So, it’s been a while since I’ve even posted in here, & I know I didn’t get a chance to recap my first half marathon in Chicago – which frankly I’d rather forget anyways.
This race went SO much better! And I can’t wait to recap it for you all. I have been planning on running this race since the beginning of the year (before I could even run longer than 5 miles) because this is where I grew up! My first job was at Hersheypark when I was 14, my family & I had season passes to the park for a long time when I was a kid, & basically it was a big part of my life for a long time. So, I was excited!
On Saturday afternoon, I got to the expo around 1:30, & to my surprise it was all outside underneath Hersheypark Stadium. It was an incredibly cold weekend, so I was shocked they moved it outside. Packet pick-up was easy & I was able to snag my friend Alyssa’s bag as well. They even had a spot where they made sure your chip was registering, which I was grateful for, because nothing is worse than running a race & your time not getting recorded. It was freezing & my mom was waiting for me, so I made it a quick expo trip.
(From the start line.. so beautiful!)
The race started at 7:30am Sunday morning, so I spent Saturday evening with a longtime friend of mine, Alyssa, who was running her first half marathon! Early to bed for me – & we were up by 5:30am to get ready to leave. We had about a 25 minute drive out to the park. Thankfully, her husband was dropping us off, so we didn’t have to worry about finding parking. Thanks Mike! Alyssa & I got up to the stadium, made one last bathroom stop & I went to find my parents.
(Alyssa & I before the race)
My mom, dad & step-mom came from different states where they live to cheer me on! I was so excited they were there. My mom even made me this awesome sign!
(My Dad & my Mom after I finished)
I said a quick hello to them, & then my friend Jenn found me! She is my 12 minute pace mentor with the Elite Runners & Walkers Group that I spend every Saturday morning with. I was so happy she was there! We had been planning to run together for this race. Around 7:20, we lined up at the start (which was barely a start, it was kind of just people standing in a big group. I didn’t see any pace markers or any type of organization here), the National Anthem was sung, & we were on our way! Did I mention it was freezing? I made sure I had throw away gloves, & Jenn was nice enough to loan me her extra ear warmer. I definitely did not properly plan for it to be that cold! I had a short sleeve tech tee on with a long sleeve tech tee over top (the long sleeve was supposed to be a throw away, but I ended up wearing it the entire race). Around mile 1.5, I ditched the gloves. I warm up quick!
Jenn & I were cruising along & having a great time. Mile 2-3 was around & through the park. I was having a blast. It was so fun to see all of the rides I used to love & think of all the memories I have made at that park. While running through the park, there was a band playing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers & it was so fun singing along as we ran past.
The first half of the race was a blast. There were a lot of hills, but they weren’t bothering me. During one of the neighborhoods we ran through, a woman was sitting out on her lawn giving out orange slices. Jenn & I made sure we indulged, it was a nice break from the norm of gels & chews! Once we started getting into miles 7 & 8, I was begging for downhills. This course felt almost all uphill. We were never NOT running up a hill. It was brutal, but we were killing it! We were keeping a pretty steady 12 minute pace, which is exactly where I wanted to be. Either mile 9 or 10 was through the Milton Hershey School campus. All of the kids were out cheering us on.. did I mention the spectating for this race was on point?! Everyone was fantastic. There were bands & DJs playing, high school marching bands playing, & tons of people out with signs & giving high fives. I can’t tell you how many “Touch here for power” signs I touched. It was awesome.
After mile 10, I was starting to get really sore & stiff. My left hip & ankle were screaming at me. But, I knew I had to push through. This is where Jenn really carried me. During this time, she was a little bit ahead of me, but not by much, & she just kept yelling back to keep going, dig deep & push through & that I was going to get a huge PR!
At mile 11.5, they had volunteers giving out pieces of chocolate. I grabbed one, unwrapped it, & without thinking ate it. Ugh. Bad idea. Stomach was not too happy about that one! During this mile, I yelled up to Jenn about where we should go on vacation right now, as I needed to get my brain off of this race & onto somewhere better! She farther up ahead, so we couldn’t really talk, but there was an older man running next to me & he started talking about North Carolina & how I could sit on the beach, watch the waves crash & eat good food. I was so grateful for him at that point because he was able to get my mind off of the pain for a little bit. I thanked him, he said I was doing great, & I took off ahead of him. Runners are the best.
At mile 12, Children’s Miracle Network had tents set up & had pictures of their kids that were terminally ill and/or sick with cancer, etc along the road. I started tearing up. I was in pain, but when I saw the pictures of these kids, I remembered that this pain I had was only temporary, these kids were going through so much more. It gave me the one last boost that I needed to finish.
We rounded back into the parking lot of the stadium, & I could see I was almost finished. I couldn’t wait! I looked at my watch, & could see I was going to beat my goal. As I turned into the stadium to finish, I was running the track & saw my friend Alyssa & her family & they started yelling & cheering for me! It gave me one last boost & I sprinted to the finish! I started crying as I got my medal & my goodie bag. WOW! What an amazing feeling!
I had 3 goals in mind, & my best case scenario, Goal A, was to finish 2:40. That would give me a 20 minute PR from Chicago. Well, official finish time….
2:37:02!!!!! A 23 minute PR from Chicago 🙂
I have never been more thrilled or proud in my life. I never thought I could have done that & I am now the proud owner of a new half marathon PR. 🙂 This was an amazing race & I would recommend it to anyone who loves this little town! It was an incredibly challenging course, but if I can do it, so can anyone! Jenn got a new PR as well finishing 2:35. She rocks! And I’m so thankful for her helping me through this race.
6.55 mile split: 01:19:08
Chip time: 02:37:02 / 11:59 pace