Sunday’s BAA Half Marathon could not have been held on a more humid day. Last year, remnants of Hurricane Matthew meant 60s and torrential rain. It wasn’t so bad, considering it was my first half and I was just happy to be running. You knew you were going to be soaked and maybe a little cold. On Sunday, I walked Chip at 5am and was soaked through my pajamas 15 minutes later. It was already 75 with something like 85% humidity. I debated wearing shorts but I’m really not comfortable in them, especially if it rains and my legs start chafing, and my knickers are not much longer than shorts but a lot more comfortable. I wore my thinnest, lightest, light-colored tank. I debated wearing a hat but even in pouring rain, 75-80 is way too hot for me to wear a hat. I did forget my sweat-absorbing sweatband, and was kicking myself for that by Mile 1. More on that later…
After eating half a bagel with peanut butter & jelly and a cup of iced coffee, I met my DFMC teammate Katie just down the street so we could split a cab. Except, it was surge pricing. A Lyft would’ve cost $80-something and Uber was going to cost us $48. We split it, so it wasn’t too terrible, but man it really sucks living somewhere without a public transportation option to a race that doesn’t offer any on-site parking. My dad has driven there 2 years in a row now and found street parking, but worrying about finding a legal spot is so stressful in this city and not something I’m interested in dealing with before a race.
We got to the start area just in time to bump into a few other DFMC teammates. I immediately got in line for the porta-potties, which took about 15 minutes. Afterward, I met a few other teammates to take a picture for Paul’s Patient Partner. Paul and I ran together on New Year’s Eve in Northampton last year and he’s been an awesome teammate and only 1 of 2 (on a team of 500+) from Western Mass. I was the only one not wearing a Run Dana-Farber singlet or our 2017 DFMC singlet – that thing does NOT fit me well and requires a tank top underneath for modesty, and it’s just way too hot for that.
After the team photo, I went to bag check to drop off my stuff. They saw that I was a Distance Medley participant and said, “Oh, you can actually go across to the Distance Medley tent for a separate bag check.” I looked where she was pointing and it was about a 2-minute walk across the giant field. I sighed and said fine, but she promised there was no line. She was right. I dropped my stuff, met up with Jess, got toilet paper from a friend, peed behind a tree in the woods (the porta-potty lines were now 100 people deep with 5 minutes till the start), and lined up.
We found our DFMC teammate – and frequent training run buddy – Marny also in the chute waiting to start. We all started together until 3 minutes in, when Jess took her walk break. Marny and I unintentionally ran together for almost the first 2 miles, and then I didn’t see her again until the turnaround at Mile 5. We also saw Aiko somewhere during the first mile. The first few miles went fine for me. I was uncomfortable pretty quickly, with sweat dripping into my eyes before we even got to the Mile 1 marker. And I was thirsty, despite having hydrated like crazy on Friday and Saturday and also getting plenty of water and Nuun Hydration on Sunday morning. But it was just so damn hot & humid. But running-wise, I felt great. At Mile 2, there was water and I couldn’t have been happier. I walked just long enough to take a cup of water and drink it in a few slow sips, maybe 30 seconds or so. And then I was off again. I repeated this process at each of the remaining 6 water stops but otherwise never walked! I was so proud of myself. Run/walk saved me during the marathon, but that wasn’t my plan for Sunday and I stuck to my plan, and felt good.
As I mentioned, at Mile 5 you make a U-turn. I saw a bunch of teammates up ahead of me and a few behind me. It’s nice having that U-turn so you can see your friends. There’s another one at Mile 10 but by then a lot of people are miserable and not waving or cheering each other on.
At Mile 6.5, there’s one pretty big hill that ALMOST got me. I had now been running without a legitimate walk break for the longest time since January. Instead, I focused on the fact that I was about halfway and had a water stop and Gu coming up at Mile 8 (I took a Gu at the start and then every 40ish minutes/4 miles).
There were slightly more spectators than there were last year, but I think the miserable humidity and threat of rain kept a lot of people away. I’ve heard how crazy the fans are during this race but never experienced them myself. I noticed how dark the sky was getting around Mile 5, but the rain ended up holding off until I was at Mile 9.
Mile 9 is right after you get back into Franklin Park after being on the main road for the previous 8 miles. And like clockwork, as soon as I came around that corner, the skies opened up. It felt great, but it quickly became an absolute downpour. But as quickly as it started, it let up again. Mile 9 and 10 are the absolute worst part of the course. They are hilly and the path is narrow, and during Mile 9 you are watching everyone faster than you going by in the other direction. You make a U-turn at Mile 10 and now you are watching everyone slower than you going by in the other direction, but there weren’t a whole lot people slower than me. I saw Jess and Aiko here. At Mile 11, I looked everywhere for my dad but never saw him (and he never saw me).
This is where I started to feel bad. My goal (that I set in my head somewhere around Mile 0.25) was 5 miles in the 11s, 5 miles in the 10s, 3 miles in the 9s. Ha! My watch was in the 11s most of the time I looked during the first 5 miles and in the 10s most of the time I checked during the second 5 miles, but I was all over the place in the final 3 miles. There is a pretty huge uphill and at this point, you start seeing runners who have already finished walking out of the park with their medals and snacks. And you realize you still have so much further to go and it’s a little disheartening. I promised myself my finish time didn’t matter, but I realized I had a good chance of a PR if I kept it up (I would have PR’d by like 15 minutes had I actually done that 11-10-9 pace plan).
Around Mile 12 you actually enter the zoo and run along the animal cages. I passed a lot of people in Miles 9-11, but most of them were walking, but now I was actually passing people running. I knew I had 1 mile left and could get it done. I wanted to die in this final mile. It was raining again. I considered walking but I hadn’t run all this time without walking to walk in the final few minutes and miss a PR.
I saw the “800 meters to go sign” and thought how long two laps on a track seemed. I was still only averaging a 10-minute pace in this final mile, until the very end when you enter the stadium and run the final 200 meters on the track. Without looking at my watch, I ran as hard as I could with the little gas left in my tank, which turned out to be an 8:39 pace. I raised my arms into the air like a total dork and immediately realized that nothing hurt. This is the exact point last year where I went to the medical center steps from the finish line hoping for ice, but there was none. My ankle and hamstring were in bad shape then, but neither bothered me all race.
In fact, I had zero pain all race. I don’t think that’s ever happened. Despite missing several weeks of training because of sinus surgery, I think all my cross-training paid off for this race. No injuries, no pain. I got my finisher’s medal and then – the reason I showed up to my the BAA 5K in April with the plague – my Distance Medley finisher’s medal. YES! It took me 2 tries and $550 to get this damn thing over the last 2 years, and I finally earned it. Will I do it again? Highly unlikely.
I drank a bottle of water faster than I ever have in my life, ate ½ of an apple cider donut, got in line for a burger that I did not eat (for the 2nd year in a row), and then went to go get my bag at the special Distance Medley tent. The non-existent line from before the race was now 50 people deep, whereas I don’t think there was a line at all for the regular bag check line. People – myself included – were NOT happy. Instead of special treatment, we were worse off than the regular runners. All the while, I was trying to call and text my dad but his phone had died and was sending me straight to voicemail. Had I been less exhausted, I probably would have cried. I was soaked by now and wanted to puke at the thought of taking a $50-80 cab ride home alone. I didn’t have my T pass but knew I could take one of the free shuttles to the Orange Line station, buy a ticket with my debit card, take the Orange line to Back Bay and then Green Line home, probably about 2 hours’ worth of traveling.
I finally got my bag, put on my long-sleeve participant shirt, lost my burger, drank a bottle of Gatorade, and decided to finally leave the dry shelter of the Distance Medley tent and start trekking to the shuttles. I was about 5 seconds away from getting in a VERY long line of runners waiting for the shuttles when my dad finally answered his phone, and was about 3 minutes away in his car. The timing couldn’t have been better.
Back home, I took a quick shower and we went to Publick House with my brother for lunch. David was also signed up to run the whole Distance Medley but didn’t end up running the half this year. After brunch and 2 beers, we went back home to hang out for a bit. My dad left after about an hour, and I drank 2 more Tree House beers thanks to my brother, and we were undeniably drunk at this point. Times were finally posted and my official finish time was 2:23:44 – beating last year’s time by 1:34! I was asleep by 7:15.
The Next Day
I woke up at 10-something to pee, but when I got back into bed I realized my phone had been frozen or something because it was actually 12:45am. I had slept like a rock (or passed out?) for almost 6 hours. I was wide awake, so I watched an episode of The Vietnam War on PBS (I highly recommend this documentary series!) and finally fell back asleep around 2:30am, but I tossed and turned until 7am. When I finally go out of bed, I realized just how sore I was. Obviously my legs were sore, mostly my hamstrings, but my upper back and shoulders were also incredibly sore, probably from running with poor form. I was also a tad hungover and definitely dehydrated, but had taken the day off from work so the world was my oyster!