, a terrible 26.2 experience, and many black toenails. It’s the city of champions. The streets make you a runner of steel (holy hills). And it’s my hometown.
But this year was different. I hated every minute of it.
Running the Nike Women’s Half the weekend before and squeezing out a PR, I was anxious to see what I could do with a week of recovery and on streets that have always made me a happy runner. I should have known from the time I stepped into the expo it wouldn’t be the race I was hoping for.
The expo was a mess. I’m not sure why. I did arrive during the last three hours of the last day, but I’ve done this in years past. It was just a maze to get through.
Knowing I wanted to try to set another PR, I headed to the pacers table. After discussing my goal and what corral I need to be in (which was the one I was already assigned to), I was ready to go! I headed home for spaghetti and sleep! Setting out my pace bib and the pace bracelet, I realized they gave me a pace bracelet for the wrong finish time!!! 20 minutes slower to be exact!! Ugh. Strike 1.
I actually got almost a full 7 hours of sleep (which is a miracle before any race). I had all my stuff ready and we were on our way. A mile down the road, I’m double checking my race day essentials – “OH SHIT!” ….my poor mom. I forgot my race bib! At this point I’ve run 15 races, you would think that remembering a race bib would be second nature. Nope. Not for this gal. Strike 2.
Finally we were on our way and at this point I’m freaking out about making it to the start line in time. Mom just said “at this point, if I get a speeding ticket, you’re really not supposed to run this race.” Touché mom.
Once in Pittsburgh, I had to jump out of the car since so many roads were closed. I headed in the direction of the start line. Oh race day…
At this point its 15 minutes till the gun and I was in search of a porta potty. Too much anxiety. I went to the first ones I saw. It was a side street. Then I headed down because I saw the corrals were on that street. Well, I needed corral B. This was the lead in to Corral C. And there was no way to get around it without going back up the street and going down another 2 – 3 blocks. No time for that!! So I thought.
So I got into corral C and waited. And waited. Then it started to rain. At this point it was 7:10am (start was 7:00am). I heard no gun, no national anthem, and well no start. What the heck!?!? What was going on? Everyone else was just talking about what a great time they were having and how it’s just about the experience not the time. Oh dear Lord. I’m in the wrong corral. I DO CARE ABOUT MY TIME!!!! I WANT TO PR PEOPLE!!!
By the time our corral moved towards the start it was 7:35am. We had been standing for almost a solid hour. Five minutes later, we were off.
The next 6 miles were hell.
It was so crowded I couldn’t even weave my way around everyone to get into a normal race pace. I spent the first 6 miles pissed. Angry that I couldn’t get around them. Angry that I was going to come no where close to a PR. It was too much time to make up.
Well, eventually I just swallowed my pride and chalked it up as a long run. A really slow long run.
I came in 15 minutes slower than the week before.
So you would think that’s where the story ends, right? No way. This day just kept getting better (sarcasm). We parked at Station Square and tried to get back on the parkway. Well, unfortunately between the massive amounts of construction and road closures from the race, we spent over an hour weaving around Pittsburgh, and the bad parts of Pittsburgh (mom = “I don’t want to be here”, you and me both…you and me both). Two hours later we were home. My parents live 40 minutes from the city.
So there you go. The 2014 Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
I wasn’t even going to write this post. I had given up on this one and didn’t even want to relive it by putting it into the blog. It was over.
Until I read Kristin Armstrong’s post “Royal Flush”. Her first paragraph was perfection:
“Running is always an exercise in humility. We have good days and bad days in training. We have poop stories, chafing incidents, farmer blows, public pees, and black toenails. We have rough races. We fall and get banged up. We go for PR’s and sometimes come up with DNF’s. We suffer injuries and combat aging. We dust off and try and try again.”
So, in essence this was the lesson I was meant to learn from that race. I’m back training to do it all over again, despite the experience of that Sunday. You dust off. Resilience is a runner’s best trait. Because in the end over half your runs suck, your feet are a terrible mess, you prefer nights in and early morning runs over wild nights out, and yet the happiest place is in your running shoes. It’s who we are. And this race is a part of me. So thank you Pittsburgh. Thanks for a valuable lesson.
And I absolutely love this part of Kristin’s post too….
“Maybe this is why I always find runners so easy to talk to – perhaps we are worn like the Velveteen Rabbit. The miles and the sweat have rubbed us real. For relatively serious people, we can always seem to laugh at ourselves.”
We are all velveteen rabbits. Which by the way is my favorite children’s story. Runners are real. We may have great legs from the miles we’ve put in, but our feet are a mess, our faces tanned and salt streaked, and we walk many a day with a post race waddle. Like the story goes:
“Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand. Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” – The Velveteen Rabbit
So this is me being real. I’m not holding back. And I’ll probably write more than one failed race post. Running and racing make us real.