I have a lot to tell y’all about Nashville (see what I did there?), but let’s start with the race and then back up to the days leading up to it. Running the Women’s Half Marathon with Team Challenge is the reason I went to Nashville in the first place, so it seems like a good place to start.
When I returned from the pasta party the night before, I did my usual pre-race routine. I obsessively pinned my race bib on straight, put my dad’s old Chicago Marathon bib in my pocket, and laid out all of my clothes so I’d be ready to go. I also took the time to write all my donors on Team Challenge posters. I liked this step. It gave me time to think about all the people who supported me and were helping support the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. By the time the race ended, 118 different people had made donations. Every time I think about it I am blown away.
Once everything was laid out, I curled up in bed for a good night’s sleep. I was excited and ready to race the next morning, with friends by my side.
The alarm went off bright and early, and in no time I was downstairs in the lobby eating my peanut butter bagel with Becky and some of my teammates from the National team. We posed for plenty of pictures and I met up with my Team Illinois buddies before heading to the start line.
By the time we finished snapping pictures and headed over to our start corral, it was jam packed. We opted to just head for the most open space, which ended up being the last corral. This seemed like a brilliant idea until the gun went off. Only then did Mary Beth and I remember that this was a walker-friendly race. Oops. (Nothing against walkers, we were just running!) So we spent a good mile to a mile and a half passing people and dodging slower folks. Oh well.
I planned to keep up with Mary Beth for as long as possible. She ran a 2:30 half marathon in Napa, and despite all my talk about just wanting to have fun, I was really hoping for a PR (under 2:37).
That worked for about 3.5 miles… because HOLY COW hills. When the race website boasted a “faster, flatter course” apparently that meant compared to hills of death last year. There were still crazy, crazy hills — at least for a girl from Chicago. (Mad props to whoever laid out that course, though. More uphills on the front half, lots of downhills on the back half. I appreciated it.)
It was only after 3.5 miles that I resigned to walking briskly up the bigger hills, throwing myself down them, and running on the few flat parts of the course. Shortly after Mary Beth went out of sight (after checking to make sure I was okay), I threw myself a pity party. I was cranky that all hopes of a best time were gone, that I didn’t know about the hills, and prepare properly, and whine whine whine whine.
And then I realized what I was doing. I had a little talk with myself. It went something like this. Lauren Marie Erbach. 118 people did not donate to CCFA so you could throw a tantrum on the race course about not having your very best day. Boo-freaking-hoo. You just got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. You’ve had a long, hard summer. Just being on this race course is something to celebrate. So snap out of it and enjoy yourself. Have fun, damnit! (Is it weird that the lecture kind of sounded like my dad in my head? Maybe it’s because I was racing with his bib?) Anyway, I decided then and there to cut the crap, smile at people, and have the time of my life.
Around mile 5, my trusty running buddy Luke caught up to me. I told him I was having fun, and that it was my new plan for race day. Per my friend Ali‘s advice, I threw up some jazz hands in celebration of every porta potty I didn’t need to use. I egged on spectators to cheer louder. I cheered for runners and walkers near me. Thanked all the volunteers. Plain old just had fun.
The course had a turnaround, so for about three miles, we passed the other athletes on the course. I had the best time looking for other Team Challenge athletes and cheering like crazy. I loved passing the Team Challenge cheer stations and seeing familiar faces on the course. It was all just so much fun!
During the last three miles, I made new friends. I met a woman named Jill from Dayton who wants to join their local Team Challenge team for Vegas now, and a girl named Juanita who was running her first half marathon. I loved running with Juanita for a while. We were running right near her neighborhood, so she could tell me when the hills would end.
And then, before I knew it, it was finish line time. I was so happy to get there in 2:50 and change. Not my best time. Not my worst time. But such a fun time.
All in all, a very successful half marathon. And a huge reminder that I do this for fun, damnit. It’s supposed to be fun! And oh it was.
Tell me about your most fun race experience. Ready, set, go!
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