Sunday, January 18, 2015

2015 Aramco Houston Half Marathon

"The weather gods are in our favor this morning." That comment was made just before the start of the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, and I could not have agreed more. We were in the "green zone," meaning we were experiencing optimal weather conditions. Though I would have preferred a temperature that had been about seven degrees cooler (did that really just come out of my mouth?), I have no complaints whatsoever. I wore a Texas Longhorn Nike Element Half-Zip Dri-Fit Pullover (see, told you I had a new one!) with a pair of Lululemon Hotty Hot Shorts - okay, I guess I like Lululemon more than I might care to admit - and I didn't even have to wear the sweatpants that I planned to wear while I was waiting around and throw to the side before the race began. All I ended up throwing away was a pair of Target gloves, but it was well worth it to have toasty hands while running. When my hands are cold, they never get warm.

Anyway, let's go in chronological order. My alarm went off at the almost ungodly hour of 4:40am. I had gone to bed at 8:00pm last night, though I didn't fall asleep until about 9:00pm, so I was feeling very well-rested. Plus, I was excited for the morning ahead of me, which contributed to my popping out of bed and running downstairs to turn on the oven. I had planned on eating my usual pre-race meal of toast, peanut butter, banana slices, and cinnamon, and that's exactly what I did, with the substitution of a whole wheat English muffin instead of toast. I ate that around 5:20am, and shortly thereafter my dad so kindly drove me down to the start line so that I wouldn't have to deal with the blocked-off streets, the one-way streets, nor would I have to drive around aimlessly trying to find parking. 

We hit no traffic (shocking, right?), and arrived downtown just before 6:00am. I found my corral with no trouble, and met a few friends at the starting line. They all had goal times that were just a tad faster than mine, but I decided to stay toward the front so that I could hopefully hit my groove faster. Typically, the first mile or two of these big races is a lot of shuffling and elbow-bumping, as we are all confined in one small area. I had heard that this race was much of the same, if not even worse, but I will say that I experienced absolutely none of that. I felt as though I was able to hit my pace from the very start of the race, and I didn't feel like I was having to do much maneuvering at all.

But back to that in a minute. The wheelchair and hand crank wheelchair racers were off at 6:45am, and though I didn't get to see their start, I just want to say that those racers are such an inspiration to me. It would be so easy to view their situations as a limitation, but the fact that they choose to make the best of it and continue to race competitively speaks volumes to their character. And competitive they are! Then, the honorary starts, Aaron and Peter Barry, who, along with their sister Willa, survived a tragic automobile accident that claimed the lives of both of their parents - longtime marathon participants - in 2011. I love hearing stories of why people run, and there sure are a lot of inspirational and beautiful ones. Next up was the singing of the National Anthem, and then we, the runners, were off! I felt as though I got a pretty quick start, and my Garmin confirmed that feeling. I ran the first couple of miles at around an 8:30min/mile pace, which I certainly wasn't going to be able to sustain throughout the entire race, but it felt good to get a fast start.

I absolutely loved everything about this race. I loved running through my city, I loved watching the sun rise over the Houston skyline, I loved the thousands of spectators that lined the streets of Houston, I loved the hilarious and inspirational posters said spectators were holding, and I'll list my favorites momentarily, I loved seeing familiar faces, I loved meeting new people, I loved joining the thousands of runners who helped raise money for one of the many charities adopted my the Houston Marathon's Run For a Reason program, and I loved the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who probably got up well before I did this morning in order to make this race possible. Truly, these would not be possible without you incredible people, so thank you for giving up your time and helping to make it a successful race. Y'all are the true MVPs.

I am not sure how my Garmin added an additional .3 miles, but it did. And though I do think I ran just over 13.1 miles - that comes from being on the outside of turns and such - I certainly did not run 13.4 miles, nor did I maintain a 8:32min/mile pace. BUT, I did finish the race in 1:54:29 seconds, which I thought was a new PR, but it wasn't. I ran the 2013 Austin Half Marathon in 1:54:18, and had I known that, I probably would have turned on the speed just a bit sooner, but you won't hear me complaining about running a sub 2:o0 half marathon. That was my goal, after all, and I absolutely met my goal of having fun. Oh, and I also beat my principal, but only by about five and a half minutes!

After crossing the finish line, I headed into George R. Brown and received my medal, a bottled water, a banana, my finisher's shirt, and then I sat down and stretched for a couple of minutes. My IT band did start flaring up while I was running, but it wasn't so bad that I felt as though I needed to stop running. I stretched it out immediately following the race, and I rolled it out when I got home, but I am just very thankful that the pain wasn't so bad as to cause me to stop running. I'm a pretty stubborn runner, and I don't like to stop unless I absolutely have to, and I would hate to have made my little injury even worse because I was too stubborn to stop!

I found my parents soon after that, and the best part was that I even got to hear and see them while running that final tenth of a mile. My mom got her artistic skills flowing and held up this sign for all to see. It meant the world to me to have my sweet parents out there cheering me on, because there have to be things that are far more interesting than watching runners pass you by for two hours. It's funny that they used to come watch me play volleyball in the George R. Brown, and now they're watching me run in much the same place. Life really does come full circle!

And speaking of signs, I wish I could have walked through the course again so that I could take pictures of all the posters that made me laugh or smile, but I tried to remember my favorites as best I could.
  • This seems like a lot of work or a free banana
  • Chafe now, wine later
  • Hey girl ... (Shout out to Ryan Gosling for motivating probably too many women on this race)
  • Run like there's a hot guy in front of you, and a creepy guy behind you
    • And yes, he's looking at your a$$
  • Don't walk now, people are watching
  • You're almost there! Just kidding, this is only mile 7
  • Run like JJ Watt is waiting for you at the finish line
  • Every wall has a door
  • Hurry up! We want margaritas!
  • Blisters are in this season
  • High five if you're calling in sick to work tomorrow!
  • Don't worry, toenails are overrated
  • Yep, worst parade ever
And again, I am so thankful to have had this incredibly fun opportunity. As I mentioned yesterday, there are not many feelings that beat the one that comes when crossing the finish line of a race. I loved every minute of participating in the 43rd Annual Aramco Houston Half Marathon, and I already can't wait for next year.

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