I ran my second half marathon last weekend alongside my best friend, Alex!
I’m so incredibly proud of her.
She had never ran a long distance race before, and the longest distance she had ever run before training was six miles. It’s amazing what you can train your body to do with the proper plan and motivation!
Knowing we could both already tackle six miles, I put together a 6 Week Half-Marathon Training Plan specifically catered to our goals.
I had a goal of racing in 2 hours in the back of my mind, but my biggest one had always been to cross the finish line with my friend.
I honestly didn’t care about my time this go around.
Since we had an early morning 4:00 a.m. wake up call, Alex spent the night before and we tried our best to get to bed early. It was hard! Both of us were anxious and excited to get to the race already.
By 5 a.m., we were out the door and on our way towards downtown Detroit. Word to the wise for anyone racing the Detroit Free Press next year… leave and plan to get there REALLY early.
We had a planned arrival time of 5:30 a.m. in order to be able to park and make it to the Hope Water Project tent by 5:45 a.m.
For whatever reason, neither of us predicted or factored in time for traffic getting off of the highway and on nearby streets to park. We intentionally passed the exit and eventually made it to a parking area close enough to the start line by taking any back road possible.
It wasn’t the safest feeling, and we ended up parking and walking towards the start line to find our group a whole thirty minutes later.
We saw the team flag walking over to the start around 6:15 a.m. and stopped into a hotel on the way to use the restroom before we ran.
We walked up to our predicted pace group with about fifteen minutes to spare before go time. It was a close call!
(In the future, we will plan to leave way earlier.)
The first wave of runners took off right at 7 a.m. We were in the 3rd wave and paced ourselves to run the half in 2 hours.
We felt eager and ready to get started!
I wasn’t a bit nervous this time around. I was more excited.
I was, however, nervous for Alex.
Endurance-wise, I knew she had this! She could easily keep up on our training runs and it was a challenge to keep up with her at times.
What I was mostly concerned about was her knee. She has an extremely tight IT-band on top of signs of Pronation Disorder Syndrome.
Only a couple weeks into training, she started telling me about the sharp pains on the outside and top of her knee. The pain would come and go, but when it hit she felt like she couldn’t keep running. This caused us to walk and even take sitting breaks during our longer training runs.
The week before the half, we ran our 11 mile training runs separately. When I asked her how hers went, it made me sad to hear that she couldn’t get past four miles! I knew she could run longer than that because I have done nine with her and without issues.
I felt so awful for her and I didn’t know what to do to help.
The best I could do was turn to the knowledge I acquired studying for my CPT and assume she has PDS. Her feet pronate (turn out) in her stride, so this can put a lot of pressure on her knees to try and compensate, which is likely to cause extreme discomfort and in some cases injury.
I’m no doctor, and I still advise her to get it checked out by a professional health care provider, but that was my best guess as to what was going on.
I gave her specific stretches, foam rolling, and strengthening exercises to do the week before the race to try and loosen her IT-band as much as possible. It seemed to help.
(So that’s our back story!)
As you can imagine, both of us were ready, but nervous to see how her leg would hold up. I was mostly worried that she would have the worst pains in Canada and be stuck on the other side of the border to deal with it. (Right?! Crazy.)
So we prayed. We asked for strength to get us through this race and – once again – I wasn’t worried about time. I just wanted us to finish!
We set off around 7:05 a.m. and didn’t look back!
We both had music playing in our earbuds, but only wore one so we could talk to each other the whole time.
Since we were required to carry our passports with us, we each bought a FlipBelt (more on that tomorrow!) at the EXPO and filled it with the necessities: passport, tissues, lip balm, iPhone, and Gu Chomps.
The course was great! The half marathon track took us over the Ambassador Bridge for three miles in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, then back under through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, through a Detroit neighborhood, then back over to the Start/Finish line.
I had checkpoints in my head and made them verbal when we passed them. We made it to the Ambassador Bridge after three miles!
I was originally worried about the incline, but it really wasn’t bad. Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, anyways.
I didn’t stop to take any (clear) photos because I thought I might be trampled if I did. It was quite crowded!
As soon as we started the bridge, Alex had her first signs of pain. I could tell that she was already hurting pretty bad, and I was doing my best to make her smile and push through it.
I thought it might get better on the decline, but that angle of pressure on her legs made it worse.
I could see her tearing up and thought she was going to tell me she couldn’t do it. I honestly thought we were going to have to stop once we made it to the bottom and into Canada.
As we approached the border, there was a huge crowd, Border Patrol, and a team of police cheering us on! I joked that this is the only time Border Patrol would ever be smiling as we went through. They are usually strictly business, and rightfully so. It was a great pump up moment!
Once we hit level ground, her knee started feeling a little better. We hit the 4 and 5 mile marks and I just kept telling her how the hardest part and levels of the bridge was over. (I might have been lying.)
Proudly wearing our HWP jerseys, we were cheered on by strangers both in the crowd and in the race the entire time! It was awesome.
While training, Alex said that she couldn’t stop to stretch out or baby her knee pain. If she stopped, she couldn’t start again and it always made it worse. With that in mind, we didn’t stop once and I was in charge of getting us water at every other fluid station.
We hit the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel at the 7 mile mark and I was dreading it.
I’m not a fan of tunnels, so the thought of running through one in a race (under water and blocked off from any signs of light) really freaked me out.
As it turns out, it was really fun! It almost felt like we were running from something serious like a zombie apocalypse. When else in our lives will we be able to RUN through this tunnel? Never.
It was also warmer down there, which also helped Alex’s knee. She said it felt a lot better during those miles.
We got back out in the daylight around mile 8 and rewarded ourselves with a Gu Chomp for fuel. There was a big “Welcome back to the U.S.A.” sign when we got there and I couldn’t help but run and jump to touch it.
Around the 9 mile mark, I heard a “I read your blog, you’re awesome!” from a fellow runner coming up behind me. (Hi, Jessica!) She seemed super sweet, said her hello and kept running. That was pretty cool.
We powered through the final miles of the race without too much trouble.
Our pace kept getting slower and slower, but the pump ups from the crowd and HWP supporters really helped out.
We saw our friends Kelly and Brian at the 11 mile mark and we tried to keep up with them. I could tell the pain was only getting worse for Alex, so we kept a steady jog going and I told her not to worry about anything or anyone else.
The trainer in me wanted to tell her to stop, but the friend in me pushed her to keep going. I knew she would be really upset at herself if she didn’t cross the finish line.
Right before we made our last turn to the finish, we saw a young (shirtless) male runner fly by. Mind you, it was in the 40s outside. His name was Michael and he ended up crossing the finish line right before us, only he ran the FULL marathon. That’s 26.2 miles, for those of you who are unaware…
No big deal.
As we got closer to the finish line, we kept getting more and more cheers from the crowd. They were amazing!
I grabbed Alex’s hand on the final stretch and we crossed the finish line together at 2:22:47. I was so, so happy and proud of her.
She was in quite a bit of pain and limping with a straight left leg, but we made our way over to claim our medals and meet up with our biggest fans, Scott and Alex (her boyfriend).
They congratulated us on running the race and I couldn’t help but to get a little choked up. Crossing the finish line is always a rush of emotions for me.
This time I was a mess thinking of how us running with purpose might actually make a difference in peoples’ lives, and I lost it.
It was so worth it!
Now that the race is over, I keep telling Alex to take it easy, stretch, foam roll, and go see someone to check out her leg!
I, however, still have the itch to race again.
I am currently scoping out upcoming half marathons in our area and am about two seconds from signing up for one. All I am waiting on is a conformation from Scott that we will be in town!
This half was a lot easier for me to get through compared to my first one. Maybe it was because we ran at a slower pace, but I honestly felt like I could have kept running for a couple more miles.
Maybe the thought of a marathon isn’t too out of reach, ya’ll!
We shall see. Either way, I am looking forward to signing up and racing in the Detroit Free Press again next year!
And hey, maybe Scott will be able to join me next time…
I am looking forward to riding the racing bug as long as I can. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my plans for future races and also share a peek into my training when they come around.
Thank you for joining in on my race journey, and I will see you back in the morning early for Friday Favorites! <3