Race Review: Parks Half Marathon

You know whats crazy? Running two half marathons, a 20-miler, training for a marathon, working full time, and going to grad school. Guess who is crazy, and showed her crazy loud and proud this past September. This girl.

To kick off my month of insanity, I ran the Parks Half Marathon in Rockville, Maryland. Touted as one of the best halfs in the region, I was excited to run with my boss, who had run it in 2015 and fell in love. I consulted with my friends over at the DC Road Runners, and based on their enthusiastic reports from previous years, I knew I made a good choice.

This race report actually starts off pre-race, to help you understand the mentality that I had going in to this race.

  1. I was not going to push myself because I have New York coming up early November
  2. I probably could'nt push myself too hard because I was mentally and physically exhausted from 2 weeks of insanity that was the result of work + grad school
  3. It was going to be hot, and I was getting nervous, which is never a good thing

As I got to the start line that morning, the first thing I realized was how many people acutally ran this race. The chute was PACKED. The second thing I noticed was that there were not enough port-o-pots and a whole lot of people that wanted to use them. They were too close to the start line, and determining who was in line for the loo and who was in line to run was nearly impossible. I knew I didn't have a chance, and just made my way in to the starting line. 

I was also really impressed by how the race directors managed the crowds. Setting up waves by using race fencing was a great way to reduce the massive wave of people that wold likely have occurred if they hadn't. The start line is pretty narrow, and shoots you up a short, curved hill in the first quarter mile. It would have been mayhem of pace failures if they didn't think smart -- and I'm glad they did.

I was in wave 2 I believe, and kicked out and up that hill, pushing my pace too fast at the beginning. The first portion of the race is on a big road that is partially open to traffic, which caused me anxiety for the entirety of that section. I hate crowds when I run, and always aim for the outside to avoid getting boxed in. This time, that meant running right next to moving traffic, some of which was aggressively driving past the race, probably annoyed they had been slowed down. This anxiety, coupled with the excitement of the start, the rolling hills in front of me, and the first race since July, I kicked out at sub-8, a no-no for me. I crushed 3 miles at a 7:50ish before I was able to pull myself in. But partial damage had already been done.

Now, I run Rock Creek Park a lot. But I don't make it up that far north too often, and had forgotten how hilly the area could be. I remembered very quickly. Coupled with the heat and humidity of the day, the next 7 miles through the park were an unusual suffer-fest for me. I has dehydrated, hot, tired, and all I kept thinking of was 'I want my bed'. 

Heading up the hill (its steep) at mile 10 before you hop on the Georgetown Connector trail, I wanted to just quit. The cheering squad on that hill though, got me through. Once I got up to the gravel trail that would cruise us in to Bethesda, I knew the route, knew the general finish area, and just locked in mentally. 'Ignore the heat, ignore your exhaustion, one foot in front of the other' I kept saying. 

Plus, Chris and his Goddaughters would be at the finish, I had to do this for them!

As I neared the tunnel in Bethesda, I wasn't sure if we would run through it and finish on the other side, or divert left and up a hill. Divert left we did, and to my disappointment, the finish was just as hilly and twisty as I had been told. I won't lie, this was one of the worst finish lines I've ever run. It was pretty bad -- narrow, windy, and deceptively long. For all the starts accolades, I'd say the finish nulled them out.

Overall, I'm so glad I ran this race, and the post-race food was pretty stellar. Who can get a slice of pizza, a bagel, eggs, or an Italian cold cut after a half? not too many races provide that!

The biggest takeaway for me though is that when it comes down to it, mentality is everything. Your body is capable of doing extraordinary things, and you can't let a negative mindset take hold. Perseverance, belief in yourself, and the fortitude to finish, no matter the distance or day, is all that matter.

New York, I see you.