Charleston Half Marathon

Today’s race was a totally new experience for me because not only was it a trip to a place I had never been to before, it was a trip to run in an unfamiliar city with unfamiliar routes and unfamiliar faces. It was kinda weird to run a race without running into people I know from Hampton Roads Runners or dailymile or those I just seem to encounter at every single race I run at the beach.

The trip down to Charleston, SC was an adventure in itself with random traffic, vehicles that shouldn’t have anything strapped to their trunks but they did, a cop pulling over just to give me his number after we stopped to help push a guy out of a ditch, random jokes, many pitstops and wrong turns, and lots of mixed playlists.  It was definitely an enjoyable ride down… and unusual at that.

I was honestly not impressed with Charleston upon our arrival because of the smell that wreaked of sewage, which I was later told was from one of the many paper plants in the area. Besides that, the area where we went to get our packets for the race was a very nice high school surrounded by several condemned buildings. It makes absolutely no sense to me that this city has this HUGE football stadium for this high school that is really nice and then all of these ghetto looking, vacant homes and buildings surrounding the area.  If they are trying to re-brand the city in that particular area, wouldn’t they help the surrounding neighborhoods by the school, as well as, the school? Anyways, I am off on a tangent.

It’s been a stressful weekend for me with my dad being in the hospital, and me having to leave Murphy behind at the puppy hotel.  Somehow I have managed to keep it together to run the race today.  I slept horribly due to a late dinner (totally out of our control due to a restaurant being overbooked), and had an upset stomach when I got up early this morning. So, needless to say, I was not starting the day on the right foot.

We made our way to the school by 7 am to get warmed up, stretched, and to use the bathroom a bajillion more times before the race started at 8 am. I have to say that I feel super spoiled by the races that J & A Racing puts on at the beach because of the organization, and how smoothly everything flows.  This race has a lot of room for improvement.  The race started promptly at 8 am, but there were no corrals. So imagine 5,012 people just going because they realized it was 8 am, and they were supposed to start. It seriously was like herding cattle through the little area to read our timers… I should’ve said, “Moo!” as we tried to pick it up to a jog as we made our way through! Lol!

We started the run on roads that bordered the water in Charleston, and there were some gorgeous views as we ran by this area. I was hoping that this is what we would see for most of the race, but we actually ventured further into the city the further we ran.  We didn’t smell the sewage/ paper smell again until a few miles in, but man was it pungent! I saw the mile markers for miles 1 and 2, and realized I was running about a 9:30 minute per mile pace.  I felt pretty good, but was still chilly since it was only 41 when we started, and the sun was just starting to rise. 

I didn’t see another mile marker until mile 7, and I just happened to glance at my watch and see that I had done 7 miles in 1:04.  This put me at about a 9:15 minute per mile pace, and I realized quickly that along the way I had picked it up some.  It made sense to me though because I honestly felt really good.  Between miles 1 and 7, we ran through this really cool area where the buildings had these beautiful glass and wood store fronts and we were running on bricks engraved with people’s names.  It had a quaint, small town kinda feel, and I was enjoying the views as I moved along.  Just before I left that area, one of my previously double-knotted shoelaces decided to come untied, and I had to stop to re-tie it. This probably took a good 30 seconds off my time, and I wasn’t risking it happening again, so I triple knotted my shoes!

At the point where I hit the 7 mile marker, I had an epiphany. Even though I have really been in a funk about running, and a lot of other things lately, I somehow had managed to run over half of a race, pain free, feeling good, and not even realizing I had travelled that far. I realized also that I truly am a bad ass ultra marathoner…. why else would 7 miles feel so freaking easy???? After this I tried to watch for the mile markers, but didn’t see another until I hit 11.  At this point, we had navigated away from the roads, back towards the water, and into some kind of park with trail like roads instead of the blacktop. My knees were thankful for this because they started to feel a little tight at this point, not painful, but like I needed to stretch.

I got excited about being so close to the end and still feeling good. I kept visualizing all the people that had wished me luck on this race, and how the end would be just like a fun 2 mile run with Murphy, who, of course, would want to go fast!  With every turn, I knew I was making my way to the finish, but I was getting anxious that I wasn’t seeing the 12 mile marker. The trails through the park had lots of small up and down hills, and at this point, I was thanking my coach, Sam, for making me do all those hills during the training leading up to my ultra in December. I watched where I was going on the up sides and just let me body propel me forward down the down sides, letting my legs stride as they pleased because it was fun and freeing to run like a kid!

I did notice that we travelled over what seemed like a lot of abandoned railroad tracks that we had to carefully step/run over.  This was true as we came to the end of the race as well. Mile marker 12 was by another set of these tracks, and more and more people were waiting for us as we ran this last 1.1 miles.  The last mile seemed to weave in and out of varying streets, and around a lot of corners. I kept thinking to myself, “Is this the last turn?” And when it wasn’t, I remember thinking, “I don’t know how much I have left in the tank…” And then I was mentally kicking myself because I knew better. I just ran an ultra marathon in December! I can do this- it’s not even half of the ultra!!!! Knowing that each turn was not the last, I just kept pushing and pushing harder, and finally saw where the crowd went from slim to large, and I knew I was close to the finish line.  I propelled myself forward with everything I had, and guess what?! It wasn’t the finish. I still had a little further, and two additional turns before I got to the finish. But you better believe that as soon as I saw the timer counting down the hours, minutes, and seconds, that I gave everything I had left to sprint to it.  By mile marker 11, I realized that I had 18 minutes to run the last 2.1 miles in order to break the 2 hour mark. You better believe that I was mentally and physically driven to meet that goal. I finished the Charleston Half Marathon in 1:59:32!!! I DID IT! I beat the 2 hour mark and PR’d by about 5 minutes today!  I still can’t wrap my head around it… I just did an ultra a month ago, and here I am PR’ing on a smaller race, where I only planned to have fun!  This was definitely a fun race for me because I wasn’t mentally purging a whole lot of junk, just some self-talk occasionally and changing it to positives. The people in my life now really inspired me to do my best today, and I had a lot of fun doing this race in a new city.  While I certainly have recommendations for the race directors (Like providing gels), I definitely enjoyed the race today.  Thanks go to Rebecca for my great Christmas present of the entry to this race, and CONGRATS go to her as well for running a sub 2 hour half marathon for her first one! Yay!

Live. Love. Run. Passionately! 13.1 is done for the FIFTEENTH time for me! 🙂

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4 Responses to Charleston Half Marathon

  1. David H. says:

    The best things with running are the unexpected ones. Congrats!

  2. Greg Ritchie says:

    (A little late in getting to this. lol) CONGRATULATIONS on your P.R., Erica!! Looks like you followed my advice to “tear it up”!! Way to go! And def sounds like those organizers need some helpful input for next year’s race. Not seeing mile markers in a race drives me nuts!

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