Can we get a mother runner cheer for Adrienne Martini? Using the Train Like a Mother Half-Marathon Finish It plan and some pluck, Ms. Runner of Steel Martini crossed the 13.1-mile finish line uninjured and happy—the two goals any runner should have for their first try at any race distance—at the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon. We're thrilled for her—and thrilled to announce that she's going to keep us posted on her running exploits every other week. A Martini every-other-Friday kind of thing, starting in in a few weeks. Yay for all of us!
To answer your most pressing question first: Yes. I am now a Runner of Steel.
But that is getting ahead of the story.
After my last class on Friday, I drove the seven hours to former college roommate Trish’s house and arrived just in time to fall into bed. Julie, a friend from both high school and college who runs the Pittsburgh Half every year, and I hooked up in our old ‘hood for a pasta dinner on Saturday. We made plans to find each other in the starting corral in the morning.
I spent the rest of the night before the race planning out every step for the next morning, since I needed to be out of the door by 5:15 a.m. and don’t trust myself to think until about 9. I can be a little OCD, frankly, and took this opportunity to let my anal-retentive freak flag fly. The lines on that flag, by the way, are very straight.
I pinned my bib on my shirt; then staged the rest of my clothes in the order I’d put them on. Herr Garmin went next to my car keys along with the bag o’ crap I’d need to shower at my cousin’s house after the race. My toothbrush, contact lenses, and an Imodium—the last thing I wanted to deal with was runner’s tummy—were lined up between clothes and keys.
Sleep was surprisingly easy to come by. Some of that could be thanks to Calms Forte. Most of it, I think, was because the machinery of the race had finally started to turn. There was a concrete schedule for the next dozen+ hours and the weeks of amorphous anticipation were over.
The morning ran like clockwork, right up to the point when I got off of the T, which is the city’s answer to a subway. In the run-up to the race, my brain hadn’t really wrapped itself around just how much of a logistical nightmare 30,000 runners (plus their families and friends) is. I probably walked an extra mile to find the entrance to my starting corral. Once there, me and a few thousand of my closest friends were quickly packed too tightly to move or, even, raise our arms without groping the people around us. I never did find Julie. She had a good race, though.
Then, thirty minutes after the starting gun, I was off and running.
The first mile was full of passing and being passed, mostly the latter. I realized that I desperately needed to pee and envied the guys who were pulling up under overpasses, dropping trou, and letting fly. I don’t envy men much but there are times when a penis would be handy.
The first six miles were mostly uneventful, even though I still hadn’t found a port-o-potty that didn’t have a dozen women waiting for it and was starting to wish I’d eaten more than a half of a bagel before the race. The clouds kept spitting just enough rain to keep the temps in the 50s, which was perfect. It was easy to keep my head up and was rewarded with a view of the skyline from the West End bridge.
Mile seven was my Waterloo -- and not in that kicky ABBA way. By mile seven, I’d been running for an hour-twenty and knew there was at least that left. By mile seven, I thought the whole running thing was stupid. It’s not that I was tired—I wasn’t at that point—I was just over it.
I ran anyway. I with every few steps I reminded myself that I GET to do this. I never did Sharpie it on my arm, mostly because I failed to lay a marker next to my anti-diarrheal.
Mile eight wasn’t much better, even though I did manage to find a potty with only a few folks waiting. There was also an aid station there. I killed time watching volunteers hand out dollops of petroleum jelly on tongue depressors while reminding runners not to eat it. None did ... that I saw.
Refreshed— or as refreshed as one can be at mile eight—I rejoined the race. The 2:30 pace group materialized around me and I ran with them for a bit. How the pacers can keep to a time and hold a sign is beyond me. Kudos to you, pacers.
The rest of the race passed like a slide show. There were costumes, which ranged from Captain America to a Bride to a Dude Who Had Rigged Four Runner Puppets (with their own race bibs) Around Himself. Julie saw him, too. Neither of us have any idea what that was all about.
I spent more time than I’d care to admit watching the gaits of those around me. Some of them had amazing running economy; some seemed lucky to be running at all. There were orange slices and water stops. My favorite sign (which might only be funny if you’re a Pittsburgher) was “Yinz is Beasts.” Peter Sagal was in my ear for a bit since I’d managed to download Wait, Wait the night before.
And then I hit the marathon/half-marathon split and there was just a few miles to go.
Right at the end, after the crest of a baby of a hill, there was a band playing the Ramones’ “I Wanna be Sedated.” Well timed, random band. Well timed.
Then I was through the chute and handed a medal, space blanket, Eat ‘n Park cookie (!), and water. I wandered the crowds—again, my brain can’t quite deal with the number of people who were there—and found my Dad, cousin Mark, and his wife Donna. I texted a picture of me and my medal to my husband. My Dad told me that he was proud of me, which still makes me weepy even a week later.
After walking another mile collecting the bag I’d checked and finding a T station, we all hobbled back—between the four of us, there were maybe three functional knees—to our various cars and met back up at Mark’s house. On the list of great showers I’ve taken, this shower is in third place, right behind the ones taken shortly after giving birth to each of my children.
The rest of the day was spent sitting, alternated with eating. It could only have been made more perfect if my husband and the kids were there, too. But it was still pretty damn good.
Folks have been asking if I’m proud of finishing the race. I guess I am. The real pride comes from all of the work I did leading up to it, rather than the race itself. Lisa, another mother runner I know from knitting, gave me a pep talk the night before, saying something along the lines of, “You’ve already won the medal. Now you just have to go get it.”
It wasn’t an awesome race, frankly. I never felt completely comfortable and it was mentally hard to find the right space in which to run. But it was good enough. Plus, I learned buckets about the nuts-and-bolts of big races. Next time will be awesome . Because I will be going back to Pittsburgh. Julie and I have already made plans.
As for right now, I’m tired. Really, really tired, in every way one can be tired. My body feels OK, if wrung out and achy, which is to be expected. I keep bursting into tears, prompted by almost everything from being hungry and not near food to the inevitable let-down of finishing something huge and having to be a mere mortal again. There’s also a certain amount of relief, if I’m being honest, at no longer having the uncertainty hanging over me. I *can* run 13.1 miles but would prefer not to for another few weeks.
In the immediate future, I’ll be running a six-mile leg in the Vermont City Marathon over Memorial Day weekend. No worries; I’ll tell you about that later. Martini Friday will be back, once I take a week to recover and get through finals.
Before I close this out, though, I’d like to thank all of the mother runners who offered support of all types in the run-up to the race. Every runner should have the opportunity to know that so many strong women are cheering for her. You all helped more than I can say, especially around mile seven.