March 14, 2011


I'm in orange.

Yesterday I ran 13.1 miles– more than I've ever run– in 2 hours and 5 minutes (and 38 seconds, but who's counting?). Today I can barely move.

The event was the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park Inaugural Half Marathon. I raced in a group of 3,500 in order to raise funds to build a new tiger habitat. Though, I wonder how much of our fees actually go to tigers: we got a technical t-shirt (which is the coolest thing ever!), a finisher's medal, fruit, and as much Powerade as we wanted, not to mention paying employees to be there early, equipment to set up water stations, mile markers, a permit to shut down a busy road, winner medals (and the awesome stuffed-animal cheetahs they won), and extra employees to attend to the crowd. We probably raised well over $200k, but I still wonder. Regardless, it was an amazing experience and one I definitely want to do next year.

The biggest pitfall with this run was that it was the same day as daylight saving time. So not only did I have to be up super early, I had to do so on a day I lost an hour of sleep. And, since I'm just this lucky, I woke up in the middle of the night (I'd had a LOT of water right before bed) just in time to see the clock change from 1:59am to 3am. Less than 2 hours later we (my mom came for moral support) were up.

There's only one road leading into the Park and it's only one lane. But there's 2 ways to get to that road, and I knew the one no one else would be taking, which got us into the parking lot in record time (I don't know how 3k+ cars made it on those roads and into the limited parking lot space...). Gear check, potty break, bib on and I was good to go. There was a morning DJ kind of guy with a mic doing his best to get people pumped. There were girls in sequined skirts, groups wearing animal-themed outfits, a guy in a condor costume, and two men in matching zebra and tiger striped leggings, as well as many wearing the orange shirts. The sun started to break, 7am came and we were off.

Somehow the weather was perfect for the run. The sun was out for a while, letting my hands thaw, but after a while the sun retreated behind cloud cover and mist. While the sun was still rising we ran down a road lined with orchards, horse corrals and cow pastures. One house had a large field behind it and a white horse, backlit by the rising sun, ran alongside the fence as cows mooed beyond. It was a beautiful sight and a few people near me took pictures with their phones. The course was a lot hillier than I expected but I told myself to not stop on hills, no matter what. I broke that resolve for a few seconds on the last hill– it looked longer than it was, and because it was steep I gave in halfway up. A man on the sidelines shouted encouragement: "This is the top, you're there." A girl next to me told him he'd better be right and we both picked up running again. He was, we were over the last hill. The medic was stationed at the peak of that hill (which was a point we passed twice), and at the bottom were residents of a neighborhood we invaded cheering us on. One man turned to wave, tripped and fell. He rolled like a hero in a video game, popped right back up, and waved again to the small crowd saying he was alright. His buddies, running alongside him, joked that he'd have to go back up the hill if he needed the medic, and that he should tell others he was saving someone from a lion.

Around mile 10-11 I had to stop for a few more seconds to give some relief to my hip and to adjust my shoe. All together, including walking through the water stations, I stopped running for less than 2 minutes. The last mile seemed much longer than a mile, but when I saw that 13 mile marker I started running fast. I powered through and the last .1 miles was almost sprinting. I saw my time on a giant clock and had a huge grin as I passed the finish line. I knew I'd finish before 2:30, and I secretly wanted to finish before 2:15, but I never guessed I'd finish at 2:05. I accepted my finisher's medal, a bottle of water and Powerade, found my mom (who promptly took my very sweaty picture) and just tried to keep from collapsing. My legs were shaking and there were so many people (over a thousand finished before me) crowding the area that there was no room to walk it off.

Once I regained my composure (and took my zebra stampede photo) I started to feel good. I headed over to see if I could find my former co-workers/fellow runners, and hopped on the one morning caravan that hadn't sold out yet. I finally introduced my mom to the best job ever (she was excited to meet my giraffe and rhino friends) and once the sun came out we started to forget our cold and enjoy the day.

When we were home I took the world's greatest shower, ate a plate-full of pasta and vegetables, and we lay down for a nap. More than 4 hours later we woke up, still exhausted, and I devoured a giant plate of nachos. A day later and I'm still exhausted, and now with very sore legs. But I feel accomplished that I ran a half marathon. This is a race I want to make a tradition, and next time I run I want to beat 2 hours.

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