Sunday, January 17th, 2010, I ran my first half marathon. My goals were simple: finish the race without dying or being horribly injured and finish the race without stopping or walking.
The P.F. Chang Rock n Roll Marathon and Half Marathon in Arizona is one of the biggest races in the world. They had over 5000 volunteers working the race to take care of the nearly 30,000 runners plus their entourages. I must have seen over 300 port-a-potties to take care of everyone’s needs.
This race was not like any race I’d ever seen. All along the route there were interesting things to look at to keep myself entertained and not focused on how much further I had to go. Sometimes I was so entertained that I wasn’t really paying attention to how much I was running.
The Clothing Drive
Even though Arizona is known for its warm weather, it’s still cold on January mornings. The marathon started at 7:30am and the half started at 8:30am. Many of us arrived at the race in extra layers that we wouldn’t need by the end of the race. A lot of us wore clothes to donate to charity. As we began to warm up during the first few miles of the race, we took off our extra sweatshirts, hats, and gloves and threw them to the side of the route where volunteers with huge garbage bags gathered them up to give to the homeless. I purchased a hoodie at Goodwill for $4 a few days before the race to keep me warm pre-race and donated back.
I dressed for comfort in my running pants and wicking t-shirt, but some of my companions dressed to impress. We had some wild outfits on the course. I was amazed that they could run comfortably running, and running pretty fast, in their outfits. We had a duo running in the orange and baby blue tuxes from “Dumb and Dumber.” We also had a guy running in a banana suit and another guy running while dressed up like Elvis. There was also a pair of women who were running in matching argyle knee socks with fuzzy pink cowboy hats. They made me grin.
I was so grateful to everyone who came out to cheer us on. Even if they weren’t there for me (and most of them weren’t), I changed my name to correspond to whatever sign I was looking at. I pretended to be “Mom,” “Nicole,” and “Uncle Ashley” during the race. There were also some awesome signs of general encouragement along the route:
- “Hurry Up. We’re Hungry.”
- “You Are Almost Done” (next to 4-mile marker)
- “5.6 Miles to Free Beer. And the Finish Line.”
Chafing is actually a big concern for runners. They can get chafing wherever their skin rubs together or against their clothes, like their arms, inner thighs, and even their nipples. Apparently some people finish long races with bleeding nipples because they’ve been rubbed raw by their shirts. I usually only put Bodyglide anti-chafe stick on my inner upper arms so my sports bra and ipod strap don’t tear up my skin, but on race day, I decided to be extra careful and put it on my inner thighs too. I laughed at my friend who had a canister of Vaseline at the starting line and was slathering his inner thighs with it. Around mile 9, we had volunteer standing at the end of a water station who had sticks with gobs of Vaseline on them for anyone who was having chafing issues during the race.
Other Things That Made Me Smile
I’m not going to deny it, running 13.1 miles is hard. Sometimes it felt like all I could do was put one foot in front of the other. I was grateful for anything that made me smile along the way.
- Water Station Volunteers in Costume: It was obvious that some of our water stations were manned by groups of friends who coordinated their outfits for their enjoyment and ours. One water station was run by people dressed up like hippies. Another station was run by a bunch of kids dressed up like nerds – with the taped glasses, suspenders, and pants pulled up to their chests. It was awesome.
- I Rickrolled my ipod: I created a special playlist for the race and added Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” to the mix and set my ipod for shuffle. It came on somewhere during Mile 10.
- The Cheerleaders at Mile 11: We had various cheerleading squads dispersed between the live bands along the route. I’m sure they had to be there super early in the morning due to street closures. To pass the time until the runners starting coming by, the cheerleaders at Mile 11 wrote motivating messages and drew pictures on the ground with sidewalk chalk for us. I especially liked the manhole cover they turned into a flower.
I finished the race in 2:09:16, without stopping and without major injury. I couldn’t be happier about my finish, and oddly I’m planning on doing it again next year. This race gave me a good lesson in humility. The half marathoner lined up before the race based on their expected race time. I started with my friend who finished in 1:42:47. Needless to say, I was a passed a lot.