Official Race Recap: Runner's World Half Marathon

As I mentioned yesterday, I didn't have any trouble sleeping through Saturday night but, almost as soon as I woke up, I started to fret about the final race of the RW Hat Trick. My finish time in the 10k was not great for me; the entire race was a struggle. After that race, I had too much time alone to think about my performance and analyze what my results meant for the half marathon.

Once I had my car packed, I drove to the ArtsQuest Center, got a great parking place very close to the finish, laid around in my car for a little while, then headed toward the warm, indoor toilets. On the way, I snapped a couple photos of the steelstacks. They were an inspiring sight both mornings.

Bethlehem has turned these behemoths into something beautiful to behold.
My stomach was reminding me how nervous I was and, suddenly, I was overwhelmed by emotion. For the next half hour, I sat by myself trying to pretend I wasn't crying. I never burst into sobs but I got close a couple of times.

Fortunately, as I was getting ready to head to the starting line, a fellow runner struck up a conversation with me that continued until we got to the starting line and went our separate ways. We bonded over a shared admiration for Andy Potts.

I love watching people at start lines. Listening to them is even more entertaining.
As soon as I started moving, all of the nerves melted away. There was an open road in front of me and I was moving along it. It helped a little that the first half mile or so was downhill and then flat.

Can't help myself with the photos of giant groups of runners.
Not far into the race, I encountered some of the people I'd run alongside the day before. For two or three miles, I ran and chatted with a couple cheerful young women. Their company got me up the first hill. At the next hill, I was feeling sprightly, so I sped up a little and had my best mile of the race.

A mile on my own along mostly flat roads and I made a new friend. Her name was Jennifer. We stuck together until we got to the steepest hill on the course. The carrot drawing me on was the promise of a free running skirt at the top. Alas, they ran out before I arrived. (Goal for next year: Run fast enough to get a skirt.)

Just past the skirts, we reached the halfway point and that's when I knew I was going to finish. Though I hadn't been dwelling on the idea of not finishing, it seemed like a possibility until I hit the midpoint with plenty of time to spare. Interestingly, my 10k split during the half was 2 minutes faster than my 10k race time.

There weren't many runners around me and spectators were thin on the ground, so I took in the sights around me, thanked the course marshals and police officers keeping traffic at bay, and semi-jogged through the beautiful city of Bethlehem.

Beginning around mile 8, every course marshal told me "It's all downhill from here." Knowing there was a hill in the last mile and able to look over their shoulders to visible, upcoming hills, I smiled, thanked them, and said, "That's what everyone keeps telling me."

I was looking at this hill as the first person that day told me, "It's all downhill from here."
At mile 9, I suddenly became ravenously hungry. I had some GU but I wanted real food. My stomach was growling. As I passed a medical tent, I considered asking if they had something but I didn't want to raise concerns.

I walked most of the last 5 miles of the course. At mile 11, the walking ladies from the 10k passed me again. At mile 11.5, I congratulated a little boy who rode his bike up a giant hill that I had the pleasure of running down. From mile 12 on, I dodged all of the people who'd already finished and weren't sticking around for the awards. There were a lot of encouraging words from those walking toward me but it was still a bit of a bummer to have to watch them head out.

When the finishing arch finally came into sight, I started the fastest jog I could manage and finished on the run with 12 minutes to spare - official time: 3:17:39. As soon as I got my medal a photographer stopped me for a photo op. I got out my 5k and 10k medals and hung them around my neck, too.

Before long, I was at my car with a bag full of treats that the Larabars rep was trying to get rid of, compression socks on my tired legs, a half full pizza box in the passenger seat, and my GPS set to Lancaster and then home, and the right to wear the hat that says I finished the 2013 Hat Trick.

As usual, Mogli had to get in on the picture-taking action. Those are his medals, right?
I'm going to try to write about the lessons I learned this weekend tomorrow.
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