I’ve waited since March to write this report. When I booked flights and the hotel with my husband in March, registration hadn’t even opened yet. I was a bit nervous about that as the race sells out fast, but I had my alarm set for 12:01 am registration morning and was sure I would get in. So, with less than 500 miles run at that point, my husband and I booked the hotel and flights and hoped I got in.
So, early registration morning, I got up at 12:01 am and waited for registration to open, only to find out the system was having issues. I waited until 2 am and while waiting fell asleep. I woke up at my normal 5 am alarm, panicked I had missed it, but luckily I was still able to sign up. And from that moment on, not only was I training for 2000 miles, I now had a travel half booked! I was so excited but at the time, October seemed so far away, that I worried if I could still even run or would want to run by then. So, I had to put the race out of my mind and just work on 2000 miles.
Well, the very warm and humid summer came and went and it was now race weekend! I was so excited to get there. I actually teared up when we landed in BWI. I had arrived and with only 250 miles to go. It had been a long journey to get to Hershey, but here we were. I was feeling good about my miles, but a bit worried about the weather.
All year as you know, it has been warm here. HOT to be exact. And with that awful heat, came runs I never knew run to run what to expect. Some runs were great. Others, I wanted to cry. I was excited to run somewhere cooler, but this was extreme. In the weeks, days, and hours leading up, the temperature just kept dropping. Now I love cool and cold weather runs, but as a Floridian coming off a very hot summer, I had forgotten how to dress and I started to panic. After asking a 219839328340982 questions on a chat board I frequent, I had my race day gear ready to go. The day before I did a shake out run, carb’ed up as much as I could with Hershey chocolate and was ready to go!
So, how was the Hershey half? Great. Truly one of the best races I have ever run. I know some have a few bad things to say about it, but for me this was one of the best races I have run ever.
Packet pick up and expo were flawless. It was crowded but they had everyone organized, very well staffed and in and out quick. From when we parked and left it was only 40 mins to an hour and that included looking at the vendor tables. While it was crowded they did a great job getting us in and out efficiently.
Also, I know some balked that there wasn’t much chocolate. I guess I never went into this thinking I would get pounds and pounds of chocolate. So the amount we got, a few pieces in our packet bag and food bag and the bowls of kisses and miniatures around the park, tables, hotels, etc were quite enough for me. I never felt deprived of Hershey goodness. Plus the swag we got was one of the best I have received. A packet pick up nylon backpack with a car magnet, chocolates, coupons, bib, and 2 complimentary tickets to the park. The after race food bag was a lunch tote filled with chocolate and fruit/munchies. It was filled to the brim. Overall, I was very pleased with what I got for my registration fee. Very impressed. Plus mile 12 had a chocolate aid station with as many miniatures as you wanted after running 12 miles. LOL!
Before I get into the race recap, I do want to thank Hershey and the crowd support. I cant think of any long stretch over a .25 mile that there wasn’t someone cheering you on. You were never ever alone out there. Bands, DJs, community members, neighborhood residents, Milton Hershey School kids, etc. It was the most supported race I have ever run. You can see the town truly loves having the race there. They were great. I loved that most even tried to look at your name on your bib and give you a shout out. That really gave me a huge boost!
Now on to the race recap:
As I stated, it was gonna be cold. I didn’t mind the cold but the wind was strong. And the race was to be hilly. And this Floridian doesn’t do hills. Not that I don’t enjoy them, but there are just none around. So, I knew that would be hard. But I guess I didn’t realize that there was no real significant flat part. Almost every bit of the race was rolling or steep up and downs. That was killer for me!
Race morning started early. My husband and I got up at 5. I prepped myself and he got ready and got me to the race by 630. I quickly got to the portapotties before anyone else was lined up, finished my breakfast, got into line to use the portapotties again, snapped pictures and by the time I was all set, it was race time. The race started on time right outside the Hershey Stadium where 13.1 miles we would finish. The next thing I knew, the gun went off and the race was underway. I told myself to run this for fun, but like any runner, had a goal in mind. If I was feeling ok, I was gunning for a sub 2! The first couple miles were easy, felt great and I fell in line with another runner. We chatted a bit, kept each other going and trying to push each other. Before I knew it, we were past the first 5k. I was ok on time, still around 9ish mins, much faster than I had been running in the heat, but I felt good. I kept pushing and told myself I could slow down anytime I needed. No shame!
Then came the mile 4 hill. OMG! It was steep and LONG. When I got to the top, that is when I could feel it and immediately worried how I would finish. That hill really took it out of me. But I just kept running but I felt drained. Somewhere along this part, the girl I was running with fell back. I tried slowing a bit but never found her again.
The next downhill and turn I realized was the halfway point and fell in line with the 2nd leg relay runners. That got in my head a bit. Fresh legs out there gunning past me, really got to me. I then fell in line with a couple guys, who appeared like this was a day in the park and were gliding along…GRRR men…LOL, but they were cracking jokes so it took my mind of the fact that I hadn’t seen a straight portion of the race in miles. And my body could feel it.
By mile 8, my legs, abs, arms, everything was shot. I actually wanted to cry and give up. I was ready to give up. TRULY. But I was so drained, the thought of crying and walking sounded to tiring and awful actually. It sounded painful. I just wanted to be done. As I was arguing in my head over the damn hills and wanting to cry and give up, I realized I was once again on a very very steep long hill. SERIOUSLY??? While there was was great crowd support here but as we went up the other runners ahead were right next to us coming down. Once again, mentally it got to me especially since I couldn’t even see the top of this hill yet. As I approached the top though, barely feeling like I was even moving, I heard a DJ. The mile 8-9 mark had a very energetic, fun, motivating DJ playing very powerful, fun music. I noticed as I approached “Ain’t no mountain” was playing. And that gave me a HUGE boost. There wasn’t a mountain high enough to keep me from this. I was finishing this and getting that damn PR! I had tried to not use my Garmin too much, but at this point I noticed if I kept pushing a sub 2 was doable. That DJ couldn’t have come a at better time. I could do this. I just had to dig deeeeeep and get this done!
At this point we were on the grounds of the Milton School and the crowd support of the students, faculty, and parents was second to none. To know they had to be at those spots early that morning before roads closed, giving up their Sunday morning to cheer us on was overwhelming. Now I wanted to cry tears of joy. And I found my second wind. I always seem to find a good second wind towards the end.
So, I pushed mile 10 and 11, until I hit the last dreaded hill up to mile 12 and the chocolate aid station. I couldn’t wait for this aid station all weekend. But as I approached it, I was at the puking point a lot of runners get when they are pushing HARD. The thought of any food, especially chocolate, at this point sounded revolting, plus I could see the entrance to the park, the final mile and I wasn’t stopping for anything!
Before I knew it was in the park on my last half mile. I could heard the announcer shouting out times and I knew I was still under the 2 hour mark. But then ( this is probably the only bad thing I have to say about this race), the announcer started announcing how much time was left to get that sub 2. Mind you he wasn’t taking into account gun vs real time. All he kept saying was how many minutes left for a sub 2. And I was in no mindset at this point to think logically and realize the times he was giving weren’t your official time. But he just kept shouting it out, “Better run faster 60 seconds or else you lose that sub 2″ ” 40 seconds or you lose that coveted sub 2″ and on and on. I was only feet from the finishing when I hear him say, ” Too bad everyone else now failed a sub 2..womp womp.. ” And I was PISSED! I was thinking I had missed it by seconds and I crossed the finish line MAD! My finishing photos are probably a joke. I stopped and I cried. I heard him, say, 2:00.02 sorry folks no sub 2 this time. I was so furious.
By this time, my husband had found me, mentioned the announcer had been a jerk the whole time, and seconds over was great. But I still cried. I had pushed for 13.1 miles. Pushed harder than I ever have in a half and missed it. But again, I wasn’t thinking gun vs real time. I walked over to the results table, looked up my name and there I saw it. I HAD come in under 2 hours!!! I HAD A SUB 2!!!!! My official time was 1:59.39. I had 21 seconds to spare!! And that is when the real tears started. Even the girl waiting behind me teared, up, hugged me and cheered for me. I had done it, I had subbed 2! All those hot, sweaty, early morning runs had been worth it. I had a half under 2 hours!
I am still riding high off of yesterday, very very sore, but I cant stop smiling. I had pushed myself to it’s breaking point and did it! This has been the most incredible running year of my life and I have broken all my goals and PRs for bigger and better goals and PRs. I can honestly say, I am very proud of myself. I don’t say that often, but I am. I worked damn hard for this and it paid off!
THANKYOU ALL for your support and love! It was an amazing half. Hershey put on a great race with awesome aid, water, food stations, great crowd support, great city energy and will be a race I will hold near and dear to my heart!