I completed the Frederick Half Marathon on Sunday — the first of 50 states in my #runningthestates challenge. It was also my first time doing a half marathon. I was definitely on the struggle bus.
I thought I was prepared. But I wasn’t — not mentally or physically. I had trouble falling asleep the night before the race, so I was tired. Waking up at 4 a.m. to be in Frederick before 5:30 (when the road closures began) didn’t help. I didn’t eat a proper dinner the evening before either — a smallish bowl of whole wheat pasta with sautéed corn and kale, and a chocolate chip cookie — definitely insufficient for a 13.1 mile run the next morning. Breakfast was OK — a banana, granola bar and coffee — but it was probably not enough, especially since I ate at 4:30 a.m. and the race started at 8.
My struggles aside, the actual course was really nice, featuring rolling hills winding through the city of Frederick, which is located in the north-western part of Maryland, about an hour north of the Washington, D.C. metro area.
The race began and ended at the Frederick Fairgrounds. When the gun went off, we headed west on East Patrick Street toward the historic downtown area. Miles 0-3 offered views of “The Pillars of Frederick,” a public arts mural project depicting 40 of the city’s historic figures; Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where Star Spangled Banner author Francis Scott Key and first Maryland-elected governor Thomas Johnson are buried; and VOLT restaurant, whose owner Bryan Voltaggio was a 2009 finalist on the show Top Chef. There were slight inclines and one hill, which I pushed through, and still managed to feel strong after.
Miles 3-8 included a stride pass Memorial Park, which honors Frederick County residents who served their country; Baker Park, a 44-acre area running through downtown Frederick; Hood College, a former women’s college that’s now co-ed; and Frederick Memorial Hospital, which provided medical assistance to runners during the race. When I got to mile 8, I was like, damn — I had hit a wall. The course’s hills and many turns had killed my momentum.
I struggled quite a bit through miles 8-13, barely noticing former Gov. Thomas Johnson’s mansion as I passed by. We ran through two residential neighborhoods during this last stretch, where one woman was giving out cookies at the end of her driveway, and at a corner, a group of kids offered Gatorade to runners — I declined both. But looking back, a bite of the cookie and a little Gatorade might have given me some energy. I wasn’t focused, and my legs felt heavy like lead. The last mile contained a steep hill. I remember turning the corner and feeling dread at having to make my way up the road.
Toward the end, the path turned gravelly as it winded its way past mile marker 13 and to the finish line. My sister and her boyfriend were posted on the side of the path, several feet away from the finish. I turned, smiled, and waved to them as I slowly jogged to the end. Normally when I see the finish line, I push for a final sprint. But there was no way my body was sprinting anywhere at that point. I crossed, made my way to the side, so happy to be done.
There was a lot going on after the race — live music, games, food, massages… even a beer tent! My running bib had two beer tickets attached to it, which I had been so excited about. But after the run, I was dehydrated and didn’t feel like drinking anything except water. I wasn’t even hungry.
I picked up my medal, drove my sister and her boyfriend to their car (far, far away), and then headed home for a shower and long nap. I managed to feed myself and ice down my legs before passing out. I was kind of out of it the rest of the day, but felt great the next morning. I had completed my first half marathon, and the first state of my challenge.
Maryland done. 49 more states to go.
Name: Frederick Half Marathon
Date: Sunday, May 4, 2014
Race day weather: 45 degrees F, sunny, calm winds
Race start time: 7 a.m.
Course description: The course was mainly on roads, going through downtown Frederick and some residential neighborhoods. There were several hills and turns.
Race organization: Well organized – there were a lot of volunteers, the course was well-marked, plenty of water stations and toilets along the route, and a good mix of post-race activities (I think I saw a moon bounce and basketball hoops). Post-race food options were satisfactory (bananas, apples, chips, energy bars), but there was beer for runners, which was nice.
Personal finish time: 2:20:01
Other costs: None