“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”…Okay, you get the picture.
I ran a half marathon this past weekend and it was both a great and a terrible run all at once. Very Dickens-esque. Especially the spring/winter aspect because, while it was supposed to be spring, the weather behaved more like it was winter. Everyone kept saying “Oh that’s Cleveland weather for you!” Which gave my sister and I a chuckle because in Michigan we frequently say “Oh that’s Michigan weather for you” when it oscillates between dumping a foot of snow on us and hitting sixty degrees (Fahrenheit) in a span of three days.
The craziness started the week before the race. It was Mother’s Day, which is historically bad for me, when things started getting all wonky. It progressed until they were in a right kerfuffle by Monday afternoon. Come end of day Wednesday the situation had morphed into a complete clusterfuck, but I’m not going to even begin getting into the dirty garbage details of that whole mess. At one point though it looked like I was going to have to call off my mini-trip to Cleveland to run the half marathon that I had signed up for months ago and had spent hours and hours training for. Suffice it to say I was not happy about that (understatement of the century there). In the end a compromise emerged that entailed me driving down to pick up our race packets (about three hours away) Friday morning and then turning around and driving right back so that we could leave later in the day than originally planned Saturday and still do this thing. Yup, I spent a total of six and a half, maybe seven, hours in the car on Friday just so I could run this half marathon. Like I said, craziness and clusterfuck all around.
This is what the city looked like on Friday…
Beautiful, right? This is not what it looked like very early Sunday morning.
My sister and I checked into our hotel room around ten o’clock Saturday night. We had to be up by 5am (the worst time ever) to be downtown before the roads surrounding the race area closed at 6am. Our plan was to take an Uber there and back so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking and navigating the crowds. It was a good plan except that we had to leave so early that we ran out of the hotel without coffee. This didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, there had to be at least one Starbucks within walking distance of our drop off point right? Cleveland is a big city.
At 6am when we left the warmth and relative comfort of our Uber it was 39 degrees (so, like seven above the freezing temperature of water). We each had a clear plastic bag with our race numbers written on them containing dry sweaters for after the race and a few other bits and pieces including two granola bars for breakfast. Turns out those would be our only breakfast before the race. There was ,in fact, not a Starbucks or any other apparent source of coffee anywhere near the start of the race. Seriously, thousands of people mulling around in the cold, dismal dawn waiting to run and no one thought to bring coffee??? Seems like a missed opportunity. This did NOT make me happy. Without some sort of caffeine influx every twelve to eighteen hours I turn into a raging maniac, much longer than that and I get a debilitating headache. It’s the downside of my sleep deprived lifestyle.
By 6:30 we had found the gear drop off truck but still no coffee. I had loudly complained about this almost as much as my sister had complained about the cold. She lives in Georgia and apparently they have sunshine and warmth there. As we were handing our bags over to a volunteer I spotted a woman with a Dunkin Donuts cup. I practically attacked her in my eagerness to discover the source of her delightfully caffeinated beverage. It was a mere block away in the food court of a casino. My sister and I darted through the crowds to find the building and it’s entrance. We paused just long enough to get directions from the casino greeter as he swiped our driver’s licenses. Luckily the place was virtually empty so we were able to run through the main floors, down the escalators, and to the only open restaurant in the vast food court. My sister was starting to get a little worried about getting to the start line on time. I just wanted some freakin coffee! I reassured her that the race starts when we get there. Isn’t that the point of timing chips? Besides we weren’t the only racers in the building. This worked for a minute but then we watched three different people get their orders before our stupid coffee was ready. We each slugged a few gulps, burning tongues in the process, while jogging to the starting corrals. This was one of those big events where the racers are grouped into starting corrals based on their estimated race paces. We did not start with our assigned coral. In fact, we were close to the last runners to start.
It was 7:10am when we crossed the start line, still cold but not yet raining. We had each had a granola bar and three gulps of coffee that morning.
Despite our less than ideal starting conditions we were both feeling good and excited to be running. The atmosphere was completely different than the other two half marathons I’ve run. There were crowds running and crowds cheering, music played as we looped through the city. It was So fun!
Maybe two miles in (I didn’t use any kind of gps or tracking during the race so all distances are a complete guess) it started snowing. But, hey, snow is better than rain because it doesn’t soak through your clothes. It stopped just a few minutes later. Still so fun.
About five miles later (somewhere between seven and eight miles) hail was stinging my face, causing salty sweat to drip in my eyes. I was cold, I was soaked, I couldn’t see, my sister and I had gotten grumpy with each other and parted ways. (Did I mention the lack of pre-race coffee?) My face hurt. I was seriously questioning my life choices…but I was still running.
And that pretty much sums up the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon for me. There was a strong overtone of misery but at the same time I felt good, I ran the entire course AND at the pace I had wanted to. Running with so many other people and having so many spectators along the course holding signs and cheering gave the event a festive feel making this whole running 13.1 miles in gross weather actually enjoyable in a weird, masochistic way.
I felt like I was going to pass out for a few minutes after finishing and then the shivering and general numbness of limbs set in. It had snowed, rained, and hailed during the just over two hours I was running. Right after I finished there was thunder and lightening too. No joke. I would have killed for a warm, dry blanket and a place to lay down right then. Instead I stumbled to the gear pick up where a kind stranger untied my bag for me (my hands were unable to function at that level) so I could get to the dry sweater. My sister and I reconnected and stumbled around numb and shaking from the cold while we figured out how to get to warmth, food, and coffee. Even with the chaos and stress before the race, the extra six hours of driving, and the terrible, miserable weather this was the most fun I’ve had in a very long time.