We chatted with a lovely woman who was wearing a bib with the name KEVIN on her back, which I thought was a bit odd. Turns out, she had her own bib on the front. Her husband, who was standing next to her, was injured and couldn't run so this was her way of running with him. I thought that was pretty cool. Finally, it was go time. My goal for this race was to try and run steady between 6:35-6:40 pace and finish around 1:26. Up to this point, I'd been feeling strong, hitting my workouts right on target, and really enjoying my training, so I was fired up and ready to rock. Eli had told us that the course we fast and relatively flat, with a few gentle rollers, so I had a good chance of hitting my goal if all went well. I started right off with a group of about 10 people, crossing the first mile at 6:38. Perfecto. The group hung together, taking turns leading for a few miles, everyone smiling and incredibly friendly. Only in the running world. I love that. The miles passed quickly and I was feeling good. 6:42, 6:36, 6:35, 6:37....and so on. I've mentioned this before, but when you've recently run a marathon, my latest having been Boston in April, thirteen miles can feel insanely short comparatively. Getting to mile 5 and knowing I only had 8 to go rather than 21, well, you get it, right? So, I kept at it, hitting each mile right on the nose. Until mile 10. I'd been running solo for most of the miles up to this point. I was getting tired and my mind started to become my opponent, which is never a good thing. I had three measly miles to go and without realizing it, I kind of zoned out a little and lost track of my pace. Mile 10 was a 6:46, not too far off, but then mile 11 was a 6:53. Oops. Thankfully, I caught up to a young chap who I decided to try and stay with for the rest of the race if possible. Between having someone to run with and knowing I was almost done, I was able to get back on pace for mile 12 and then to eek out a 6:35 for mile 13. Remember the dirt road in the beginning, the one I didn't think we'd have to tackle? Yea, that was the finish chute. I was really excited to be done, but I was also scared to death that I was going to trip as the path was downhill and there were rocks and ruts everywhere. So, I kind of pulled back on the reigns and danced around the potholes to finish without falling, crossing the line in 1:27:24.
I'm not going to lie, it was really fun to break the tape. The guy I'd run neck and neck with for the last couple miles offered his hand for a high five which I gave him and then returned with a hug. You just can't put a price on the support you get from your fellow runners out on the course and I know, whether he realized it or not, that this guy was a big reason behind the fact that I had been able to get myself back in check for those final two miles. Two young kids were handing out medals and this one little guy said, Yay! You're the first girl. You can have TWO medals. I laughed and thanked him but told him I was all good with one. He's my new favorite for having referred to me as a girl. At this point it was starting to rain so I bundled up and headed back to the line to quietly sit under a spectator's umbrella and wait for Kirsten. And though she had planned to "take it easy" she still came across the line in a killer time, just seconds off from her PR having just run a 20+ miler and a hard workout earlier that same week. Did I mention how strong she is these days??!! We slowly made our way over to the snack table....that's right. Snacks. Each runner got a tote bag full of snacks. What?? We also saw people eating ice cream which looked insanely delicious. We found Eli and thanked him for the awesome race and all that he'd done to make it run so smoothly. The man is good at what he does.