Sunday, April 29, 2007

I am halfway there!

Long Branch Half Marathon, Long Branch, NJ - Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ever since I crossed the finish line of my first 5 K, I have been itching to run a marathon. As usual, I expected the excitement to fizzle down and die, which it sort of did. However, after my ill-prepared 10K, which I completed at a time that amazed me, my motivation increased and I set myself my next goal - to train for the Long Branch half marathon.

The training went really well. I did not push myself, just increased my base slowly, 1 or 2 miles every week. My long runs could not have been better. I had to skip a day or 2 every 3 or 4 weeks, because my body was not used to the mileage, but I was not "hooked" on running yet the way some runners are, so I happily took a day off when needed.

My parents and older bro' were visiting the US this year and we were planning to visit my younger bro' at Colorado (long-awaited family reunion), so I was not sure if I could schedule the race around their visit. In a moment of resolution, though, I registered for the race. Then, I panicked and tried to cancel, but the organizers said I would not get my money back. So, when the Colorado trip was postponed by a week, we decided to make my race a family outing. What a treat! The family to cheer me on (minus my bros), bells and whistles on!

My parents are very active people, so when they are around, we find ourselves constantly going places, doing things. The evening prior to the race, DH and I barely had enough time to drive down to the expo (the start and finish were right on the boardwalk at Long Branch, NJ and the expo was conducted at the Ocean Place Resort and Spa). I collected my packet and we headed back. Then, my cousin showed up with a friend and we roped them into the cheering squad. My dad issued orders that I was to eat something light (not greasy) and run up to bed, while the others cleaned up. Felt nice to be pampered, for a change!

The next morning, we headed off for the race...the NJ Marathon and LBH. There was a huge turnout...7000 participants and several thousand spectators. Even my mom, who is usually unmoved by athletic to-do's gushed with glee. My dad manned the videocamera, my cousin and DH, 2 cameras. The race start was delayed a little. We were off by 7:30. I tried to stay near the 4:00 pacers, but lost them almost as soon as we had started. DH ran the first mile with me. I couldn't stop grinning, throughout the race. It took us a few minutes to get to the start line. I ran the first mile pretty slowly, then after I was stepped on by another runner, I increased pace to make up the lost time, and realized I could sustain the pace. On 2nd Avenue, there was a huge crowd of spectators. I was touched to see mothers with babies and little kids, out early, waving flags and cheering us on. There were live bands and recorded music, people on various musical instruments, one creative spectator blowing bubbles from a beach-side apartment on to the runners on the boardwalk, and traffic stopped for us. It was better than I had imagined. At mile 10, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back, but I was able to continue running...even stepping up the pace during the last mile. Finally...the boardwalk...this seemed the longest portion of the race. It kept going! But there were a lot of people cheering, and I have always loved crowds.

My cheering squad was waiting at the start/finish and dad, expecting me to finish in a little over 2 hours, was stationing the camera and video crew in strategic locations, to cover all possible angles, when I came pounding in, grinning like the cheshire cat at 1:53! They could not believe it...and neither could I! I felt elated as they placed the finishers' medal around my shoulders. I got a white finishers' cap and a bottle of water. I felt the adrenaline I was back in school! There was a great celebration...they had bands playing and cheerful spectators and plenty of post-race goodies. My team and I had brunch at a cafe, while we watched the marathon finishers coming in...and I remember thinking, "That'll be me, next year!"

Here is my post from

This was my first half marathon and it was an enjoyable experience. The pre-race expo was simple; not much to talk about. Massages were available before and after the race, which was a nice touch. The weather was simply beeyootiful and the turnout was excellent. The Ocean Place Resort and Spa, which hosted the race, was overflowing with participants...resulting in long lines outside restrooms. There was a pleasant oceanfront start and finish. After a 10-minute delay at the start, leading to some restlessness, we were off. I was determined to stay close to the pacers, but lost them 2 seconds into the race! Someone stepped on my shoe during mile 2...and I stepped up the pace to make up for lost time. For beginners like me, it was a dream course...very flat and scenic...and covered some interesting neighborhoods. I was easily able to maintain my pace, even enjoy the scenery and the nice neighborhoods. Crowd support was remarkable. I have nothing to compare against, but I thought people were friendly and very supportive! There were literally bells and whistles, bands and cheering crowds at several places. There were several fluid stations, offering first Gatorade, then water. Toward the middle of the race, aid stations carried GU and oranges. The volunteers at aid stations were very friendly and encouraging. The last mile seemed an eternity, but I guess that's true of all races!!! The finish was packed with spectators. Finishers were cheerfully greeted with medals, finishers' caps and bottled water. Post race refreshments were great...chili, trail mix, fruits. Overall, I had a wonderful time. I will definitely return...hopefully, for a marathon next time!!!

Long Branch Half Marathon, Long Branch, NJ - Saturday, April 28, 2007
Chip Time: 1:51:44
Gun Time: 1:53:04
Place: 519/2754 overall; 152/1615 women
Bib 5564

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