If you’re just tuning in, this is a race recap of the Stratton Faxon Greater Danbury Road Race (aka the Danbury Half Marathon) that I ran with my friend Mary. The first 8 miles, covered in Part I consisted of some moderate hills to kill, loopy moments, and an awesome moment where Mary managed to shed her middle layer of clothing without stopping.
So just after hitting mile 8, we knew we’d be seeing our respective families. Being out there as a spectator of a running race is not for the impatient. Waiting, waiting, waiting, to catch a short glimpse of your runner seems like it might not be worth it. But trust me, it really, really matters. For a recreational runner, catching a wave, smile, hug, or kiss from a loved one, especially when the body is starting to protest, can make a huge difference in the race, and boost my mood for the remainder of it.
We came upon my husband and 2 kiddos first:
Here I go coming in for the all-important fueling up of KID HUGS.
After the hugs, I hear my husband call to my son, “Here, take the camera!” My son grabbed it, and ran around this little cluster of bushes to catch us. I snapped this photo of him…
…and he snapped this photo of us, MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE DAY.
Meanwhile, Mary’s husband, using a long lens, captured us smiling during those same moments. I love these photos too, because it makes it look like we’re on Mile 1, not Mile 9.
After a quick hello to Mary’s family, the smiles faded, as we put our game faces on. We knew The Hill was coming. Rather, the series of uphills that Mary and I trained on here and here. We gulped another GU and I feel the caffeine kick in and I’m all LET’S DO IT, let’s kill this mofo.
So up we go. We’re keeping a good pace. I’m feeling good. We’re passing people, just like in my dreams. Some are passing us, too, but I can honestly say that while we were not burning up the course, it really seemed like we were because we were passing people on the hills. WOOT, WOOT.
I had my first ever experience of spotting someone I knew DURING the race. I knew my friend Susan was in the race somewhere, I found her!
I chatted with Sue a few moments, and when I looked up, there goes Mary, doing what she does best: cranking it into high gear on last part of the big hill:
I caught up with her, and our relief was short-lived as we realized that while we conquered the biggest hills, we still had about 3 miles to go. Then, in the distance, we spied this scene:
It’s our friend Kate, running an unofficial water station at her parents house! Totally unexpected, and completely welcomed.
That refreshment stop launched us in the last phase of the race. This is where legs start to feel heavy, and Mary and I cease chatting and just focus on breathing and maintaining pace. You know it’s serious when we don’t gab.
The longest we ran on this training cycle was 11 miles, so at this point my feet are getting achy and my legs are feeling more and more like cement blocks. We knew we were coming up on the big, long downhill. At first, it seems like sweet relief…
…but really, downhills, after already running 12 miles, suck big time. This downhill, being fairly steep and about 1.25 miles long, almost did me in. The tendency on downhills is to fly down them, but I knew that I would kill my feet with any sort of hard slap-, slap-, slapping. I read somewhere from a famous racer whose name I don’t remember, that races are won and lost on the downhills. Basically, if you can have good form and run with control on the downhill, you can actually save your energy and not hurt yourself. So trying to run with control on this long downhill made me want to scream. Engaging my quads for over 9 minutes at that point in the race was very difficult and left my legs quivering.
After the downhill where we saw that rocking band again (still playing loud and fast), we had just about 1/2 mile left, and one short but steep hill to climb. On that hill, I my ears heard something that I hadn’t heard before – Mary dropping the f-bomb. Yep, even sweet Irish-Catholic lassies drop perfectly-timed curse words on these hills. After I teased her about cursing being my responsibility before you knew it, we were in the home stretch.
Time to crank out the last remaining bit of energy.
The last 1000 feet or so really was a blur, but I do remember getting ready to turn the corner to the finish line and just feeling a swell of happiness and pride rise within me. I knew before I saw the clock that this would be my Best Race Ever. I spotted my husband and kiddos again and one of them took this photo:
I started to get a little emotional. A few days earlier, Mary had just celebrated a milestone birthday. As we turned the corner and saw the finish line clock, as said to her, “Happy birthday, Mary. You just got yourself a new PR!” We grabbed hands and finished strong.
Clock time: 2:10:53…but NET TIME was 2:10:18! A new personal record for myself, too.
(The finish line photo is on order and will be posted soon!)
Here I am, with Mary and Jeanine (who finished about 5 minutes before us), all red-faced and happy.