The Rock n Roll Dallas half marathon was yesterday, and it was amazing. I got a massage this morning (highly recommend a post race massage if you haven’t done one – I feel like a new woman) and am now binge watching Netflix reruns and reflecting on the highs and lows of yesterday’s run.
My alarm was set for 5:30 am, but I was wide awake at 5:15. I can’t manage to get out of bed before seven on a weekday but the adrenaline of race day is enough to get me up sans alarm. I opted to take the DART to the race, Dallas’s public transportation service. We Dallasites are either in love with the DART system or totally skeptical of it. I was much more on the skeptical end of the spectrum but after using it this weekend I have to say I’m a fan. Great way to get to a race, and that is how I plan to travel for future Dallas races. Parking downtown is expensive, and it can be difficult to find a spot to park in. Plus, when I got to the DART station there was a long line of runners waiting at the kiosk to buy their train ticket. The train was packed with runners, which gave the energy an electric feel. I nervously chatted with the strangers surrounding me to pass the time. I met Susan, who turned sixty last October and was planning to run six half marathons this year to celebrate; and an unnamed man, who was traveling to Paris in a few weeks for the Paris Marathon. Talk about a bucket list race.
The DART stop for the race was at Union Station, and was literally right across the street from the starting corrals. It was only 41 degrees when I got to the race so I was grateful for the heat inside the train station. I waited inside along with many runners until about twenty minutes before the race, when I took my spot in Corral 10.
At 8:00 on the dot, the man on the loudspeaker counted down. “Five.. Four.. Three.. Two.. ONE!” My adrenaline spiked, before I realized that he was counting down for the first corral only. Eight countdowns separated me from the starting line. One minute between each countdown. Suddenly the urge to use the restroom took over me. I panicked. Did I have enough time? I saw a row of Port-a-Potties and knew I would regret it a couple miles in if I didn’t go. I scurried over to the restrooms and made it back to my corral with plenty of time.
It was finally Corral 10’s turn. My heart was pounding. My plan was to try and stick to my 11:07 minute/mile pace as closely as I could for the first half of the race and then speed up in the second half if it felt right. However, I knew that all of the pre-race excitement would carry me faster than that at the start. I decided to go with the flow for the first ten to fifteen minutes and then adjust my speed accordingly.
I felt great for the first four miles of the race. The first half mile or so was on an uphill incline, and I heard people around me complaining about it, but I didn’t find it too challenging. My legs thanked me for all the hill work I had put in. The spectators were loud and happy to be out there. There were signs and high fives everywhere. The Rock n Roll series is famous for having live bands every mile along the course and they certainly did not disappoint. The energy along the course surged every time we passed a band.
I settled into a nice pace somewhere between miles three and four. I was still going slightly faster than race pace but I knew there was a big hill at mile nine so I figured I could go slightly faster than race pace now and give myself a buffer during and after the hill. Once we got to mile five, however, I was glad I had given myself some room. Ahead of me was a bridge with hundreds of runners on it. How did they get up there? I thought to myself. The answer was revealed at mile 5.5. We went up the bridge, around and around and around, until we were at the top. While on the incline I met two girls who trained in the same city I did. We were all glad that we had put in the work in the hilly part of town, because it made the incline bearable. We just talked through it until we were on our way back down.
Miles six through eight were pretty easy. I was grateful for a flat stretch. I was still maintaining a good pace, too, although I had slowed down a bit from the beginning. I just kept on moving. I remembered that mile seven was the point in the last race that I had to call Chrissy, because I was losing my momentum. Today, however, my legs still felt fresh.
We entered another neighborhood and again saw many spectators cheering us on with signs. It is a lot easier to run when people are cheering you on, even if they are total strangers. It gave me more motivation to keep pushing.
The hill between miles eight and nine was exactly what I planned on, along with some extra profanities I was not counting on. It was steep, and it was long. Just keep running, I thought to myself. Several people had moved to the right and begun walking. I knew that if I didn’t look at them, I could maintain my effort level, if not my pace. I just looked down at the ground and kept moving.
It took a little bit of time to bounce back from the hill. My legs were tired. I regretted not bringing an extra GU. Usually one is sufficient during a half marathon but today I could have used the extra energy. I still felt better now at mile nine than I did at mile seven of my last race, I reminded myself. I was not struggling to keep myself motivated, which was a blessing. I thought about how grateful I was that I took a week off so I could enjoy this race both mentally and physically. It made a world of difference.
I got to mile eleven and heard a “Hey, stranger” to my left. I looked over and saw Vincent, a fellow member of the Life Time Fitness running group. “HEY!” I shouted, beyond ecstatic to see a familiar face. His timing couldn’t have been better. We talked and ran for about a mile and a half. He felt the urge to speed up and I gladly stayed behind. My knee was starting to bother me and I didn’t want to push it too much.
Mile twelve had to be the longest mile of any race I had ever participated in. It was on a bridge heading toward downtown Dallas. I knew we were close, but the bridge was awfully quiet. I could feel the determination of the runners around me to just get to the finish line. I could feel everyone struggling with me. The bridge was lonely, far from spectators. The laughing and socializing of earlier miles was long over. We couldn’t even hear the finish line commotion. When we finally got onto solid land again, the spectators were plentiful. The cheering was very loud, echoing off the walls of the tunnel we were passing through. I took high fives and soaked it all in, anything to push me to the finish line. I turned a corner, thinking the finish line would be there, but to no avail. How much longer until this race is over?!
And finally, I saw it. The finish line. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen! This finish line was significant because a PR, being able to sit down, beer, and a break from running were all in the immediate future. I gratefully accepted a water, chocolate milk, and bag of potato chips. It’s scientifically proven that this is the best combination of post-run food and drink. Just kidding. My stomach was really upset and those were the only things that sounded appetizing. My mom had signed up to get race day updates and she forwarded me the final text message she had received with my time: 2:27:40. A new PR. I sat on Reunion Lawn, listened to the band, and soaked in the post race party and the glory of a new best time for about a half hour before heading back to the DART station. The DART train was much more quiet on the way back than it was on the way down. Everyone was exhausted, but you could see the pride in every runners’ eyes.
The verdict? I’m in love with this race series. Rock n Roll did a great job of selecting live bands, getting spectators out there, and putting on a wonderful post race party. I hope to participate in many future Rock n Roll races.
But not any time soon. For now, I will Netflix and chill solo. I will participate in yoga classes, happy hours, and sleeping in. Don’t worry, I’m not putting away the running shoes forever.
Probably just until next weekend.