Believe it or not, but I sprang out of bed at 5 am on Saturday! Okay, maybe I didn’t exactly spring out of bed, but I was eager to get the day started regardless of how slow I was actually moving. (Did you miss what I did the day before? You can read about it here.)
Jennifer and I took no time at all getting ready the morning of the Air Force Half Marathon. We left our hotel in the wee early hours. We knew there would be traffic and I had big concerns about the weather. All week they had been predicting thunderstorms and in the night we could hear the rumbles of thunder. Our biggest motivation, however, for the early arrival time was to join with local Wear Blue runners for a Circle of Remembrance.
The lines at security.
I was shocked to see the throngs of people streaming into Wright Patterson AFB prior to the start of the race. We were told at the pasta dinner that they race was sold out and 15,000 people were participating. All day long I remarked at the long lines and the huge crowds. I had no idea that this race was such a draw! We had to park way out in the grass (but it was very well marked and organized), and walk waaaaaay around to the other side of the Air Force Museum. Before entering the official race area, we had to walk through metal detectors. That was quick, but the line to get up there was looooong. I was being my usual anxious self, but Jennifer’s cool demeanor was contagious. As long as she was calm, I was semi-calm.
We made our way to the meeting point for the Circle of Remembrance, but no one donning blue was in sight. It was fun to soak in the atmosphere and talk to a few other runners, but I think we were both disappointed that the Wear Blue meet-up never materialized. Eventually we had to head back to the car. (We had arrived so early that we opted to leave our bibs and accessories in the car and make a trip back.) Thankfully, the rain and storms never materialized, so if nothing else, the time we spent outside before the race was completely dry!
Can you feel the humidity dripping off the photo?
We easily got our goodies from the car and hauled ass back through the parking lot, back beyond the crowds, back through security. We happened to walk along the finisher’s chute as the 10k winner came sprinting down. He was lightning fast! (Timing was in our favor again – we would have missed that moment if we hadn’t gone back to the car!)
I debated going to the bathroom. I needed to go, but the lines were long. We decided to find a spot to line up in when the race suddenly started. Our serendipitous timing worked out again – we just happened to be standing at the start when the race started!
I was crowded. Wall to wall, elbow to elbow type of crowded. I don’t know if it’s because we started so far back. (Like behind the 16 minute/mile pacer far back.) Perhaps it’s just that the road was narrow. It stayed tight for a good three miles. I felt ready to run faster, but I know that starting slow was for the best. Even Jennifer remarked that it was to our benefit not to start out too fast.
I was immediately soaked with sweat. There was no rain but, oh boy, there was humidity! I took little sips of Nuun from my handheld, cursed the heat, and kept right on running. The race took us along a beautiful golf course, under a few shady trees, and next to some cute houses. I heard another runner saying that this is where he does his regular weekly runs. Lucky!
A few of the residents stood or sat on their lawns and waved at the participants. It had a very homey, neighborhood feel and I immediately wanted to move right in! One family was giving out pieces of bacon. I think they were popular with most runners!
That bling bling! Worth the struggles on the course.
Around mile five, I started to feel sick to my stomach. I hadn’t had any major tummy trouble during training. In fact, I don’t think I had any. I’m still not sure what it was that upset me. It could have been the timing of breakfast. I normally eat pretty close to running, but today we had a lot of time waiting before we ran. I ended up eating way early and then again close to the start. It also could have been a hydration/salt issue. I dealt with this last year and found that taking salt packets helped keep these symptoms at bay. Despite my salting and hydrating, it felt like breakfast might make a return appearance.
By mile 8, I couldn’t ignore it. We had to take a long walk break. I felt bad because I knew Jennifer could run so much faster than this. I also felt a touch of self pity because I knew that I could run so much faster than this. (Maybe “so much” is an exaggeration, but at least a little faster.) Meb’s words from yesterday rang clear in my mind. Today it just didn’t click, and I didn’t beat myself up over it. We walked the long overpass at mile 8 and then kept on going.
I know we walked pretty regularly after that, but I don’t even know if it was every mile or every other. We discussed how crowded it was, how good the occasional breezes felt, how the hills were not nearly as bad as we expected. It felt good to be with a friend, someone who makes it easy to be myself. This camaraderie is what I’ve been missing since my move in June. Running slower gave me more time to enjoy it.
The last mile brought us back to base. We saw a long stretch of red, white, and blue flags. I remember Jennifer remarking that we should consider this section our Wear Blue mile. That gave me so much encouragement to keep going. (She’s really good at staying the right thing at the right time!) We don’t just run for ourselves, and my temporary tummy ache was no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
The home stretch has you right under the wings of some massive planes. I picked up the pace as much as I could, and Jennifer matched me stride for stride. I felt awesome to push hard right at the end!
We were funneled down a line to get our medals. Air Force service members put them around our necks. (I wish I knew more about AF ranks; the man I met might have been a big wig, but I have no idea!)
Our race stats:
- 13.1 mile finish time: 2:23:20
- Average page: 10:57 per mile
Post-race goodies flowed in abundance! They had bananas, water, full sized Gatorade, Panera pastries, cookies, crackers, pretzels, chips. I was craving cold water, so I grabbed a bottle along with some Gatorade and salty chips. We found a spot on the grass to park and enjoy and bask in our runner’s high. After my stomach calmed down and the chips were eaten, we got back up. There was no reason to linger. Although, that’s exactly what many people were doing. This seems to be a great race for spectators! There was a lot to see and do – so many booths. But it wasn’t anything that interested these two tired ladies. Jennifer got her free post-race beer and we trudged back to the car. The rain never appeared, but we got a hearty dose of wind on the walk back.
The afternoon was spent relaxing. We took full advantage of the tv and watched quite a few romantic comedies. Dinner at P.F. Chang’s hit the spot, and we walked around the Dayton Mall afterwards to stretch our legs. Jennifer treated us both to some local chocolates. Hello, buckeyes! Where have you been all my life?!
Sunday morning came all too soon, and it was time to say goodbye again.
I can’t get over how lucky I am to have friends who will travel to meet up with me, who love racing as much as I do, who will talk me down from my craziness, and not judge me. I’ve been sad pretty much every single day since I left Texas, but Fort Bliss has gifted me with life long friends, and I cannot be sad about that!
So…who wants to run Rock n’ Roll Nashville with us?!