I had mixed feelings about signing up for the Historic Half this year. The race is a big event in our little city, and it even brought Sean Astin into town a few years ago. (You know Sean Astin…Sam Gamgee. Rudy. Mikey from The Goonies.) Last year was the second time I had run it, and I was so focused on trying to beat Sean’s time of 2:11:58 from the 2013 race that I forgot to have fun. (Plus it was hot, which didn’t help.) Of course I didn’t get close to that time, and I realize now that it isn’t going to happen any time soon. Once I finally decided to go ahead and do the race for the third time, when people asked me if I was excited my answer was never the same. Sometimes, it was “yes, I’m super excited!” Other times I would just shrug and say, “a little,” “I guess so,” or “not really.” By the time race day rolled around I had decided that I was NOT going to focus on a specific goal, except to have fun. (Beating my time from last year would be pretty sweet, too, but I wasn’t going to kill myself trying.)
The morning before the race I met my friends Barbra and Tim, two members of our fledgling little Life Runners chapter here in Fredericksburg. Tim is a physician and a deacon in his church, and he was gracious enough to agree to serve as our chaplain. We chatted for a few minutes, and then we all prayed together for a successful race and that we would serve as witnesses for all human life. After picking up our race packets (It was Barbra’s first half marathon!) we milled about for a few minutes before I was called home because my son needed the car or some such thing. (I would probably ended up buying some running garment or gadget that I didn’t really need had I stayed anyhow so it was just as well.)
On race morning Barbra and I met at the Wal Mart where we had parked, and made our way toward the starting line. One of the great things about the Historic Half is that logistically it’s a piece of cake. There is plenty of parking at the expo center, and on race morning you can park just about anywhere in the Central Park shopping area. You might need to walk a half mile or so to get to the starting line, but it’s super easy. All those big box stores have public restrooms, too, although I always need to visit the porta-potty at the starting line at least once. Barbra and I prayed the Life Runners Creed together, and she went to meet up with her Wear Blue to Remember group while I found the Moms Run This Town ladies. At the start line I was delighted to see a few friends that I haven’t seen in a while, one of whom was a friend of my son’s who was running his first half marathon. After one last potty stop (trying to tiptoe through the mud puddles in front of the portapotties was a little bit of a challenge) I found a spot in my corral. After the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, we were off!
(Just a sampling of all the Moms Run This Town ladies from the Fredericksburg, Stafford, Woodbridge, and Springfield chapters who were running the half!)
I tried to start slow, as I always do, and started my 1:30/30 intervals after a few minutes when the crowd started to spread out a little bit.
Mile 1: 11:14
Mile 2: 10:12
Between mile 2 and 3 the course leaves Cowan Boulevard and winds its way through a hilly neighborhood before hitting Route 3 and turning onto William Street. The next six miles are in my opinion the most scenic and interesting, as you are running through historic downtown Fredericksburg and along the Rappahannock River.
Mile 3: 10:54
Mile 4: 10:23
Mile 5: 10:30
My mother-in-law was in town to see our youngest son’s performance the night before in his spring play at the high school. She and my husband came out and met me on the course, just as we turned onto Washington Avenue from William Street.
Mile 6: 10:38
Mile 7: 13:05 (A very unfortunate potty break. Curse you, Aunt Flo…)
They met me again in front of Hyperion Expresso, at the corner of William and Princess Anne Street. Can you tell I was having a good time?
Mile 8: 10:45
Mile 9: 10:28
Between Mile 8 and 9 is the Blue Mile, lined with people holding flags and photos of fallen service members. You can’t help slowing down a little bit and saying a prayer in thanksgiving for their sacrifice.
Mile 10: 10:32
I don’t want to write this blog post without mentioning Katie’s Wing Women. Katie is a dear friend from Moms Run This Town who recruited several of her MRTT friends to don MRTT shirts and fairy wings and station themselves along the last three miles of the course, which are arguably the toughest. (Check out Katie’s blog post about the Wing Women here.) At Mile 10, the course turns right off of US 1 and begins the long ascent up the infamous Hospital Hill. Right before the steepest part I spotted a lady wearing fairy wings, so I waved and shouted, “WING WOMAN!!” She ran with me the rest of the way up. I was so honored that she would do that for me!
(I didn’t get any photos of Wing Women, but I did get a kick out of this sign on Hospital Hill!)
Mile 11: 11:11
Mile 12: 10:55
Between Mile 11 and 12, the course turns onto Cowan Boulevard, and after a brief downhill portion is one last torturous hill. This is where many people get discouraged, because the last thing you want to do after scaling Hospital Hill is to run up another one! Katie and some of her Wing Women were there to encourage people through the last tough part of the course. As I was turning onto Cowan, I spotted some of my friends from church who I’ve run with from time to time, and then I saw another friend (also from church) whose 18-year-old daughter was running her first half marathon. All my church friends including her mom were surrounding her and shouting words of encouragement. (There were also some men from the Fredericksburg Area Running Club there wearing tutus–I wish I had snapped a photo!)
Mile 13: 10:22
Mile 0.32: 9:14
When I finished this race last year, I felt miserable. I just wanted it to be over. I was disappointed in myself, not because I didn’t make my goal time, but because I had taken it so seriously. What’s the point of running if it isn’t any fun?
I beat last year’s time by five seconds. (And that’s the other thing: I wasn’t using the Galloway method last year. This year I was, and even with a bathroom break–which I didn’t take last year–I still was able to go faster.) I probably wouldn’t have gotten a PR even if I hadn’t stopped, but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to have a great time and hopefully be a little bit faster than last year, which I was. Win-win.
Next year? I’ll be there for sure. Whether it is to run the half again, or the Semper Five, or to be a Wing Woman, you’ll see me. It’s the biggest party in town, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.