WOW! Not rain, nor wind, nor hills stopped over 2,500 runners from completing the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon yesterday morning. All week rain had been tracked at a threatening 100% from 7am through the afternoon and I packed the largest assortment of running gear I could fit into my suitcase. The only way to wedge this race into my training schedule was to run the 4 miles from our hotel to the start line to accomplish a full 17 mile run for the day. That 4 miles turned out to be the easiest part. My parents left the hotel with me and drove straight to mile 8 as I took off for the start line at 8am, getting a prerace photo, of course.
It was 50 degrees and the rain looked like it would hold off until the race was underway at 9am which I consider a miracle. The wind started to pick up as I approached Keeneland Racecourse where runners were deep into their prerace rituals of gear checking, stretching and impatiently waiting for porta potties. The music was going and I was happy to be amongst other runnerds who saw nothing wrong with venturing out early(ish) on a Saturday to run in potentially threatening weather.
The drizzle started but was very light, making the wind the larger threat. My Old Kentucky Home was played on the bugle followed by the call to the post as we approached 3 minutes to race time. I was ready to get moving and we started at exactly 9am. I was not going for time this half and had to mentally focus on that as we took off towards the first farm on the route and encountered the first hill. Even in gray skies this course is the most scenic half I’ve ever run and was a great distraction from the wind we turned into past the first mile marker. It was misting but not raining and the temperature was cool when the wind hit you but I felt fine. We passed a few horses by mile 3 and I was happy they weren’t afraid of a little rain. Mile 2 to nearly 6 were windy. I kept checking in with myself thinking, “it could be so much worse”, which it could, it could be colder and it could be pouring.
The stables and fields stretched on as far as you could see so I focused on the beauty of the scenery, totally different than anything near Chicago. So were the hills. One runner quoted there were 21 hills and I don’t mean inclines… I mean solid hills. I think the hills would have been the focus of my woes if it weren’t for the wind. Give me another hill, just stop the wind! Approaching mile 6 we started turning out of the wind and my attitude of survival lifted and I began to enjoy myself much more (of course if could have been due to the Peanut Butter Gu I started eating). I had under 2 miles to see familiar faces and the rain seemed to have stopped. My parents proved their awesome-spectator status as they stood in the dropping temps and wind to cheer me on and snap some photos as I ran past! Mom also got some great photos of the course before I showed up and they’re the only ones I have since my fingers were too numb (despite 2 pair of gloves) to take any of my own.
Such a pretty course!
I came, I cheered, I passed.
At mile 8 I was full of positivity. The feeling in my fingers was coming back, it wasn’t really raining and the wind was at my back. 5 miles? Psh, I can do that in my sleep! I chatted with a woman as we climbed a tough hill at mile 9 that she wrongly identified as the last hill. NEVER listen to ANYONE who says it’s the last hill. Unless you can see the finish line it’s never the last hill. The hill after that one I heard one runner yell “quality hill!”. It was official, we were embracing the hills. As I turned left, running towards the mile 10 marker (and – shocking – another hill) the rain started to really come down…sideways. Instead of getting warmer I started to feel colder and realized the temps were definitely dropping and the wind was certainly picking up.
“5K to go”, I thought, “you can do this”. Mile 10-12 is the dark passenger of the half marathon distance. Once mile 12 marker was in sight I knew I’d be OK. I was cold and wet but was passing the 7 miler walkers and recognized they had it worse and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I heard a band playing the Rocky theme song (still never gets old) and started pumping myself up, “you are tough! you are doing this! 17 miles are done”. I crossed the finish line right at 2 hours (and 17 seconds) and saw my (poor, wet, cold) parents who quickly cheered and motioned where to meet them. I survived! The 5 minute walk to the car was tougher than the last mile but the seat warmers were amazing. Better yet was the hot shower back at the hotel!
Soaked but proud!
Despite the weather I loved this race and not only want to do it again next year but would love to make a girls trip out of it and run with some friends. It’s not a course to PR on so we may as well talk the whole time! The medal is spectacular and I really feel I earned this one. I also have some race day weather karma in the bank and hope I can cash it in next year!