National Half Marathon Recap

It’s crazy that I spent months training for the National Half Marathon — and now it’s over!

Here’s how the day went down…

I woke up bright and early at 4:30 am. Surprisingly I didn’t feel tired — I was pumped (despite how I looked).

I usually shower before races, not to get clean before I start sweating, but because the hot water wakes me up a little bit. I also woke up plenty early so I had lots of time to spend in the bathroom as needed, if you know what I mean…

I had packed a ton of different outfits and decided to go with the most comfortable — and most mismatched — option.

The outfit breakdown: Brooks sneakers, Lululemon Groove shorts, leg warmers from a coworker (thanks, Michael!), a Lululemon long-sleeved shirt and a throwaway sweatshirt that I ditched at the start (it was part of my Flashdance Halloween costume).

My outfit was perfect and I was warm and comfortable for the duration of the race. I also wore throwaway gloves at the start that I threw off around mile four.

Ashley and I were lucky because our hotel offered a free shuttle to the race. There was a long line waiting for it and rumor has it there was a ton of traffic getting to the start line. Luckily we squeezed onto a shuttle — I had to sit on the floor of the van — and made it to the race with plenty of time for a Porta Potty stop.

The Armory next to the start line (where the Expo was held) was open for runners to stay in since it was so cold outside.

We stretched, took photos and I had a minor panic attack:

I read so many blogs lately with runners saying they always crinkle their race bibs so they aren’t too stiff on their shirts. I decided to try and be like the “cool kids” so I did the same thing.

Then I remembered that the timing chip is in the bib, and there are strict instructions not to bend it. I panicked, thinking my chip wasn’t going to work, and visited the information booth for reassurance, hoping to hear, “It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

Instead, the mean lady told me it “probably wouldn’t work.” In true Ali form, I had to hold back tears. I just wanted everything to go smoothly and I was so mad at myself for messing with my bib for no real reason. Cue me sitting on the floor of the Armory Googling “Did I break my timing chip by wrinkling my race bib?” on my iPhone.

Don’t worry. The chip worked fine.

Eventually Ashley and I parted ways and I headed for my corral, which was packed with nice people who helped calm my nerves about my wrinkly bib.

The sunrise coming up behind RFK Stadium was beautiful and for once I wasn’t nervous about the race at all. Usually I get anxious, but I was just excited to run.

The start moved fast, and I crossed over (making sure to really jump on the timing mat) just a few minutes after the race began.

Naturally my competitive nature kicked in. Perhaps my biggest race weakness is that I always start out too fast. My first three miles — which were flat and beautiful — were done close to a 7-minute pace. I tried to tell myself it was too fast and that I should pull back, but I was passing people, having a blast and feeling good.

I didn’t plan to take photos during the run, but it was hard to resist every time we ran toward the Capitol Building, which I have a huge crush on.

Honestly, I tend to black out a bit during races. I get so in the zone that I hardly notice the people around me, the spectators or the course itself. I wanted to take in the sights and the famed D.C. cherry blossoms, but I concentrated on how my body was feeling (great!) and the mile markers.

I did have one spectator in the crowd that I was particularly excited about: my cousin Jackie! She lives in D.C. and came out in the freezing cold to cheer me on at miles three and ten.

The course was fun, which I vaguely remember. I remember going through a tunnel at one point (and losing a signal on my watch) and I remember a beast of a hill around mile six. There were significant rolling hills throughout the second half of the course, and mile 12, where I started to get tired, climbed uphill toward the start. Not cool, race planners!

As you all know, my goal for this race was to finish in under two hours. My distance on my watch was pretty off throughout the course — when I crossed the mile 10 marker, my watch already read 10.5 miles — and I was shocked when I looked down to see that I could finish with a 1:50 time.

I did my best to go balls to the wall in the final mile, which was definitely the toughest mile for me.

I ended up crossing the finish line (again, jumping on the mat) with the official finish time of 1:44:48. Whaaaat?! I shocked myself. I dug deep for this one.

I’m so happy to say that I felt good the entire time. My legs felt strong, my breathing felt steady and my stomach never acted up.

I came in 1,414th place overall and 132nd place in my age division (out of 1,628).

I ate an apple at the finish and drank some water. I was excited to meet two readers near the finish (hi!) and was especially pumped to finally meet Emily, whose blog I adore.

Ashley and I found each other and stretched inside the warm Armory for a bit before heading back to the hotel. We both PR’d yesterday and were both glowing and happy.

I would definitely do the National Half Marathon again. The course was fun and the weather — sunny and in the high 30s — was ideal. It was fun having so many running bloggers there — more on the blogger meet-up in a later post — and nice having family there as well (thanks, cousin, for being amazing).

After the race I was happy to warm up with some hot chocolate in bed, followed by a luxuriously long shower.

Thanks to everyone for the pre-race well wishes (uh, including the coworker who told me to “break a leg”) and the post-run congratulations. I’m still riding high and probably will be for a while. I feel good for not only shaving 16 minutes off my previous personal record, but also for knowing that I’m capable of pushing myself hard.

Check back later for an update of the rest of the D.C. trip, which has been awesome. Now it’s time to pack up and hop on a train back to NYC!



0 Responses

  1. Just discovered your blog and really enjoying it! The National Half in 2012 will be my first half marathon. Thanks for the write-up, and congratulations on your great time!

  2. Congratulations Ali!!! You ran so well and I can’t believe how much time you shaved off your goal time!! Incredible! I’m glad you had such a great race and felt strong the entire time. The first half of the course was definitely very pretty – I think I’d want to run the 1/2 marathon next year! 🙂 I’m bummed I didn’t get to meet you while we were both in DC. Hopefully we can have another race together soon.

  3. Ali! You did awesome, girl! I love when everything falls into place for a race and you run way faster than you could have imagined. I hope you’re proud of yourself! That’s a super-speedy time 🙂

  4. Congratulations, Ali! You ran strong and looked like a rockstar – can’t beat that! I’m so glad we finally had the opportunity to meet. I’m excited for lots of fun times to come!

  5. that picture of your running may be the best thing to happen to race photography EVER.

    Have I mentioned that I liked your leg warmers? I just can’t remember.

    Stealing the finish line picture of us now. too cute, even though the 12 sweatshirts I was wearing to stay warm make me look like I ate a snowman for breakfast.

    finally, fun tidbit you will appreciate. I almost always take showers on race day morning. for the same reason as you. clearly it’s not about the hygiene. it’s like drinking a cup of coffee on race day.

    oh, and CONGRATS AGAIN.

  6. Spectacular race that should be especially sweet since you had to fight off that bug that hit you a couple of weeks ago. If Jack Rabbit Sports doesn’t choose you for its program, they’re nuts!

  7. Congrats on an awesome race and great blog! Were you at the blogger meet-up on Saturday? I’m so bad at making these connections – didn’t even realize you ran the national half as we were talking about running in NYC over Twitter last night!

  8. Congratulations! SO glad to hear you had a good race! And what an AWESOME time! You killed it out there! GREAT job! And I’m glad you got to meet Emily! I love her <3

    So what's next on the race radar?

  9. Wow, Ali, what an amazing run. GREAT JOB!! that is the cutest running outfit I’ve ever seen. <3

  10. I am so proud of you! Such an amazing time. You worked so hard for this and nothing makes me happier than seeing you hit your goal — and then some. Be very proud of this achievement. Congrats!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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