I have officially completed a 10-mile race. Without walking or having to use the bathroom. I never thought I would be able to say that.
Yesterday was a perfect day for a run. It was cold in the morning, but warmed up a little by mid-morning. The sun was shining and the sky was clear and bright.
I woke up early, at 4:30 am, so that I could take Sadie out on her usual 1.8 mile walk around the neighborhood. She did her business in the yard and then, since I didn’t have a swinging bag of dog poop in my hand, I decided to jog a bit to see how I felt. I jogged off and on throughout the walk and my legs felt great. A little tight, but great. My knees felt good and my stomach felt okay.
When we got back, I made myself a cup of coffee, ate a bagel with peanut butter, drank a glass of water and then stretched.
I went to the bathroom approximately 5 times before we left the house. It might have been nerves. Or the coffee.
Jim woke up a little before we had to leave, and then we were out of the house and on our way by 6:30 am!
I was worried about traffic and parking, since we had to go through downtown to get to Station Square, and I didn’t know how crowded it would be to get into the parking lots. It ended up being a breeze to get through the city and we got a great parking spot, with plenty of time to spare. Although the second we pulled into the lot, I had to pee again. Definitely the coffee.
I saw my friend, Sarah, near her car and we walked over to the start area together, where there were tons of porta potties. Then I went back to the car to sit with Jim in the warmth for another 25 minutes.
At 7:30 am, Jim and I walked back over to the start t0 check things out and see what everyone else was doing. Everyone else was not doing a whole lot, so I stretched and jumped around. I found myself jumping and bouncing on my feet the same way I did when I was behind the blocks getting ready to swim. I didn’t see anyone else jumping. Do runners jump?
Our official start time was 8:10 am, but since I was unfamiliar with the start of a race, I wanted to be over there early so I could be sure of where I should be. If you don’t know me, this is very typical of me. I was usually the swimmer behind the block at least 10 heats before mine (which could equate to about 20 minutes early).
So I went over to Corral D and went in, probably around 7:45 am. I saw the 10 minute pacers up at the front of the corral, but it seemed crowded up there – too crowded for my jumping – so I stayed around the 11:30 minute pacers. Jim stood at the side of the start. Just watching me jump, I guess. I looked around for Sarah, but didn’t see her.
Once the race started, the runners all walked forward until we got to the actual start and then we ran. I was worried that with so many runners that we wouldn’t actually even be able to start running right away, but we did.
It was cold at the start. My hands were numb, but I knew that a couple miles in I’d be warmer. I had my headphones with me, but I didn’t want to put them in. I wanted to experience the race and everything going on around me.
I was definitely much faster than the 11:30 minute pacing group I started with, so in the beginning, I dodged around a bunch of runners. I was feeling okay, but still a little tight. There was an almost immediate uphill after the start which didn’t help.
My early thoughts were these: After 2 miles, I’ll be warmer. If I can make it 2 miles, my legs will feel better. The first bathroom is at 2.9 miles, so I have to make it to that.
We ran through West End first, which I’m not very familiar with. It was some twists and turns and a short but steep hill. Then we crossed the West End bridge, and I looked out over the city with the sun rising and I was so happy to be running the race. A bunch of people stopped to take selfies, but I’m a serious runner, guys. No selfies for me.
Then we came down off the bridge and looped around through the North Side, another neighborhood I’m not super familiar with. But it was a pretty area. I got to the first porta potty but didn’t have to stop. My stomach felt great, so I stopped thinking about it.
I did start to warm up and I almost wished I’d worn different leggings. But I felt good. I felt strong. My legs felt better and I had some more spring in my stride.
I tried to take the uphills slow and then lengthen my steps on the downhills, so I didn’t kill myself. I knew it would be a long race (for me), and I was really worried about taking it out too fast. I grabbed water at a few of the fluid stations. The first time I tried to drink while running and almost choked, so the next times, I took a step or two walking so I could take a sip, then threw the cup and went right back to the run.
We turned a corner and got to the relay exchange around mile 4.6. I stepped over the time system and got a little feeling of pride knowing that I was running the full 10 miles and that my mom and my husband just got a text on my progress. I caught up to the 10 minute pacers right around the 5 mile marker and passed them easily.
I came up to the 9th Street Bridge and I got really excited thinking I might see my friend Kristen looping around ahead of me, or Sarah somewhere (ahead? behind?), but then I stopped looking. There were too many runners and I needed to just focus on me.
As I ran the downward slope of the bridge I started looking for Jim. I finally saw him on the other side of the bridge and I got so excited. I waved and I may have started running a little faster. But I felt so great! Mile 5 was my jam! I looped around on Ft. Duquesne Blvd to come back to the bridge and waved and smiled at Jim. I felt like I had the whole race in the bag.
My legs were strong, my breath was even, my lungs weren’t tired, my stomach was calm. It was sunny and I wasn’t cold or hot.
We made a turn after the bridge and there was a band playing and we clapped as we ran past them. I was smiling. I was feeling good. I hit mile 6 still in my stride.
Then we ran across the 16th Street Bridge. I still felt good, but I was starting to wonder when mile 7 was. We turned onto Penn Avenue and I wanted to be excited, since we were in the Strip. I love the Strip, I’ve run there, I work there, I thought it would be great. But I hit that mile 7 and right after that I knew it was going to be a tough finish.
I was at about 7.1 miles and I started to hit the wall. My longest training run had been 7 miles. And here I was, 3 more miles to go.
My shin started to get a weird twinge every few steps. I’ve gotten that before, but still have no idea what causes it or even what the pain is, exactly. So I started trying to step more gingerly, more deliberately. I kept running, doing okay.
But man, Penn Ave is long. I kept thinking, when do we turn on Liberty, is it coming up? We finally made the turnaround and hit the 8 mile mark before getting to Liberty Ave. And that’s when I truly felt like I was dying. Those last 2 miles were the hardest miles I’ve ever run.
My stomach started to feel like crap and my legs were tired, my hip flexors hurt, my quads were on the verge of cramping. And then I felt like I needed to throw up. So I slowed way down. I saw so many people pass me. Liberty felt like the longest street ever.
I almost stopped. I walked two steps and then mentally yelled at myself, telling myself I did not come all this way to walk in the last mile and half. And I immediately ran again.
I felt like I was barely getting my feet off the ground. I watched as the 10 minute pacers passed me. I wanted so much to just pull out all the stops for the last stretch but I knew that I would actually throw up if I did that.
So I just ran. I ran into downtown and saw people cheering and I high-fived some kids. And I saw Jim cheering for me, and I knew that I would finish the run.
I crossed the finish line with a time of 1 hour 39 minutes flat.
I had no expectations on what my time would be. I had just wanted to do it, and to finish without walking. So my 10-miler was a fantastic success.
And now I’m completely positive that I will never run a race like this again. I am happy with the race and it was fun and exhilarating to be part of this huge group of runners on the streets of Pittsburgh, but to do this more than once is not for me. I don’t actually like running enough to train for races consistently. I don’t actually want to go out in the cold or rain or dark multiple times per week to run.
But I am so proud of myself for doing this and finishing strong. I’m so thankful to have a strong body that can run 10 miles and live to tell the tale.