Everything still feels pretty surreal since finishing my FIRST half marathon a week ago. A lot of the race is a blur, but I really tried to take everything in and savor moments, while also achieving my goals for the race.

Registration and Cost: I had to go back to see how long ago I decided to do this race. My registration was at the end of October of 2014 — BEFORE I HAD EVEN RUN MY FIRST TEN MILER. I must’ve been some kind of crazy. Blame the Halloween candy. The cost was $85 for the half registration, which I imagine had some fees attached.

Expo and Packet Pick-up: I am generally not an Expo person, but I LOVED this Expo. I loved it so much that I went back a second day — and spent a LOT more money. CURSES, EXPO! But I have a lot of fun running shirts and pants now. I had to pick up both my 5K and half packets; packet pick-up was super annoying for the 5K, only because they lumped the last name starts with “U” with the “Ss” and OMG every “Smith” or “Stewart” was in line before me.

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For the half, I had to repeat my number at least 6 times, but poor lady was probably number-dumb by the time I showed up. It’s like when you see the same word over-and-over again and it just doesn’t look right anymore. Picking up my bib was simple, but everything else was separate and a little frustrating. I had to go down a few tables to the shirt section for my shirt (for 5K they were behind every table). The race bag was ALL THE WAY AT THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EXPO. I hate that. A lot. I am an efficiency person.

Fundraising: I ended up raising $355 for the National Aviary — thanks to everyone who donated!

Bag Check: I didn’t use since I could walk to the start corrals (and packed the boyfriend with a bag for the finish line), but I had several options, including the special bag check perk from being an SCRR member.

Weather: The morning was chillier than I expected, so I started down with a long-sleeve shirt. I initially picked out a throw-away, but when it was colder, I realized I would be running most of the race in long sleeves. Cue, dramatic irony when it felt suddenly like 103 degrees. Once I was up the hill of Carson Street, the long-sleeve had to come off. It was a beautiful day, to be sure, but definitely not ideal for a marathon. That morning I suffered from a wardrobe indecision, and my “flat Mel” changed twice before leaving the house.

Alas, there was an AMAZING sunrise that morning.

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(also, that guy from the Anchorman crew ran with a lamp for the entirety of the race. People are hilarious!)

Course: So much love for this course! During my training runs, I covered most of the half marathon route, and the north side/downtown sections were my regular stomping grounds. And since I’m a proper Pittsburgh lady, I love running those bridges.

Fans and Experience: There were fans — a LOT of them. I high-fived a cow in Allegheny Commons. I touched a blow-up llama alpaca for good luck. I ran down the hill of the West End to a band singing “YMCA” — with hundreds of people happily dancing and spelling it out on the sidelines. I saw Steff on the 16th Street Bridge. A lady gave me a giant, incredibly delicious orange in the South Side. I did not eat the lube on a stick (that was the best first marathon advice ever received)!

But here is what I didn’t expect because people talk about how the crowds and cheering help you get through everything… I was overwhelmed before I made it to Station Square. Completely, totally over-stimulated and wanted to be alone in my running world. I never trained for that happening — I mean, how can you?! Through doing large races like this, I guess. I put in my headphones and didn’t take them out until I crossed that finish line.

Recycled derby sign!

Recycled derby sign!

Random Bullshit: Guy yelling and face-timing on his phone in the Strip District WHILE HE WAS RUNNING about his prior night losing $600 at the Casino. That was really too early to feel so annoyed at another runner, but OMG what an asshole. Kinda hope he puked on his shoes somewhere.

Favorite Sign: South Side, “I’m not flat, but the next mile is!”

Finish Line: A Robyn song came up on my playlist, and I turned into the crazy person singing this down Boulevard of the Allies all the way to the Finish Line. SINGING. I felt strong, I felt empowered… I felt silly! But I gave zero shits. I WAS RUNNING 13 MILES.

Medals and Swag: This race weekend was a medal extravaganza — I got a finisher’s medal for doing both the 5K and the half marathon, but also the Steel Challenge medal. For swag, I’m pretty sure everyone else covered hating the salmon-pink shirts, right? I don’t hate pink, but I REALLY wanted that green shirt; and considering how large the women’s small was, a men’s shirt would never have fit me. I liked the magazine/booklet for the race that was in the bag; it’s a nice keepsake. And those ice pods are the bomb. There was also a can of some Redbull product and a NuGo bar in there — both of which I likely can’t have, so… eh. I was honestly really hoping for one of those small foil packets of sunscreen or lube to put in my “fuel” belt.

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Bonus: Great way to start off the birthday week! This was also officially the last race I finished as a 37-year-old.

Notable 30-somethings: There were three 30-something females who placed in the Top 10 for the half marathon. Caitlin, Jennifer, and Sarah: you’re amazing! There were two 30-something men in their division’s Top 10 too. Heck yeah, Sam and Jeff! Man, is it beyond hope that one day I’d like to run a 6-minute mile?

After party: Our Neighbors hosted a post-race brunch and there were all the things to eat. I could barely stomach a deviled egg and some mimosas. I did happily enjoy a full plate of pickles though. GIMME BRINE.

OVERALL
The Great: NO KNEE PAIN. Like, at all. No pain anywhere.
The Good: I felt SO GOOD all the way through Mile 11 (where I almost started crying because at that point it was my furthest distance ever).
The Bad: My fingers swelled up though, like two times their size. It was really uncomfortable when they started pulsing. Chalking it up to the heat.
The Ugly: Mile 12, man. For how good I felt at Mile 11, I felt completely opposite at Mile 12. Probably because I had so much energy to run up that dang hill right after the Birmingham Bridge and it was just too much. But I was not walking that hill. Nope. Strangely, my split doesn’t reflect how terrible I felt.

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RESULTS
Finished 2:20:49
Pace 10:44/mi avg (per official race results)

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I’m so proud of my finish! I was right on target for my time goal too — running my fastest mile at 7 miles in kinda blows my mind. There wasn’t much I could do about starting slow, which is something of a blessing, as there was a LOT of congestion in Corral D for at least the first two miles.

Everyone PRs their first race, right? :)

Everyone PRs their first race, right? :)

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