Looking up for a second time, I could feel the lump growing in the back of my throat. I was warned, I can’t deny that, however I didn’t expect it to be that bad. “I didn’t know mountains were in Cincinnati,” I jokingly told my husband, in an effort to try and push aside the real panic I was feeling inside. I joke around and I giggle out loud in nervous situations where I feel tense and unsure of what’s to come. At this point, I knew what was to come: more hills. However, knowing didn’t make me feel any less concerned at this point. All I could think about was how this would end and whether, or not, I could finish strong.
I can still hear that alarm ringing in my ears as I roll over in my bed and hit the ‘dismiss’ button on my phone. 4:05 am. Wow, last night flew by, I think to myself. I look over at my husband, who also seems to feel a little dazed about waking up at 4 am on a Sunday. I give him a good morning kiss and slowly climb out of bed. It is ‘Flying Pig’ day and over two months of training later, we have finally made it to the big day. We stayed the night at Meghan’s boyfriends house since it is closer to Cincinnati than our home. Meghan is also running the half marathon with me. She is the one who originally talked me into it!
I head straight to the bathroom to wash my face and toss my wavy hair into a high ponytail, which was topped off with a black sparkly sweaty band. My outfit was an oldie, but a goodie, sponsored by Target. (Okay, not really sponsored by Target, but I think I could have passed as a walking shopping ad for the store). I wore a black racer back tank, black running skirt, and a hot pink sports bra underneath, (I needed a little ‘pop’ of color), all from Target. On my sore, and in-need-of-a-pedicure feet were a pair of New Balance running socks and pink, silver and black Asics running shoes. When I looked in the mirror I felt ready to go, excited to run, but I still had those butterflies fluttering around in my nervous stomach. I used to get these nervous feelings as a child before gymnastics meets, as a teenager at cheerleading competitions, and now as an adult who is about to run her second half marathon. I may be older, but I still felt just as vulnerable as I did in my youth.
I headed out to the kitchen at this point to grab a large cup of coffee, chug some water, and make my pre-race meal: A toasted plain, Trader Joe’s bagel smeared with Whole Foods Brand creamy peanut butter, which I took with me to eat in the car. At this point Meghan was up and fully dressed in her adorable new bright pink Lululemon tank and a patterned head band, which topped off the whole look. We had our numbers pinned on the front of our shirts and at this point we were in full race mode. My husband, a little less thrilled in the morning than the girls, got dressed, drank some Gatorade, packed up and ate his bagel with peanut butter too. I headed to the guest bedroom, threw all of my things into my overnight bag and grabbed my Garmin to pace myself and my iPhone (for music!) to lose myself.
We headed out the door into the crisp morning air. It was still pitch black outside, but with the size of the moon you would almost think we were outside in the day as the bright light lit a path for us to our car. We all climbed in the car and were on our way.
I looked out the window of the car, wondering where all the other people driving were headed on this early Sunday morning. ‘4:50 am’ read the clock in the car. I couldn’t remember the last time I was awake this early. I love mornings though and how it helps me to appreciate the peaceful silence at the beginning of the day when I am alone with my own thoughts. This calming feeling and silent thinking helped my nerves during the drive.
The race didn’t start until 6:30 am, but we had to get there early since parking garages stopped taking cars beginning at 5:30 am. Luckily, it all worked out perfectly since we were able to cruise right into a parking spot without a single jam,especially because I knew traffic would be coming soon as thousands and thousands of people started to pile into downtown Cincinnati.
We got out of our vehicle and made the walk down near the starting line. It was easy to find by just following the hoard of people who were all heading in the same direction. At this time it was about 5:30 am and we found a spot inside the Bengal’s stadium where we stayed warm and was able to stretch and hit up the restrooms with indoor plumbing, as opposed to waiting in the extra long lines at the port-o-potty’s positioned closer to the starting corrals. We stayed inside until about 6:00 am, and then headed outside to make our trek to ‘Pig Pen E,’ (such a cute name for the starting corral since it was, after all, the ‘Flying Pig’)! The sky was just starting to lighten up and I was excited to watch the sun rise while running the race.
We found our spot in no time and squeezed through the fence into a comfortable position. At this time I started my Garmin so it could locate the satellites, checked my shoe strings to make sure they were tied tight, and set my Pandora station on ‘Today’s Country.’ Sure, it may not be everyone’s cup-of-tea to get pumped up for a race, but I love to listen to songs I know every word too. Singing along in my head helps keep my mind off the sound of heavy breathing and pounding pavement. I could feel my heart pounding as the National Anthem was played over the loud speakers. I looked around and saw all of these people who were ready to run 13.1, and even 26.2 miles on this absolutely gorgeous Sunday morning. I felt proud to be there with them, thrilled to have my amazing friend and my wonderful husband by my side, and excited to get this race started. I can’t even remember if there was a shot gun, a countdown or how the race started, but before I knew it my line was starting to move and I knew there was no turning back now.