AKA Mom’s First Half!!
Let me begin with a little spoiler alert: WE DID IT! My mom made it to her very first Half Marathon finish line!
Now, onto the full recap!
The New Jersey Half Marathon is a race that I am personally very familiar with: I know the logistics, I know what time I like to arrive, I know there will be water and port-o-potties every mile and a half or so, I know where my spectators will be… and that is exactly why I chose this race to be my mom’s first Half. It was comfortable, and I was ready to confidently lead her to success.
We hit the Expo on Saturday. This is always a fairly nice expo, large, with places to take pictures and grab some extra gear. Lots of folks were snagging rain jackets, with the predicted rain (turns out smart move!).
I scored an awesome pair of capris for only $22. However, since I’m a believer in “nothing new on race day,” they did not get worn the next day.
This year’s race shirt color was a little on the boring side for me – I was slightly jealous that the volunteers had cute teal ones, and ours were grey. Every other year I’ve done this race, the women’s shirts were very very small in size – this year I was finally smart and sized up to XXL – only to find that they finally got the sizing right, and I was swimming in mine. Cue the sad trombones (LOL). I did, however, like that they don’t over-do the advertising on the back.
Race day arrived at 4am for me, I picked up mom at 4:30. I know from the past that there are always folks sprinting from the parking lot to their corral at 7:30(start time) due to traffic, so I get there very early. We were in the first rows of cars, and while it wasn’t current drizzling yet, it had a bit on our drive, so we knew it was coming. We hit the port-o-potties for the first time, and then took a nap in the car for a bit.
By 6:30, it still wasn’t really raining, so we decided to go check our bag with sweatshirts, and stretch and port-o-potty again. This race is always on-point with the number of potties. Never lines that are toootally ridiculous because there are so many. They had folks set up in the parking lot with Gatorade and water, that was a nice touch I hadn’t noticed in years past.We were in the very last corral (J), and the race got started just about on time at 7:30. By then it had started to very lightly drizzle, so hats and rain gear were good choices. Mom was clearly nervous but holding it all together! We crossed the start about 16 minutes later, as they released each corral a minute apart. Bonus: each corral got their own trumpet! It wasn’t just for the first people.
Off we went! The rain wasn’t too bad for the first couple of miles, and clearly mom was feeling the adrenaline: she didn’t even stop to walk the first 3 miles, which is totally unlike her. She hit the 3 mile around 35:30 or so, a great time for her.
The rain kept on keepin’ on, and we kept on movin’. By the 10k, we were pacing 12:22’s, which was a little faster than I expected, since training mom had been around 12:45 averages, but I guess those first couple miles without walk breaks made up for that. We had some fuel (jelly beans) around mile 6 or so. I was happy to see that folks in Oceanport and Monmouth Beach had still come out to cheer for us even in the rain. The volunteers were total rockstars, too, because it must have felt much colder out there in the rain when not running!!
Around 7.5, mom was starting to feel tired, and she hit the port-o-potty and lost a little time. It was then that the 12:35 pacer passed us, but it didn’t matter. She was still doing great, and was still moving. I had secretly hoped we might cruise in with the 12:35 pacer, but we didn’t stay tooooo far behind. I didn’t voice this to her – I had just told her before the race that we should try not to let the 3 hour pacer pass us, because I knew she could run faster than that!
The pacer didn’t pass us. Mile 9.5ish is always a good point in this race – it is a turn where there are lots of spectators, and usually a band. While crowds were less this year and no band, there were still some folks out there! It was a good pick me up. The rain was a bit heavier by now, just a steady rain. We didn’t quiet feel cold yet, just a little wet. By now, mom was taking more frequent walk breaks, and we refueled again around 10 for a last little kick. At around 11 miles the course turns up toward the boardwalk and ocean, and it got tough. It was there, around 11.5 when we hit the water, that we felt exactly how cold and wet we were. The wind was stronger, and the rain felt colder. Thank god it hadn’t felt that way the WHOLE time, because it would have been miserable! Prior, it had been relatively pleasant – wet but not awful.We came across pier village (about .30 or .4 from the finish) and I was sad to see it EMPTY. Normally, spectators line this spot and there is a band. So that was sad for my mom- she didn’t get the spectator support that she really should have. But at that point we were fighting.
We crossed the finish line, hand in hand, as she requested, at a chip time of 2:47 (12:47/mi). Under 13’s, and while she told me later she had hoped closer to 12:30s, given the rain, she was still very proud (as was I!).She did GREAT! She did not crash, she kept on moving, and toughed it out in imperfect conditions. We got our medals and our Gatorade and moved quickly to the truck to get our sweatshirts. At the point, it was downright COLD AND WET!!! We were so happy to be in a warm car shortly after (we were lucky to have someone spectating and drive us back to our car, though in past years I have used the buses with success).
One complaint was the finish line this year – in previous years, they had the food/water/etc under a tent where you came through and some years, in a bag already packed with your banana, pretzel, cookie whatever – this year, there were just tables of granola bars, bananas, soggy pretzels (under a tarp), and Gatorade – seemed more disorganized than usual. I couldn’t even find water!!! I was looking everywhere – there were tons of empty “boxes of water” but no one was handing out WATER! What the heck?!? Also, this weather was worthy of heat sheets. Not sure why they didn’t get them once the predictions got rough, but it would have been very useful.
Overall, my mom is over the moon and I am SO PROUD of her! I hope she will race another half one day, but even if I she doesn’t, this was a super experience. She is a total ROCK STAR!