USAF: Half Marathon #6!

Saturday’s completion of the Air Force Half Marathon marked my sixthhalf marathon to date. Wow. Who am I? Two years ago I would have never imagined I would run anything.
Remember this post? When I committed to running the Air Forcefull marathon? I said, “I do not really know how I am going to run another marathon at the present time. It kind of scares the crap out of me. The training was grueling, the miles were merciless, the reward was priceless.” Then I followed that up with, “When will my motivation come back?”
Yeah, um…well, okay, so I decided to actually run the half somewhere between my-knees-will-barely-let-me-walk-again-and-where-exactly-did-my-motivation-really-go-and-does-it-ever-plan-to-come-back!? I was bummed, I felt like a failure (again) and truthfully, if it weren’t for The Goofy, I would just take a big break from racing and say “Forget it” to the Air Force. All last week, I stillwasn’t sure if I was going to run the half or not, but Christina (go congratulate her, she just ran her first MARATHON!!) really motivated me to get my a$$ in gear and take it to Dayton – what’s the worst that could happen, I would have to walk some?
Friday I was fine all the way up until lunchtime when I had a full-blown panic attack. Five-thirty couldn’t come soon enough, I was already packed, I just needed to get to the Nutter Center in Fairborn before packet pick-up closed at 8:00 p.m. This included time for error and, Heaven forbid, getting lost. I was watching the clock and on the edge of my chair for hours. The only good thing that came of it was every time I looked at the clock, I took a gulp of water so I was more than well-hydrated for the race.
I weaseled my way out of work at 5:25 p.m. (hey, five minutes was critical for me at the time!) and drove to Fairborn. I made it there by about 6:45 p.m. You don’t want to know how fast I drove to get there – let’s just say it was fast enough, traffic was in my favor and it was really easy to get there. I think I made approximately two turns the whole way – on and off the interstate.
I made it to the Nutter Center just as the 5K was starting and the only line I had to wait in was to park (where I did in fact almost rear-end someone due to my shot nerves, sorry Dad). The Expo was not very crowded and the lines to get bib numbers was pretty much non-existent, although I could tell they had been prepared to (and did) handle thousands from the sheer size of the arena.

Nutter Center ready for hoards of runners!

Bib and goodies in hand, I breathed the first relaxed breath I had taken all day. It didn’t matter what happened from here on out – I would find my hotel and my MIT friends and if something happened and I couldn’t, I would sleep in my car in the parking lot and wait for the shuttles in the morning – that is how relieved I was to just have my number in hand.

2011 USAF shirt and hat!

I met up with Julie and Katie and Blake – some friends of mine from Race Club that I did not, in fact, know very well. Julie was kind enough to invite me to stay with them when she found out I was running too – I knew I was in good company regardless, but I was a little nervous about rooming with people I barely knew. After all, they are fast!

I did some looking around shopping at the Expo and scored some really cool things from One More Mile.

Arm Sleeves, Car magnet and Turtle socks!

I thought about my mom a lot while I was walking around by myself (not something I usually am at an Expo) and remembered all of the fun we had last year spectating at this race. My mom liked Expos, and I don’t think this one would have been any different. She would have been all about the arm warmers and the socks and probably would have bought the same. I wished she was there with me horribly. I was tearing up when I left the center and called my dad to let him know I got there safely. Late is better than never, I guess (Sorry, Dad! I could not even conceive of a phone call to anyone until I had my bib safely in my hand)! On to the hotel where I knew I would find friends and food to take my mind off how I was feeling.

I met up with Julie and Katie and Blake – some friends of mine from Race Club that I did not, in fact, know very well. Julie was kind enough to invite me to stay with them when she found out I was running too – I knew I was in good company regardless, but I was a little nervous about rooming with people I barely knew. After all, they were fast! 
And nervous too, just like me. They were all running the marathon. Julie was qualifying for Boston and Blake had never run more than six miles before now. I listened to them talk about PR’s and past races and race-day strategies while I inhaled (I hadn’t eaten since lunch and it was almost 9:30 now) dark red kidney beans, brown rice and vegetables. Packing my own food is the only way to go for me, from now on. I won’t eat out before a race again – even if I travel there, I would rather not take the risk of eating something different and having my stomach upset like the morning of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Why do I need dark red kidney beans before a big race? Your guess is as good as mine. All I know is that they are like magic.  
We settled in for the night (late, I might add because I was asking Julie a thousand questions about running and we got to chatting), and I couldn’t fall asleep. When I did, I had one of those dreams where you are falling and I woke up violently when I thought I hit the ground. I was awake again, hoping I didn’t wake anyone else up too, when my eyes finally felt heavy and slammed shut. I swear five minutes later the nine alarms we set went off at 4:10 a.m.
Race Day! I was like a kid on Christmas morning, seriously. I had not been this excited for a race in a long time.

Me ready to race!

I jumped out of bed, we got ready, and I made some oatmeal (another smart choice) and ate that with a banana and orange Vitamin Water. We headed to the hotel lobby for a group picture with some more of the MIT crew in town.

MITers ready to race at the USAF Marathon!

I grabbed a breakfast to go from the hotel, which consisted of a small bagel with peanut butter, another banana and a granola bar. I hadn’t realized that it would be nearly three hours later until I would run (the full started an hour earlier than the half), and I knew I would need more food by then.  

We made it onto Wright Patterson AFB with plenty of time to spare – hit the bathrooms, gear check and relax for a few minutes – well, me for a few hours.

Julie, Katie & Me before the start of the race.
I met up with some very special Lucky 13’s! Kim, Kim and Laurel (my Goofy Partners in Crime!) were running their very first MARATHON!!
Kim, Laurel, Kim & Me

The full marathoners began their race, and I began my hour wait for the start of the half marathon. The only problem was – I was literally freezing. It was in the low 50’s, which was warmer than predicted, but after being in the air without the sun for two hours already, I was starting to shiver. I was at least thankful I thought to wear my new arm sleeves. All I could think to do was keep moving, but that only helped for a few minutes.
I was wondering around the start line when I heard a female voice nearly whisper, “Hey, pssst……over here, where it’s warm….” I looked around, but didn’t see anything so I assumed I must be hearing something. Then again, “Hey, hey, youover HERE!” And someone grabbed my ankle. I shrieked and looked down. I saw an arm coming out from underneath the overhang of a mobile pizza truck? I got down on my hands and knees and looked underneath it where I saw a set of eyes peering out at me and a bunch of other feet. I stuck my head underneath all the way and a girl extended her hand to me, “Come on in, you look like you are freezing, the exhaust from the truck is warm and there’s almost enough room to stand up under here.”
I smiled as she helped me under. It was warm and smelled like gas, but it was warm. Myself and the other four or so girls that were under there took turns standing right under the vent for about 45 minutes. Every once in a while, someone would poke their head under to see what we were doing, but it was too crammed under there to let anyone in until one of us left and another one got pulled in. Whoever you are that invited me into the warmth, thank you. I didn’t get her name because it was too loud to hear anything!
I left the comfort of the pizza truck with about 15 minutes to spare and another woman jumped in my place to warm up her freezing muscles. My back was sore from being hunched over for so long, but I was warm and just in time to see the parachute landing before the start of the half marathon. The sun was coming up, which meant it would warm up. 

I, thankfully, ran into Bill, another Lucky 13 and I could not contain my excitement. We were off and I was running! I stayed with Bill for about half a mile when I realized I was going too fast.
I knew this race was going to be hard for me due to not training properly, but I wanted to finish and finish running if I could. I slowed down, way down and decided if nothing else, I was going to enjoy the scenery, enjoyrunning in a place I never had and enjoy racing. Time be damned. I wanted to finish with a smile on my face.
I ran a lot, I walked some, and I felt better than I expected. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and I was hot. My face, neck and shoulders are actually sunburned. I felt good running – I felt good racing. I smiled and waved to spectators and course support and cheered on the people running around me. I think I was having fun.
That’s not to say it wasn’t difficult. My mind and body felt great, but my cardio endurance is lacking compared to what it has been in the past. I was relieved to see my Dad and sister at Mile 9 because that meant I was almost done. I made it through most of miles 9 and 10 running.
I was even more relived to see them at the Finish Line!   


What kind of face is that?!
A running finish!

I was awarded my medal by Air Force brass that congratulated me and thanked me for running in the race. The medal is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
LOVE this medal!
I finished the USAF Half Marathon in exactly 3:24:00. Not my fastest time, but better than I expected, given the circumstances.
Dad & Me after the race.
Mollie & Me after the race.
If you have not run this race, you should! It was awesome – great course support (water, Gatorade, oranges, gel, first aid), well-organized, nice swag, awesome bling, easy travel accommodations, and not overly expensive. There is a 5K, 10K, Half and Full Marathon. Registration opens on 01/01/2012 and the race is on 09/15/2012. All events sell out relatively quickly so if you haven’t finalized your 2012 race schedule yet – consider this! 
Although this race was my worst time, this was one of my best races. And I don’t say that easily because I am very critical of myself. This race reminded me that I really do love running and racing and while I might be going through a rough training season, I needed a good race to pull me through. And, that good race did not necessarily have to be what I perceive as a good time. In many ways, it is very similar to how I felt after my fist half. I finished, and I am proud of that.

Until the next mile maker,



  1. Sara how wonderful that you enjoyed this race so much. Love the socks and the arm sleeves. Nice to see you looking so happy and great pics… especially with your Dad and with Mollie.

    That medal is beautiful.

  2. RunningMandy says

    That’s a race outfit I haven’t seen you wear before – it looks smokin’! I’m glad you enjoyed the race! How funny about hanging out under the pizza truck…bet that’s a race story you never foresaw! Congrats on another half completed Sara!

  3. Melissa McMullin says

    Great job, Sara! I’m so glad you enjoyed your race…it looks like fun!

  4. Christina Patterson says

    Congrats on putting another half in the books! I am glad you had such a great race. 🙂 The story about the pizza truck cracks me up. I love your running tank! What brand is it?

    Re: Columbus
    I looked at that race and the Indy Marathon, and Indy is something like $30 cheaper. If I would have registered earlier, Columbus would have been awesome! You are going to run an awesome race!!!! There is a Halloween half just an hour from Columbus and Cincinnati. I just thought you should know, in case you get bored or something. 🙂

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