Well, we have yet another snow/ice day here in Atlanta, so I thought I’d recap my first ever half marathon, the Atlanta Half Marathon, which takes place through the heart of downtown and midtown on Thanksgiving Day.
This half marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it my first, but training for this race is what got me in shape and along the way, I fell completely in love with running. I really liked having a goal to work towards and it kept me honest in my workouts.
I started running in July of 2013 and started training for this race at the end of August. The Atlanta Track Club puts on this race, and each year they also sponsor an official training group. Since I was new to running, I decided to sign up for the training group. I remember going to the first Saturday run, which was only 4 miles. I felt comfortably worked out at the end, but then I realized that the program is designed to get someone ready to run the race, and if I survived the first workout, my goal was attainable. From then on out, I knew if I put in the work, I could do it.
Things I learned while training for this race:
* If you accidentally order a box of 18 packs of Shot Bloks on Amazon, thinking you’re getting 18 individual Bloks, it’s okay–you’ll use them up
* Doing your “homework” during the week (shorter runs) makes a big difference on the weekend runs
* Black toenails are in fact, not a fungal infection
* Your mind & mentality of what you think you can and can’t do will hold you back
* Ice after a long run may suck, but it helps reduce soreness
* It’s alarming how much food I can inhale after a long run
At brunch after one of the many long runs leading up to the race!
I trained for this race using run/walk intervals and planned to run it that way, too. My friend Christina came down from Charlotte to run the race with me. One of the coolest thing about this race is that it’s on Thanksgiving day, so you can completely gorge yourself afterwards guilt-free!
As race day approached, the weather got a lot colder. I distinctly remember one morning where it was about 24 degrees, and my boyfriend told me that if he was me, he’d run on the treadmill. To which I responded–“what if it’s 24 degrees on race day, and I’ve never trained in that kind of weather before?!”
Little did I know, Thanksgiving day would be the coldest Atlanta had seen in a decade–a high of 27 degrees. As race day approached, I started stressing about race-day gear. The week prior, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and found this Nike hoodie:
This thing is PERFECT for cold weather (under 35 degrees). It’s super warm, and it has a fleece lined hood and zips up to your chin. I got Christina one as well, because we always have to be race-day twinsies. Of course, I gave it a test spin the week of the race and I knew we’d be good to go!
Race day came, and I was surprisingly calm. I really felt ready and that my training prepared me. We made it down to the start on time (but barely thanks to traffic) and had just enough time to hit the porta-potties and line up.
Bundled up and ready to race!
We started off nice and slow. It was COLD–about 23 degrees, and it took awhile for our legs to warm up. We had fun with it though!
My running buddy, Karen, Christina, and I at the start.
The race was great, but the crowd support was definitely negatively affected by the cold weather. One of my favorite spectators was about 2 miles in–a lone guy on the side of the road handing out free tissues. Awesome!
We ran through downtown and up into midtown. The water stops were well stocked, though dangerous because all the spilled water from half empty cups froze when it made contact with the ground. I know the ATC couldn’t have anticipated the weather, but having some salt or ice melt would have been good.
Around mile 6, we came through Atlantic Station and across the 17th street bridge. The sun was rising and we couldn’t help but to stop for a photo op–it was so beautiful! Karen was kind enough to snap this for us. Right before this picture some random jerk tried to photo bomb us. Christina and I yelled at him that it was NOT COOL and he ran off…
Nearly halfway there!
We kept with our intervals and ran at a comfortable pace. I was feeling tired but good, but around mile 10 and a half, this happened:
Christina: “Oh! What was that”
Christina: “Oh god! My calf just spazzed!”
Yes folks, the hills of Atlanta got to my poor friend’s calves. She was having spasms and contractions until almost mile 12, and then they turned into sharp, shooting pains in her calves. I felt so terrible for her–we knew that the hills would be challenging for her, but we both thought it would be an endurance issue, we never thought about her muscles. At one point, Christina told me several times to go on without her, but I just couldn’t.
Running my first half marathon was a huge milestone, and I really wanted to cross the finish line with Christina. She was the whole reason I started running–she started running the previous year and lost nearly 70 pounds, which was so inspiring! You may remember that during my first race ever, Christina didn’t leave me, but pushed me through to the end. There will be a time and place to run our own races, but this race wasn’t it. I told her to stop asking me to leave her because it wasn’t happening. So, we walked most of the last mile, my heart breaking every time Christina winced in pain. I felt so bad that she was hurting so badly! I should also point out that Christina was not the only one experiencing this—the last 2 miles were littered with runners on the side stretching their calves or limping. The hills in Atlanta are no joke! Luckily, I’d been training on them for four months, so I was fine.
One of the things that is really awesome about this race is that the finish line is downtown, and to get to it, you run right underneath the Olympic Rings. Nothing makes you feel more like an athlete then running towards the finish under those rings!
Here I am, crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!
We crossed the finish line, both in one piece (barely), and I felt a huge sense of victory. We finished in 2:43 – which was a PR for me (obviously) but also a PR for Christina! I got my medal and turned around to see Christina nearly crippled by pain, so I gave her my medal–which resulted in a emotional hugging sobfest. It’s crazy how many emotions can come out after a race, and how much closer going through something like that together can bring two people!
After we got ourselves together, we quickly headed home and hung out with friends and ate a ton!
Kim came to the race to cheer us on….look at the cute sign she made!
My beautiful medal!!
That afternoon, I was on such a running high that I quickly signed up for my next half marathon (which I’ll be running on March 23rd!). Christina, however, wasn’t sold. In fact, she said that she wasn’t going to run another race in Atlanta.
Then the next night she says…
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if I ran that race next year and it didn’t kick my ass?!”
I’m pretty sure she’ll be back to tackle the hills of Atlanta again. As for me, I think this race will be my new Thanksgiving tradition as long as I’m in Atlanta! It really was a great race!