I ran the Discover Bank Delaware Marathon Running Festival half marathon on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2017. Oh, where to begin? Let’s sum this weekend up in three words: HILLS, BLOOD, LOVE.
I wasn’t one of the lucky 200 participants to sign up for packet pickup the day of the race, so my family and I made a separate trip from Dover, DE to Wilmington, DE (about an hour away) the day before the race to pick up my packet and meet my PlowOn Gum family in person finally! (For those who haven’t tried Plow, I highly suggest reading my product review.) The weather was horrendous—complete with downpours and wind—and I was surprised to see so many people at the expo on Saturday, May 13.
PlowOn Gum’s Chuan, Matt, and Brady were so welcoming, supportive, and all-around fun to chat with despite the wind and rain. I can’t thank PlowOn Gum enough for sponsoring my race and for the extra kick to help me PR!
It was a little odd that the area where you picked up your race bib was separate from the area where you picked up your Under Armour long-sleeve shirt. Conveniently, the Plow tent was situated on the side of the shirt pick-up area, so that worked out very well in terms of not having to slog across creation in the rain.
The night before the race, I made sure that I packed everything and set up my supplies, since we had to leave so early in the morning the next day. Superstitiously, I planned to wear the same sports bra that I wore for my first full marathon. I also typically wear my “lucky” orange Feetures socks. I safety pinned three Espresso Love Gu gels to my Tuvizo pack, grabbed a pack of Plow, and pinned my race bib to my pants.
I want to give a HUGE shout out to my husband Tom for quickly getting ready the morning of the race. He’s not a morning person (love ya, sweetie!), so I truly appreciate him doing this on Mother’s Day for me. I threw my running clothes on, got the Angry Toddler dressed (who was surprisingly in a chipper mood), and poured our coffee into travel mugs. I don’t typically eat or drink anything before a race, but I figured coffee would be OK as long as I found a porta-potty before the race started. We left the house just around 5:30 a.m. The Angry Toddler didn’t complain at all about being tired or woken up early. She happily munched on some mini donuts and sang songs. She did, however, turn into a hilarious back-seat driver while we tried to find parking. She gets very concerned when we seem to get lost (which we weren’t) or when we can’t find parking (which we could). We fairly easily found a parking garage two to three blocks away from the starting line.
I immediately pushed us toward the porta-potty line, because there were what looked like twenty people ahead of us, and I knew I needed to pee before the race. The line went quickly, and we even saw my friend Amanda from the Smyrna Clayton Running Club! With less than five minutes to go time, I said goodbye to my little family and made my way to the starting line.
The half and full marathons started at the same time, and the race had no pace groups, so I tried to line up as close to the front as I could. I didn’t see any pace signs at all like I’m used to, but I didn’t think it was a huge deal. (I’m sure I just missed them in my excitement.)
As with my last race, I ran without turning on my Nike+ Run Club app (#NoWatchMe). I listened to an Another Mother Runner podcast episode, A Run, Selfie, Repeat podcast episode, and finally part of the Hamilton soundtrack. It was quite crowded at the beginning, and I nearly missed the second timing mat because I was following the person in front of me. I literally had to turn around and double back to make sure I went over the mat. Since I had no idea how fast I was running, I simply tried to run at a comfortable pace and keep up with the pack with which I started. I quickly spotted my running buddy, Ryan, who was carrying the flag below, and said hello. He runs with the RWB group and always runs a strong race.
I knew almost immediately that I had overdressed. Thankfully, I had my Wonder Woman tank top underneath my The Running Lifestyle Show half-zip. I’ve never run with a shirt tied around my waist before, so I tried to hold off as long as I could before taking off my first layer. Around Mile 4, I tried to unpin my first Gu and promptly stuck myself with the pin. Ouch! So there I was, running along with blood dripping from my right thumb. Great. What a brilliant idea that was, Becky.
I say around Mile 4, because A) I had no idea what my mileage was without the Nike+ Run Club app and B) I kept seeing mile markers that were confusing. I knew that obviously the higher mile markers were for the full marathoners, but I saw duplicates for Miles 4 and 5. (Again, I guess these must have been for half and full participants, but I’ve never seen markers so close together like that.) There was a time clock at what I thought was Mile 5 that read somewhere in the range of 48 minutes, so I figured I was doing OK, despite the fact that the course was challenging for me.
I had reviewed the elevation map beforehand, but for whatever reason, I had it in my mind that the only hill existed around Mile 6. Wrong-o! Take a gander at the map below.
Just after Mile 6, I took off my first layer and wondered whether I would go faster walking or running up the next hill. For most people, they wouldn’t even consider these to be hills, but since I run in southern Delaware, where there are zero hills, it was a shock to my system. At times I took walk breaks, but it was fun to run through the different areas of Wilmington, such as Brandywine Park. As we entered the park, we ran on this very wobbly, shaky bridge that the course map calls the “Swinging Foot Bridge.” I’m surprised I didn’t go down for the count!
At one point, we ran next to the Brandywine Zoo, which was very neat. (I said hi to the animals, of course.) We didn’t spend a lot of time in Brandywine Park though, as the course exited the park and went back to a more residential area. Some of the houses were gorgeous, and most of the trees were green and blooming. Good thing, because spectator numbers in spots were very low. I don’t typically care too much about that, but since this was a challenging race, it would’ve been nice to get more crowd support. I did have one volunteer yell out, “Go, Wonder Woman!” when I passed her a second time (after a turn around), which was very encouraging. During races, I always try to yell words of encouragement to others, whether they look like they’re struggling or they’re at the front of the pack.
Finally, just after Mile 12—you guessed it—we hit yet another hill. Who puts hills at the course end?! Time to pop a Plow! (Hey, can that be a new catch phrase?!) I think this is the steepest hill on the course, and I unabashedly walked up that sucker. Again, I had no clue what my time was at that point, but I wanted to save my energy for the last race to the finish line. Overall, though, I really felt good. My left hip hurt a tiny bit, but I know that’s simply because I hadn’t trained for this half; my left hip usually gives me a bit of trouble when I increase my mileage, so I have to make sure to do some extra foam rolling.
As I approached the finish chute, I sprinted toward the finish line and beamed with pride when I saw the clock display 2:15 and change. My last two official half marathons were around 2:22, so my goal was to simply beat 2:20! I finished in 2:15:28 with a pace of 10:20. Surprisingly, I completed the first five miles in 48:52 with a 9:47 pace, which is wicked fast for me. I guess running more miles and running without a watch really does increase your speed! #plowon