Friday, November 26, 2010

Race Recap: Atlanta Half Marathon

Good morning!  Happy Black Friday!  Anybody out there shopping?  I am NOT - what I buy I have to pack.

And I already have enough to pack.

(Insert heart palpitations here)

Thank you for all the kind thoughts last night.  I woke up this morning feeling like myself again - with really sore legs. :) I have a long and slow walk planned for later to get myself stretched out.

Ready to hear about my race?

My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and, despite not sleeping all that well (pre-race jitters - at one point I got out of bed and slept on the floor?), I popped out of bed.

I made myself some nice, strong coffee ...

... and choked down some whole wheat toast with peanut butter.  Eating at 5 a.m. isn't easy!

We left our apartment around 6 and headed downtown to Turner Field (home of the Braves).  Traffic was atrocious and it ended up taking us almost an hour just to get off the highway!  At 7:15 (the race started at 7:30) I finally just got out of the car and sped-walked to the start.  I was in good company - I heard people telling their traffic stories for the first half of the race and still saw people running to the start when I was at mile 3!

Bruce snapped this as I got out of the car and headed towards the start.  Ready to run!

I had planned on running with my friend Rachel, but in a crowd of 12,000, we couldn't find each other!  I didn't mind, though.  I pretty much trained by myself, so I was used to running solo.  And I struck up conversations with people along the course. :) You're never alone in these things.

The first three miles flew by and I was feeling awesome.  I was following the crowd, but running at a pace that felt comfortable.  At one point I looked down at my garmin and realized I was running sub-10:00 miles!  It felt great.  I took my first walking break somewhere in mile 4, knowing that we were coming up on some hills at Atlantic Station.

Right before mile 4, we turned the corner and saw IKEA!  It was fun, because I think we had all kind of gotten lost in the run and suddenly knew where we were!

Miles 5 and 6 took us through Atlantic Station.  It was fun to run through a place where I had spent so much time wandering around.  Mile 7 was through Piedmont Park, which was fun because it was so pretty and there was a much-needed downhill!  I was starting to feel the race in my legs and my stomach was cramping up a little, so it felt good just to open up my stride and breathe!

I was starting to lose it a little bit through miles 8 and 9.  I took some nice long walking breaks to try to build up some energy.  Mile 8 was actually my slowest mile and I was starting to think to myself - "Okay, there are only 5 miles left.  One trip around Stone Mountain.  You can walk the rest if you have to."  I was trying not to psych myself out when I heard someone shout my name.

It was Bruce!  He had brought his bike and was riding the course to cheer me on.  It had taken him awhile to find me (Bruce: Do you know how many blondes wearing pink there were?"), but I was so glad he found me when he did.  I needed the boost.

Smile of relief!

After I passed Bruce, I was pushing myself to mile 10.  I wanted desperately to get to that 10 mile mark, because after that I was only running a 5K and that seemed a little bit manageable.  I was starting to feel like I couldn't do it when I turned a corner, looked to my right and saw a monstrosity.

Grady Memorial Hospital.

Listen - if I can work as a chaplain at Grady, I can finish a half marathon.  I started praying for the chaplain on call and the patients and staff spending their Thanksgivings at Grady and I took off.  I hit mile 10 and kept going!

At this point I would like to point out that it was someone's idea of cruel and unusual punishment to plan the last three miles of a half marathon on an incline!  Seriously - three miles.  ALL UPHILL.  There were a couple more walking breaks.

But I didn't care.  I saw Bruce again.

I held up three fingers and shouted "THREE MILES TO GO!"

The last three miles were kind of grueling.  My legs were KILLING ME.  My stomach was cramping.  I had zero energy.  I remember thinking around mile 11, "This is going to hurt tomorrow."  But I kept going.

As soon as I started in on mile 13, I just started smiling.  I couldn't believe I was about to do this!  Bruce was waiting for me right on the final stretch and was screaming and cheering and smiling.  I cannot put to words how amazing he has been through this entire process.

I crossed the finish line and it felt surreal.  Did I really just run a half marathon?

Yes.  Yes I did.

My unofficial time was 2:33:08, which wasn't that far off from my garmin - 2:33:09 (averaging an 11:30 pace).  I must have done some drifting, because my garmin showed that I ran 13.30 miles.  I think learning not to drift is something that just takes time.  Here are my splits:

Mile 1 - 10:05
Mile 2 - 9:50
Mile 3 - 9:49
Mile 4 - 11:26
Mile 5 - 10:55
Mile 6 - 10:10
Mile 7 - 10:19
Mile 8 - 14:06
Mile 9 - 11:28
Mile 10 - 13:39
Mile 11 - 12:42
Mile 12 - 13:21
Mile 13 - 12:20
13.00 - 13.30 - 2:54 (9:30 pace)

Phew!  All in all, not bad for my first half marathon, right?

Yes, I said FIRST.  Not only.  Would I do this again?  Absolutely!  It was incredible to see what my body was capable of.

Thank you for taking this journey with me!  I felt like you were all running with me.



  1. Congratulations! Great first half-marathon story!

  2. Awesome, Sarah! Good for you!

  3. Congrats! Loved reading this!! SO excited for you!! I love the pic of you waving at bruce when he first found you!! :)

  4. I can feel your excitement just emanating right through the computer screen :)


  5. Congrats on the race, it was a lot of fun. Hope you do more halfs in the future, and keep up the good work :>

  6. What a great recap! Congrats! You did amazing! :)

  7. Congrats again on a great race! Awesome recap & pics!

    Winks & Smiles,

  8. Congrats! and great race recap. My Garmin had 13.29 miles so you weren't the only one that went adrift.

  9. Congrats!!! I am so proud of you Sarah! Loved hearing all the details and seeing the pics! What a great guy you have too!

  10. You look SOOOOOOOOOOOO beautiful in that last shot!


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