My Cleveland Experience.

I did it! I did it! I ran my first half marathon this past Sunday! Words cannot describe how amazing it was. The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is such an amazing experience. I have already considered myself there running this race for the next 85 years.

Lucky #7106

Lucky #7106

I have never been a part of something so awesome and positive! From the very start people were so friendly and the atmosphere was so exciting. From standing in a 30 minute line to use a porta potty before the race, to the total strangers I ran along side with, to the volunteers and announcers and especially the cheering fans. Basically — this race was AWESOME on every level.

The boyfriend and I left my house at 4:45 a.m. Sunday. We reached downtown Cleveland at about 5:20 a.m. The traffic was a little stressful and slow moving, but eventually we found our way to the $5 parking area, which had plenty of spots still available. (I will plan to get there just as early every year, especially because this lot is located so close to the starting line.) The boyfriend and I decided to use the porta potties before the race since it was only about 6:10 a.m. at this point. We stood in front of a group of hilarious women who had us laughing the entire time.

The starting line.

The starting line.

Around 6:40 a.m. we began to make our way over to the starting line. We had no idea where we were going, so we spotted a couple of other runners with the red half marathon bib and followed them at a good distance. Thankfully they didn’t lead us astray because we found the starting line. Well, it wasn’t the official starting line, but it was the line to the starting line. There were signs here and there with pace times so we picked a spot around an 11 minute mile. I read a couple of blogs before the race about being honest about your start times, so the boyfriend and I decided this was a good pace to try since it was our first official half. (It turned out that we could have been up around 9 or so because we ended up passing almost our entire section, but that’s OK.)

I was getting really anxious and nervous in the last remaining minutes before we started. I knew from my other 5K races that I always felt a panic as I started, especially if I saw other runners start to pass me. I reminded myself not to be intimidated and that I belonged there with everyone else.

"Strong" was my power word.

“Strong” was my power word.

Pretty soon we were off (well we started and stopped a few times) but we officially passed the starting line at 7:07 a.m. “Cleveland Rocks” blasted over the loud speakers as the announcers and fans cheered us on. I got goose bumps for the first two miles just because I had never experienced something like this before. I kept looking behind me and up ahead in the distance to see the giant sea of runners bobbing up and down.

The course was smooth with about three or four rolling hills, nothing too insane at all. I would even go so far to say that it’s a pretty easy course. We ran through a few of Lakewood’s beautiful neighborhoods and then into the streets of Ohio City and Tremont. People were sitting out in chairs on their front lawns drinking mimosas and cheering for us. Some people were grilling out on balconys waving and screaming at the runners below. A few little kids and a mother were handing out clementines to runners as they passed. I had a smile on my face the entire run. The boyfriend and I kept nodging each other and pointing to signs that people were holding up. The signs may have been one the best parts of the race, here are a few I remember:

“You trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage lasted — keep running.”
“Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.”
“Beer in two miles!”
“I am so proud of you total stranger!”
“Wall? What wall? Keep going!”
“I’m so proud of you – Drake.”

And then of course there was this one:

Only in Cleveland.

Only in Cleveland.

We ran past local churches passing out water, a house that was passing out beer (we passed on this surprisingly) and houses that had hoses spraying water that we could run through. We also passed a guy playing electric guitar, a marching band and a singing sign language choir. There were also two live bands playing at two spots throughout the course.

We started out running with the same group of people. There was a group of three woman, a guy with a giant black afro wig and a few others. After mile 3 we started branching off to run faster and from there the only consistent people we ran with was a guy in a full karate outfit and two girls running with him. One of the girls and the karate guy kissed every mile. The boyfriend and I just opted for high fives.

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

Mile 11 and some change. Mini fist pump and feeling good!

I didn’t even start listening to my music until mile 11 and even then I had one headphone out to listen to the crowd and the people cheering. Houses were blasting their own music that we could easily hear from the road too. After mile 12 I really picked it up and sprinted the last part pretty good. I was surprised by how many people weren’t sprinting the last straight before the finish line. I was dodging people left and right to get past. I crossed the line at 2 hours 21 minutes and 5 seconds. I wanted to be under 2:30 so I was happy with my time.

After the race we got our medals and a few snacks (chocolate milk, bananas, popsicles). We got our picture taken and I met up with two of my girlfriends who also ran the race. We also got a ticket for a free beer at the 26.3 post race party, but I wasn’t too crazy about a Miller Lite at the time.

It’s crazy because I remember getting sick after running only six miles during my training. I felt like I was near death if I ran over five miles and it would take me the whole day to recover. But after the half marathon I felt great, I wasn’t even sore. My how 16 weeks can change a lot!

As we were leaving, I glanced over to the finish line and saw some of the full marathoners still running and trying to finish. I couldn’t help but feel something inside of me wishing to do that, wishing to run the full 26.2…

When we got home, the boyfriend and I couldn’t stop looking up other races for the summer. We talked all day about how awesome the race was and how much fun we had. We told everyone “Consider us there every year from now on.” And I think it just might happen…

Celebrating our 13.1!

Celebrating our 13.1!

First race down!

First race down!

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