Aramco Half Marathon Race Recap – “Her Story”

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Race recap blog posts will be written by the both of us! Here is HER STORY (i.e mine) first. Keep in mind this is coming from a first-time half-marathoner and noob runner to say the least. Next post will be Joseph’s point of view!

WAKING UP: Well, you already know how I was feeling the night before. Needless to say, it took me FOREVER to actually get to sleep. Awesome. I was supposed to wake-up at 4AM, but for whatever reason only my SECOND alarm went off at 4:15AM. By that time, Joseph was already on his way to pick me up, so I needed to haul my butt and get ready as quickly as possibly. Fortunately, I already had everything prepped from the night before, so all it took was to put my clothes on, grab my breakfast, and head out to Joseph’s truck!

ARRIVING AT THE GEORGE R BROWN (GRB) CONVENTION CENTER: It wasn’t as bad as we expected. I was worried about traffic around GRB and finding parking, but I think we arrived early enough (5AM) to avoid the main bulk of traffic. The HouMarathon offered a 5:30AM Catholic mass service, so Joseph and I attended that service before doing anything else. That ending up being an incredibly calming and peaceful way for us to start off our race morning!

THE PORT-A-POTTY ADVENTURES: Before the Catholic mass, before checking anything in, and before ANYTHING/EVERYTHING in general, we decided to use the bathroom because we knew that it would become congested as more people arrived. Smart move on our end. Now, I’ve never actually used them before. I’ve seen them, and I understand the concept behind them, but I’ve never had the need to use the restroom so badly that I was willing to use one. So, I go into the port-a-potty, do my thing, and I look around for the toilet flush. Confused. No toilet flush to be seen. Very confused. I quickly text Joseph:

Me: “Babe! Where is the button to flush the toilet?”
Him: “There is none.”
Me: Horror slowly dawning on me… “WAIT. WHAT. THERE IS NONE? But… but… I just… pooped… it’s down there… OMG WHAT. PEOPLE WILL SEE IT.”
Him: “Yea. That’s what happens.”
Me: Shamefacedly opening the door slowly and peering out. Man next in line immediately steps up to enter the port-a-potty. Avoid eye contact and scurry away. Don’t look down into the toilet dear sir. Please don’t.

WOW. Okay, so I guess I never thought about port-a-potties properly. And I hate to be a pansy about it but… OMG EW. EW. EW. And then we had to go again to the port-a-potties around 6-7AM and WOW the lines were crazy. Everyone and their mother was using the bathroom. And by that time since thousands of people had been using the bathrooms the whole area smelled… runners’ bowel movements, y’all. And you really have no option sometimes but to look down into the toilet because the area is so small… but try not to. Seriously… try not to look there!!! Scarred for life. Inside the cavernous toilet bowl, mountains of… wow. Yea. Yea. That was an adventure I’ll never forget, unfortunately.

Random useful tips:

  • Go as early as you can. 5AM was perfect because there was virtually no wait. It’s also when the port-a-potties are the cleanest and have the least amount of waste piling up down below. YUCK.
  • Bring personal cleaning wipes! I felt much better using cleaning wipes over toilet paper in the port-a-potty. Peace of mind.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. They offer hand sanitizer in the port-a-pottys, but 1) it’s weak hand sanitizer and 2) it runs out quickly as the morning progresses.
  • GO TO THE BACK PORT-A-POTTIES. This applies to you if it’s 6AM-7AM and you see a congested line towards the front. There is not just ONE line to the bathroom. There are dozens! So keep walking FURTHER into the port-a-potties to find a good chunk of bathrooms that have shorter lines!

    7AM-7:27AM... taking selfies while waiting for our corral to be released. Gun went off at 7AM... STILL WAITING.
    7AM-7:27AM… taking selfies while waiting for our corral to be released. Gun went off at 7AM… STILL WAITING.

THE START OF THE RUN: Heading out to the race itself was beyond awe-inspiring. There were thousands, literally THOUSANDS of people streaming down the streets DT Houston. It was so cool to see. People of all walks of life, different races, different ages, people running for different reasons. It is quite beautiful to witness and be a part of. But all those people also meant shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the streets. Really… shoulder-to-shoulder. It was insane. And unfortunately, Joseph and I were in corral D, the LAST corral that is released to run, so when the gun actually went off… because of the sheer amount of people in the race, we were unable to actually move anywhere until around 7:27AM… whomp whomp buzzkill.

MILE 2: Took a pit stop at the port-a-potties for the first time during the race. I wanted to get more out of my system as early as possible, so I wouldn’t break my stride too deep into the race. Smart idea. The lines were not long (they were longer at other stopping points), and again, it was early enough so not many people used those port-a-potties in the first place. Relatively clean and not smelly. HOORAH!

A shot of me waving to Katie and Jay at mile 6! THANKS FOR CHEERING!
A shot of me waving to Katie and Jay at mile 6! THANKS FOR CHEERING!

MILE 5-6: Feeling a little tired and stomach is empty. Losing energy. Took some Honeystingers Organic Energy Chews to boost up the energy. Also passed by my co-worker, Katie and her husband, Jay, who came out to cheer for us! More energy boosting. THANKS KATIE AND JAY!

MILE 7-8: Knowing I still had halfway to go was rough. During the race all I did was play games with myself. “Pass up one person, you can do it! Run more step because you can. Okay, another one. Another one. There’s another person. Pass them up!” I also read the signs that people were waving about, listening to people cheer, looking at all the dogs spectators brought with them, and just pondering about life. I had good moments and bad moments during the run. Moments where I was coasting and feeling good and then moments where I was irritable and grumpy because there was still X amount of miles to go.

ALMOST TO THE END (Mile 10 and beyond): This was rough. Incredibly rough. The hardest part of my race by far. I took another few Honeystingers Organic Energy Chews for more boosts of energy. I felt so close but so far away, and my legs were at this point trying to give out on me. I really wanted to give up. I wanted to just call it a day and walk it home. But Joseph wouldn’t let me. He knew I had more in me and encouraged me to “push past the wall.” And he also kept weaving in and out of people, and I had to catch up. I think that was his way of going, “I KNOW YOU CAN STILL RUN, SO STOP SLOWING DOWN!” I also thought about my friends at the end of the race. I had to at least still be running when I got to them! I couldn’t just have them come all the way out to see me just walk the end of the race! And I knew that deep down, if I gave up, I would be so disappointed with myself. I knew that I wanted to be able say, “I ran the half-marathon. All of it. I did it.” So I kept running. And I kept playing my game, “Pass this person up. Now this person.” And this is when I really took stock of the signs around me. “BRING IT HOME! YOU CAN DO IT! KEEP GOING!” And I used those as mantras to fuel me to the end. That very last mile though… I thought it was almost over. Pain was shooting through my leg muscles, my hands felt weird/tingly (hot? cold? they were confused), I started getting this raging headache… I think I cried out in pain and frustration a few times while running that last mile. Geeze, thinking about it again makes me cringe in pain.

This was the only picture I was capable of taking right after the half. This was after 50 feet of Joseph half-carrying me after the finish line when I realized, "Oh let's take a picture!"
This was the only picture I was capable of taking right after the half. This was after 50 feet of Joseph half-carrying me after the finish line when I realized, “Oh let’s take a picture!”

THE END: Seeing that finish line and the crowds of people surging with their cheers… was breathtaking. I tried to smile at my friends as I ran by… I think it looked more like a scary pained grimace. But finally crossing that finish line and knowing that I DID IT was… an indescribable feeling. I felt proud, empowered, exhausted, relieved, all these emotions rolled up together in one tiny brain. I looked to my left and grabbed Joseph’s hands, both in part because I was happy he was with me but also because I actually couldn’t stand up anymore. Romantic, huh? I think my brain couldn’t handle those emotions so it ended up going with the, “Let’s make Jennifer feel lightheaded and woozy and not capable of walking” reaction. My legs were as wobbly as Jell-O, and I needed Joseph to help me walk back to GRB.

image4
My amazing friends who waiting for me at the finish line! Appreciative of the support I always have!

REUNION: It was so great being done! Legs and feet were definitely in pain, and I wobbled and hobbled around to grab my belongings and meet up with my friends, Krysten, Karmina, Jessica, Angela, and David at the reunion. I felt so thankful that they were there to cheer me on and support my race! I wish I could have seen everyone else I knew that was running the race, but there were so many people the chances of finding people by chance were slim.

My tips to others (and myself) if I were do another half-marathon:

  • Train consistently. Really try and stick with a training program and don’t YOLO it the way I did during some weeks.
  • Run with someone. Friends, significant other, find a stranger in the race and befriend them. It’s nice to have someone with you during the race.
  • Eat more. I think I didn’t eat enough prior to my race. I had a small helping of potatoes and eggs and a Honeystinger organic waffle at 4:30AM, but I think I should have eaten something small a little closer to 6AM. Maybe another Honeystinger organic waffle?
  • Stay hydrated! One of my biggest weaknesses/flaws in life is not hydrating enough. I definitely did NOT drink enough water the weeks leading up to my race, but on race day as well. Joseph always tells me I never drink enough. I’m just bad about it! I also hate having to go the restroom all the time.
  • DON’T FREAK OUT. I’m a person who freaks out a lot by nature, so I don’t know if I’ll ever not freak out. But I can at least try and be calm and just let it happen.

The Chevron Marathon/Aramco Half Marathon is such an amazing race. The environment is great; the crowds are so positive; it really is one of the best races to run in Houston. It was the perfect race to run my first half marathon in! I feel really proud of myself. I’ve grown a lot in the past year, and I’ve accomplished goals i never thought were possible. Was the training and the pain worth it? Yes. I think so.

I DID IT. Rocking my half marathon finisher medal and shirt. I AM OFFICIALLY A HALF-MARATHONER!
I DID IT. Rocking my half marathon finisher medal and shirt. I AM OFFICIALLY A HALF-MARATHONER!

And, in a strange race-induced haze or something of the sort, Joseph signed up for the Chevron marathon next year, and I signed up for the Aramco half marathon once again. Do I want to do this? I don’t know. I really think that some part of me is a masochist, and I think I like torturing myself. UGH. But will I do it? Yes. I will. Is there a full marathon in my future? That… I don’t know. 13.1 miles was close to impossible for me… 26.2 miles? I can’t even begin to imagine that. But I said that about a half marathon a year ago… who knows.

I also still have another half marathon to run in exactly a month! Joseph and I signed up to do the Glass Slipper Challenge at Walt Disney World this February 2015. Saturday will be the Enchanted 10K race and then Sunday will be the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Back-to-back races. Am I excited about the run itself? Meh… slightly terrified again. Am I excited about Disney World and all the characters at the mile stopping points? UM HECK YES. THIS IS THE RUN FOR ME. THE HAPPIEST RUN ON EARTH AT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH! Stay tuned, we’ll writing recap blog posts for that. And maybe even a video because we’ll be GoPro-ing that race!

Thanks for staying with me this entire post. AND JUST KEEP RUNNING! Who is going to run the Aramco Half with me next year!!!

-Jennifer

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