I have never been one to get to a race early. My preference is to arrive with just enough time to hit the port-o-potties and tuck into my corral before the starting gun goes off. The morning of the Nike Women Half Marathon was no different, but unfortunately by the time I went to get in my corral it was packed to capacity and overflowing onto the sidewalk. There must have been 200 people trying to their way into the corral. None of us were able to fold in with our corral as they inched forward to the starting line. Instead, we had to wait until nearly all the other participants moved forward before we could hop in and get going. My last minute arrival plan had backfired and I spent the first 4.5 miles of the race weaving through walkers and runners. The course was packed until that point and really didn’t thin out until mile five. Luckily, things got better from there.
Somewhere in mile 4 I saw my very favorite Team In Training coach. He gave me a hug and asked how I was feeling. I instinctively started complaining about the overflowing corral and the crowded course. He basically told me to chill out, look around and enjoy. And that happened to be exactly what I needed to hear. This race was never going to be a PR and allowing myself to be frustrated was counterproductive. I took a few deep breaths, toned down the weaving around and started to settle in. The course was fantastic. The monuments were in view for much of the race and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The last miles were an out and back to the Capital building. The course support was fantastic and the finish line came into view about a quarter mile out.
I saw my family in the last stretch. I had been looking for them since about mile 7 and in seeing them I felt relieved, glad, grateful. With the finish line in sight, this was one of the rare races in which I felt the slightest tinge of sadness as it was coming to an end. At this point there were people everywhere — spectators, runners, race volunteers. I thought about what it meant to be surrounded by these individuals, sharing for a moment this mile of a DC street — to be flanked by other women going after the same goal, to be running a course hemmed in by early risers holding signs of encouragement and offering up cups of water. The road may have been crowded, but it sure was a good road to be on.