The Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Pete Half Marathon was a great race last year, so I know with no course changes it was sure to be great again this year. I was up around 4:45 to eat, have my cup of coffee (my Keurig makes it so easy), and be out the door by 5:15. I was meeting Tori and her fiance Patrick at the finish line to take them back to the starting line. Because it’s a point to point course, we figured out logistics so that we didn’t have to pay for the shuttle. We headed from the finish back to the starting area and got an absolutely amazing (and free) parking spot in the Ferg’s Sports Bar parking lot. We went in and waited in no lines to use the restrooms a few times, and then it was time to head out to the start.
Me, Tori, and Beka had all planned to run together, and we had somehow all gotten bumped up to Corral 2 at the expo just by asking. We didn’t have to even show proof of time. We ran into Caitlyn as the first groups had started, and we snapped a quick photo.
Then it was go time. I had memorized the splits to run a 1:59:00. Tori’s goal for the day was to run a sub 2 for the first time, and I, along with Beka, had agreed to help pace her. I knew we’d need to hit around 9:05/mile to be clearly under 2:00:00, so I memorized 1:59:00 splits to make sure we weren’t cutting it close and could still catch some water stops a little slower without getting caught up.
I posted the route on my blog post last year, and that didn’t change. The first bit of the course takes you away from the water and past Tropicana Field. The only ant hills of the whole course come in the first 2 or 3 miles. I ran with a camera and tried as best as I could to document the course.
After the trop we turned back towards downtown and caught a little bit of a headwind. I couldn’t complain though. I thought the weather was really nice, and the views are fantastic.
The first few miles were 9:12, 9:09, 9:00, 8:55, and 9:01, and everybody was feeling good. I felt fantastic! I had earlier been worried that I might not be able to sub2 and would have to send the girls on their way, but at that point I knew I’d be able to because those times were feeling pretty maintainable. We weren’t talking and were just going with the flow of the crowds.
Around mile 6 or 7, we started slowing down a little, and Tori was hurting a bit. After a few higher miles, it didn’t seem like sub2 was going to be possible (I’ll let her tell the story from her perspective), and she said Beka and I should go on our way. It was so thoughtful of her to tell us to go on, but I wasn’t having it. Not for one second did I think about leaving her and pushing on myself, because I know if someone had left me at mile 22 feeling down at the marathon, it would have only made it worse. It had never been my intention to PR at this race, so from that point on it became the motive of me and Beka to have fun, chit chat, post for photographers, and help Tori forget that she was hurting.
And fun we had! All of the official race photos are crazy funny. Someone needs to tell me to be normal when I’m having such a good time at a race, and that same person also needs to tell me to close my mouth when I’m jumping and throwing my arms in the air. I’ll share those in another post, because really they’re worthy of it. I took lots more great photos along the course, as the course really is beautiful!
We passed by the place where the Women’s Half Marathon starting line was, and from there the course just continued to get prettier.
We headed out onto the pier around mile 7 or 8, and the wind wasn’t as bad as it had been at Women’s Half or the year before. It was manageable, and I captured shots of what we were looking at as we were running.
We shared all kind of funny stories, from first dates to marriage proposals to how I fall asleep while blogging (everyone’s personal favorite we later laughed about). It was our goal to just get to the finish as best we could, but in the mean time we would enjoy the heck out of it!
I can’t even put my arms down in my own picture…
The course next runs through residential areas, and the houses are ones I’d one day love to live in. St. Pete is such a nice area, and these courses remind me more of that each time I run them.
In a moment of self-reflection, I have to say that hitting this bridge was a happy time for me, because it wasn’t that hard. Last year I remember it being a huge pain for me, and I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. This year I loved thinking back and realizing how far I’ve come on my running journey. I mean, I know it’s only been almost two years, but I’ve come quite a ways.
And before we knew it, the finish line was coming up ahead!
My 8th half marathon is in the books!
We cheesed for finisher’s pictures, got our medals and free snacks, and walked over to the post-race area.
We didn’t stay for long; we were all tired and had plenty to do the rest of the day and this week, but we did meet up with a number of friends along the way to say hi and congratulate on their own respective races.
We saw Genna and her signs. She didn’t run this one, but she’s one of the girls I’m doing Princess with in two weekends. That’s going to be a ball! Thanks for coming out to cheer Genna!
All in all it’s races like these that make running so magical. Some days are meant for PRs, and others are meant to remind you what running does for your soul. Though we didn’t hit number goals we may have shot for in the beginning, we did get to spend a beautiful morning doing something that we love and laughing and telling stories along the way. Tori will hit her sub2 goal soon. She had it in her Sunday and it’s going to come out when she’s ready. Though I would have loved to see that happen for her, I also wouldn’t trade the morning that we did end up happening.
Running has made me a more self-confident, more relaxed, and happier person overall. It reminded me of the quote, “running never takes more than it gives back.” It takes a lot, but this weekend as a whole really did remind me how much it gives me in return.
Oh, we ran around a 2:10. It was a 9:58 pace. But that doesn’t matter.
What’s your favorite race you’ve ever done and why? Whether it’s because you PRed, qualified for Boston, or had an amazing time with friends, I’d love to hear!