Today’s post is brought to you by regular guest contributor and third running sister, Jessica.
I can’t remember when the idea of doing my first half marathon as the centerpiece of an out-of-state girls’ weekend with my mom and the three sisters was born. Or why, at that time, I even agreed to train for and run a half, other than the promise of fun and travel (which was a very devious move on the part of certain sister influencers). We originally looked at doing a race in Myrtle Beach but couldn’t justify the time and expense of travel to South Carolina for a weekend trip. The Rock n Roll half in St. Louis, MO on October 16 was doable—we could fly right into the city in two hours, stay in an Airbnb close to downtown, see our cousin Jason and his family, and celebrate my mom’s birthday, which was the same weekend.
Now I can say the nice thing about a race vacation: the traveling and touristing distracts you from what could otherwise be an anxious lead-up to a big race. The other keys to preventing anxiety in that situation? (1) Know that you’ve completed your training plan. (2) Obsess the day before with the amount of walking you are doing and whether all that walking will kill your legs for the next day—this takes your mind right off any actual worrying about the race.
So, the recap: We arrived in St. Louis late Friday night and found our very cute accommodations—the ground floor of a residence in the historic Southwest Garden neighborhood, right across the street from the Missouri Botanical Gardens.
On Saturday, we lounged around for a few hours and ate breakfast. I had had an unusually busy week and only gotten in one short run since my 12-miler the weekend before, so I felt like I should do a shakeout run just to reassure myself that I still remembered how to do it. Erin and I ran 2 miles around the Botanical Gardens. Then all of us walked over to the Gardens to tour the grounds and eat brunch at Café Flora within the Gardens. It was delicious and one of the best restaurant choices we made!
We followed our visit to the Gardens with a trip downtown to get our bibs at the race expo and relax for a while at a coffee shop. This is when I started getting worried that I had been on my feet too much, between the shakeout run, walking through the Gardens, and traipsing around downtown and the convention center where the expo was held. My legs were feeling really achy, and I nixed a side excursion to see the Arch.
We ate calzones for dinner in the Grove area by our house (a cool business district with bars, restaurants, and music venues), then headed home to settle in for the night with the movie Brooklyn and our flat runners.
5 a.m. rolled around quickly, and Erin, Elissa, and I quietly got dressed and fueled up before heading out the door with our trusty driver—i.e., our mom. I got a bit nervous when we stepped outside, before sunrise on a mid-October morning, and the air wasn’t cold, at all, but Midwest muggy and warm. We’d been warned by the Rock n Roll people that the race could be a hot one, and being too hot while running was one of my fears. However, by the time we got to the starting line, there was some wind and cloud cover and even rain sprinkling for a few minutes, and we shivered a little bit as we waited for the race to begin. (Still, it was much warmer than in Denver, which was hosting the Rock n Roll Denver half, with temperatures there in the high 40’s.)
The race started facing the Arch, the sky lighting up with the sunrise behind it. We snapped some pics and waited for our corral to be herded up to the start line. Finally, it was our turn to go.
The race course wound around downtown and then across the highway to some of the historic neighborhoods, including through the Grove and past the Botanical Gardens by our place, before making its way back downtown. Here are the memorable moments and observations of the race itself, for me:
1. The number of people running—it was crowded, especially before the 10K runners turned off. I think the second-biggest race I’ve done (behind the Bolder Boulder).
2. Feeling hungry (a sensation I don’t usually feel while running) around mile 4 and eating my first helping of Clif energy bloks.
3. Seeing my mom and sister Joanna wave and cheer for us around mile 8. They had walked the short distance from our house to the race course.
4. Feeling so thirsty in the second half, more than I am used to feeling during a race or even any of the long training runs I did. I was stopping at aid stations and chugging one or two cups of water at a time. I think this was due to the humidity—the temperature thankfully never got too high, but the air was so much more humid than I’m used to. While I was running, I would occasionally touch my chest or the back of my neck, and there would be a thin layer of sweat just covering my skin.
5. Picking up the pace in the last few miles. I had a time goal and wanted to finish strong, and I also wanted to be finished! My pace went from 10+ minute miles to almost as low as a 9 minute mile at the end.
6. Crossing the finish line, seeing my mom and sister again, and getting our medals.
My goal was to finish in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes. My time was 2:16:07. After the race, I felt a little…numb, I guess? Not elated or devastated. Glad I had done it, and glad it was over. Let’s face it—running nonstop for more than 2 hours includes a lot of tedium, not in a bad way, but in a “put one foot in front of the other, over and over again” kind of way. And I think I was still in that mindset (plus tired and a little overwhelmed) after I crossed the finish line.
We didn’t stick around at the race too long. We headed back to the house to take off our running clothes (mine were completely soaked—thanks, humidity!) and put on normal clothes, and then the five of us headed to brunch at the Rooster cafe. After eating and drinking a few mimosas (for Erin, Elissa, and me), we rested at home and then met Jason, Jill, and their kids at the Cardinals Nation restaurant across from the ballpark for dinner. It was great to see them. We ended our tourist activities by driving over to the Arch and walking down the pathway next to the Mississippi River. There was a large set of steps up to the Arch—I was hobbling around at that point and told everyone I wasn’t making that journey. We got some good pics from our street-level vantage instead.
On Monday, we travelled home. The weekend, race and all, was a great experience. We drank tons of coffee, talked about the election, and laughed about silly things. I’m still thinking about my next running goal, but the main question rolling around my mind is this: When should I run my next half?