We ran the ING half marathon on Sunday. The day began at 5am when we got up for coffee and breakfast. By 5:30 we were on the MARTA headed to Centennial Olympic Park with the rest of the crazies wearing numbered bibs. I kept scanning the train for the other resentful bleary-eyed people, but everyone appeared eager or agreeably contemplative. No one else seemed put out by the early start or the 40 degree weather. Luckily, I picked my partner in crime with care because she was able to fill the void of griping camaraderie that I needed to start the day off right.
We weren't sure which direction to head out of the train station so we followed the guy wearing the most intense running outfit and what appeared to be his gear bitch (an older man carrying a duffel bag). Using the Herd Method, we made it to the runners' corral without incident (not to throw too many bovine terms into the mix). Once we figured out our starting position, we went off in search of a bathroom. The northern perimeter of the park was lined with Happy Camper! porta potties. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that a line with mostly men would get us back to our corral faster. It became evident that my logic was flawed as other Happy Camper(!) doors slammed in an oddly satisfying rhythm while the ones devoted to our line remained silent for longer (and longer) periods of time.
Despite the extended bathroom duties of some individuals who will remain nameless because I don't know their names, we made it back to the corral (or staging area) with time to spare. 30 minutes after the intended start time, the corrals in front of us began to empty. As we rounded the last corner before the official start line we were greeted by Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." This is secretly one of my all time favorite songs and under just about any circumstance it bolsters my mood. We bopped our way across the start line and so began the fastest 13.1 miles I've ever run (hobbled).
The race itself was somewhat lackluster, but an all around great experience. The cheering sections were sparse and the course was hillier than I'd expected, although it was nothing like the infamous Decatur route. As feared, my IT band went into extreme rejection mode around mile 3. I was mentally prepared for a flareup, but I hadn't expected it to happen so early in the race. I was really upset for the next mile, but it never occurred to me that I should stop because of it, so I ran the next 10 miles in a great deal of pain. It leveled off somewhere around mile 7 and came back with a vengeance at mile 11. We both started to lose steam around mile 12, and halfway through mile 13 I was so unenthused by the lack of spectators and the vanishing ink finish line that I was tempted to walk in the other direction to get a cookie from Octane. But I couldn't shake the passing bug (i.e. the need to pick a person and then proceed to pass them, which is why coffeeshopgirl probably wanted to throttle me for the last 4 miles), so the cookie had to wait.
The last 300 yards consisted of a snakelike chute that spit us across the chip sensor line into the pen of dazed and exhilarated finishers. I like to sprint the end of my runs (something that used to infuriate my mother), and I really wanted to finish this one with a bang, but the narrow lane they'd cordoned off put a damper on my kick (accelerated hobble). We did manage to weave our way through the crowd and pick up speed for the last 50 yards. As usual, coffeeshopgirl out-sprinted me and crossed the finish line first. Despite the dreaded IT band flareup, our pace was a full 2 minutes faster (per mile) than any of our training runs(2:23 for anyone who just has to know that we ran 11 minute miles).
When we were standing around in our corral waiting for the race to begin, we joked about how all the marathoners (denoted by their orange bibs) looked so determined and purposeful. We decided that we must be only half-purposed because we were only running half the race. It's safe to say that by the time I made it to the food tent and picked up my lemon poppyseed mini-muffin, I felt fully-purposed.
(the mini-cupcakes pictures above were part of the second wave of purposefulness)