I slacked off on my training posts for the last two weeks before my half marathon, and there’s a good reason for it. Training didn’t go well those last two weeks. Between my fall and my chronic pain, I didn’t do much running or exercise of any kind.
Somehow, this resulted in a personal record at my half marathon this weekend? I don’t recommend it as a strategy, and I was deeply anxious going into the race knowing I was undertrained, but it turned out to be an excellent run anyway.
I ran the Queen Bee Half Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio this weekend. It’s a sister race to the Flying Pig, and is billed as a women’s half marathon (men can run the race, but they have a separate corrall and don’t get any awards).
This was the ninth year for the race, and you can definitely tell it’s a well oiled machine for PigWorks. The race expo was fairly large and I enjoyed the premium items that came with my race packet, even if I chuckled at the inclusion of a braiding station at the expo and a nail file in my bag.
I’ve never run a women’s race before, and I didn’t quite know how to feel as I navigated the sea of pink at the expo. On the one hand, I saw a lot of cute Queen Bee Braids on the race course. On the other hand, it felt a bit… gross to include pink couches and brightly lit vanity braiding stations when I knew they wouldn’t be there if the race weren’t marketed to women.
Nevertheless, it was incredibly cool to show up on race morning and see so many women gathered together on the lawn outside the Hard Rock Casino. Andy and Azula came with me to see me off and show me the first of many signs Andy and my friends back home designed.
I felt a sort of calm acceptance as I stood in corrall D, waiting for the race to start. Yes, I was undertrained, and yes, this would likely be brutal. But the race has an 18 minute/mile cutoff time, so I didn’t feel particularly worried about a DNF due to getting swept. If pressed, I could walk that pace.
Like it always is, the first mile or so was rough. The race starts uphill, and I wasn’t at all the ony person who spent most of the start with more brisk walking than running. Soon, we were in beautiful Eden Park overlooking the river, and I began to feel my body settle in to run mode. More than that, I started to realize I felt good.
Around mile 4, I got to say hi to Azula and Andy for the first time on the course. She was such a good dog, sitting still and watching the race go by (if you knew my dog, you’d understand how surprised I was to see this). I already felt the PR in me, so I tossed my jacket and extra water bottle at Andy, gave Azula a quick pet, then ran on.
The next few miles were a bit of a blur, as I didn’t recognize much of the area we were running through. I thought I knew my hometown like the back of my hand, and it was incredible to see so much of the city on foot like this.
I kept checking my time with a sort of amazed awe, trying to do mental math about what it meant. I kept a pretty consistent average pace of 12:30 min/mile with my run walk intervals, and I kept expecting to hear I was slowing down. But, I didn’t feel like I needed to, so I just kept pushing.
When I got to an hour and a half, I slowed to have some Gu. But not too slow. I had walked a good middle portion of my first half marathon, which was virtual and therefore meant no one could see me slow down or kick me off the trail that was my race course. If I kept up my run/walk for the entire race, or even most of it, I would get a personal record time.
Around mile 9, I saw Andy and Azula again. He’d forgotten a key component of his sign, but I still understood the reference. He informed me where my parents would be along the course, and I gave him two thumbs up when he asked how I was feeling.
I stopped for a quick photo with the Mile 10 marker–double digits at last. It feels very weird to hit 10 miles and realize that means I’ve still got a whole 5K race left, but at the same time, just 3 miles to go is a great feeling when you’re finally starting to get a bit tired.
My parents had told Andy they were at mile 11, so I started looking for them there. They were actually midway between miles 12 and 13, but the time passed more quickly as I scanned the side of the road for my parents. I ran past a wide open field and realized with surprise that I was looking out over Lunken Airport, where my family had occasionally visited to use the bike trail. Those days always felt like huge events, driving so far into the city. Now, I’d covered the distance from downtown to here on foot. Little Amanda could never have imagined.
Somewhere between mile 12 and 13, I finally caught sight of my parents in the distance and sped up to reach them. They both held Dewey’s Pizza box cardboard signs, and I laughed before racing on ahead. I couldn’t slow down. I was so close to getting that PR. I had to push onwards.
I crossed the finish line in a bit of a haze, got my Queen Bee medal, and scanned the tables for more water. Then, I found Andy, Azula, and my parents. RunKeeper informed me with confetti that I’d gotten my PR, and I told everyone I wanted my free cheese coney from the post-race celebration.
Generally I’m not much of a fan of post-race celebrations. They’re a great idea in theory, but I don’t do well with crowds and am usually done with them by the time I finish a bigger race like this one. But the promise of free Skyline chili pulled me in, and the booth was at the very end of the walkway filled with tents. This is how I found the Dunkin Donuts sponsored PR bell, which I rang with a massive smile on my face.
I’m still a bit in awe of my race, so I don’t have a ton of big reflections to share. It was a beautiful day with perfect weather for a half marathon, and I didn’t ever really hit the struggle bus like I thought I would. It was mostly smooth sailing, and I truly had an amazing time. Right now, I can’t say for sure that I feel particularly called to run this distance again (and definitely not to double it), but we’ll see how I feel in a few days when the lingering soreness in my body wears off.