This year, my son Ryan has shown some interest in coming with me to the VIP dinner. I knew he would love looking around the expo and working in the information booth with me. On Friday I picked him and his brother up from school a little early and we headed up to the expo. He was immediately pretty happy because he was given a bright orange volunteer shirt that he was told he could keep. We answered some questions for people, mainly about parking and had a great time meeting new people. There were many people running Cleveland for the first time or running their first full or half marathon and that is always so exciting! Ryan and I then took our turn exploring the expo together. He really enjoyed seeing all of booths! We picked up some cool things along the way and got ourselves over to the VIP dinner.
|Ryan, working the booth!|
|I love meeting IG friends in real life (she just ran her first full marathon!)|
The VIP dinner is always at the Hyatt arcade and is just beautiful! The event staff just go all out with live music and amazing food and really make us all feel like VIPs! And the highlight is finally seeing all of my ambassador friends! Every year it’s a big deal to take the group picture and this year was no different. Through the past 5 years our group has grown and I am honored to be standing along side such an amazing group of runners and athletes.
Saturday is the 5k/ 8k and I didn’t participate because the kids had a soccer game and I didn’t want to overdo it going back and forth all weekend. But, my parents had a blast doing the 5k in the very Cleveland weather. After all, my mom ran the half marathon back in 2010 and that’s what got my hooked! They were thrilled with the course and their medals!
On Sunday my alarm went off super early. I was not going to miss being at the staring like early to meet up with the other Ambassadors for the group photo. I had my clothes all ready to go and I got dressed quickly and headed out on time. As I was driving on the turnpike there was suddenly a doe right in front of me in my lane. The speed limit is 70 so I was going at a pretty good clip. That deer looked scared as hell and tried to get out of the way but it hit the front of my car on the right hand side. I was shocked and didn’t really want to pull over on the turnpike in the dark, it was only about 5am. I also didn’t see what happened to her, I didn’t want to swerve and possibly loose control of the car and make it worse. I checked the blinker and could see that it was still illuminating and my headlight appeared to be working so I continued on a little more slowly, scanning the highway for more of her friends. It definitely scared me but I was thankful that it wasn’t worse. I was holding my breath until I hit the parking lot.
When I finally got the the parking lot in Cleveland I got out and assessed the damange. It wasn’t terrible, but it was visibly damaged and I just said a little prayer for staying safe.
I made it to the start line right about 6 am and just kind of took it all in. It was nice to get to the bathroom quicky before the crowds gathered too much. I started to see some of my friends and before I knew it, I was ready for our group ambassador picture at the start line. I can’t say enough good things about this group, but simply stated they are the best!
After we had a last potty break we got into our corrals and were all lined up. My friend Andrew said it best that the start line is a bit of a religious experience. We all are taking preparing for our miles that we are about to run. Knowing all of the work to get us collectively to that point is insane and it’s the best feeling standing as a whole team just waiting to cross that line and begin our journey.
It was a balmy 68 degrees at 7am when we took off. It was much warmer than I’m used to when I run and I knew off the bat that my goal went from getting a new PR to just finishing the race.
The first few miles felt good and I really focused on staying slow. I have taken off in quite a few races and then I run out of steam. On a hot day I knew that would be hard to come back from so I took it nice and slow, stopping at all of the water stops. One of my favorite things about Cleveland is the amazing commodity runners that I have come to know. There were quite a few people I saw mile after mile and it’s fun to go for a run and bump into friends! That really kept me pumped up!
I was going quite slow but continued to run. The first major roadblock was the hill at mile 6. I can usually handle jogging up the first half of it and then walking. It every single person around we was walking up that dang thing! It was a beast but we made it. It was surreal to be on a walk with what seemed to be 200 friends!
I will never be able to thank the volunteers and the friendly residents along that route who passed out water, ice cubes and had thier hoses out and sprayed us. I have never eaten ice out of strangers hands more willingly than during those 2 1/2 hours! They rocked!
This being my 10th half marathon I have had major stopping points in a race just knowing that I had to stop and walk but shockingly, I felt good most of the race! It was a very happy thing to discover that the training really seemed to be helping.
By mile 12 I was feeling ready to be done. I was excited to get to that finish line and find my mom and son Jack. Throughout the race I had been aware of the ambulances and first responders on the course. On a few occasions an ambulance passed us on the course and it was a sombering moment.
By the time I hit the last bridge I was so excited to get across that line. I was not moving fast but I was still thrilled to be done. I found my mom and jacks smiling faces right as I crossed the line and we met up for some hugs and pictures.
After the run we went to the beer tents and I ran into some of my friends. My friend Melissa was telling me about a girl that she saw when she was finishing her race and that it looked like things weren’t going well. I didn’t know at the time but that girl that Melissa saw was the young woman Taylor that collapsed right before the finish line and ultimately didn’t make it.
We said our goodbyes and finally made it back to our car. Later in the day I heard about the girl not making it and it was heartbreaking. As I heard more information about the girl I felt worse and worse. She was so young and so in shape and she had trained so much for this race, how in the world is this even possible?
Immediately the feeling of excitement I usually feel felt almost superficial knowing that someone else that was standing among us didn’t get to go back to her car and hug her mom after her race. She didn’t get to go have a celebratory drink and post a picture on Instagram showing off her achievement. It all felt so wrong. I didn’t know her or her family but it left me very shaken knowing that it could have been any one of us. It’s a terrible reminder that life is so fragile. Hug the ones you love and make choices that make you smile daily. I know I’ll never forget that hot day in Cleveland.