When we run races, we can’t resist the urge to tell our friends and family to come and watch us run the race of our lives. This is especially true when it’s your first time running a marathon, and sometimes, even when we don’t want them there, friends and family still find a way to show up.
But let’s face it: marathons are LONG by nature, and a lot of time can pass when you’re watching from the sidelines, waiting for your racer. Because of this, Susan Lacke of Competitor Running has come up with a fun game of Marathon Bingo that your loyal spectators can play.
Just like races, bingo games have been adapted to fit a variety of themes and causes over the years. For example, we see Race for the Cure events in support of breast cancer awareness, and Free Bingo Hunter reports “Pink Fridays” being held in some bingo portals throughout the month of October. So, this particular bingo game helps ease the monotony of waiting for a marathon to end — and adds a fun twist to just watching all those racers run by.
To play Marathon Bingo, your spectators just need to keep an eye out for all of these funny things – a nipple bleeder, obnoxiously bright shoes, a power-walker, etc. You can create several bingo cards using Print-Bingo.com’s services, too, and invite fellow spectators to join in the people-watching-palooza.
What do you recommend to your spectators to help pass the time while you’re running a marathon?
Inevitably, a week or two before every half marathon I run, my shoes crap out at about 300 miles. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But when your shoes are done, you KNOW. And I always know right before it’s race time.
This is a frustrating thing because a few weeks before you race is not exactly an ideal time to be breaking in a new pair of shoes. For this reason, I’ve been switching to a new pair of the same model of shoes for a couple of years now. And those shoes — my beloved Brooks Pure Cadence — have been very good to me.
The last pair of Pure Cadence I got felt lovely on first run. I met my spring half marathon goal wearing these shoes, and even PRed at the Bix with these cranberry kicks. But there’s also an ugly secret. My poor, poor toenails have been black and blue since May.
So when my Nike+ told me we were nearing the mileage capacity for my shoes three weeks out from half marathon time, I was faced with a tough decision. Should I get another pair of Brooks Pure Cadence … or *gasp* try something new?
So off I went to the running store. I found a helpful employee at the local Cincy Fleet Feet and launched into my diatribe. I rapidly rattled off my laundry list of foot issues, running history and other neurotic things that probably made said employee wish someone else had asked to help me first. Then, I tried on no fewer than 12 pairs of shoes. With each pair, I went for a short jog outside. After about an hour and countless short sprints outside of the store, we had whittled down the pile to a new pair of Brooks Cadence (the devil I know) and a pair of Nike Zoom Structure (the wild unknown).
DECISIONS ARE HARD!
But why are they so much harder when it comes to running shoes? I toil and torment and hem and haw over which pair to get. And if I think about it, they’re not all THAT different, and I’m going to need a new pair in a couple of months, anyway. So why do I stress so much about which pair to get?
They’re JUST SHOES.
But they’re not. Running shoes are so much more than just shoes. After all, the wrong running shoe could lead to discomfort, blisters and sometimes, injury. And the right running shoe can make running easier, more effortless and, by extension, more enjoyable. That’s a lot of pressure for one measly pair of shoes, isn’t it?
It almost feels like my running hopes and dreams are figuratively tied into the laces of my shoes, both physically and mentally.
So what did I choose? Tried and true (and toenails blue)? Or uncharted territory?
Well, friends, I got crazy and went with something different. I wore my old shoes for the last long training run of the season and broke in the new guys slowly over short runs before the race. And you know what? Different can be good. — Aidz
The Columbus Marathon is the race of my PR dreams. First, for my half marathon PR, and now, (drumroll, please) my full marathon PR.
I was a little worried since I’d never run the full 26.2, but I had no reason to be. The course was challenging enough to hold my focus, and fun enough to keep me entertained. The flat, fast course, the awesome crowd support, the fireworks and AC/DC blaring at the start — this race will forever be my favorite.
As I’ve said before, this year has been one of celebration and personal trial — am I still me, now that I’m 40? It’s such a milestone birthday, ask anyone. Some people quit smoking, some people decide to lose weight, some change careers, but very few let 40 pass them by without some form of self-reflection. For me, it was the marathon. Can I still do it? Will it break me? Can I keep up? Are my knees wrinkly?
Going into this race, I was very conservative in my goal: just break four hours. I knew I could do that. I worked hard for three and a half months to get to the starting line injury-free. My training went well, and adding Body Pump 1-2 times a week was undoubtedly the key to my PR. For the first time, maybe ever, I was strong all over, not just my calves and quads. (“You have abs, Muffin!” Yes, husband, because I worked my ass off!)
But still. I’m 40 now. I hadn’t run a marathon in three years. Everyone — including the voices in my head — knows that as you age, you slow down. Things get harder.
Several people have asked me if a PR was my “secret goal.” What does that even mean? That I have an ulterior motive? Sheesh. No, my goal wasn’t to PR, it was to have a great race. My mantra was to run comfortably, maintain the effort. Uphill, downhill, flats, turns — no matter what, I was not going to elevate my heart rate or burn out before 20 miles.
Mile 6 came and went. No issues, feeling great.
Mile 11, came and went. Nothing, still feeling great.
Mile 15, awesome (what the hell, I feel amazing!).
Mile 19, good, but starting to fatigue.
Mile 22, no pain, only fatigue.
Mile 24, a glance at the time, HOLY CRAP, IF I JUST KEEP MOVING I COULD PR!
Miles 25-26.2, a blur of exhaustion.
I checked my pace three times in the beginning: 9:38, 8:07 and 10:16. I decided to stop doing that because it wasn’t telling me anything, it was just making me nervous. I started between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace bunnies, and I pulled back whenever the 3:45s got close. At mile 17, I lost the 3:45s but the 4:00s never passed me, so I just kept shuffling. Run comfortably, maintain the effort. I walked my water stops, every three miles. I walked an extra stop between 22-24 because I really needed it.
In the start corral, I was talking to an older man, who wanted to do a 3:45. It was his first marathon. His only other race, a half marathon, was a 1:55. Not totally impossible, but I had my doubts. He was wearing cotton knee socks and a sweatband, and I questioned his judgment. I lost him in the first mile, and then at mile 25, there he was. Wearing his cotton knee socks and sweatband — running his heart out. I caught up to him, ran beside him and told him he was awesome. Together, somehow, we closed in on the 3:45 group, and we finished with matching 3:43s. I learned my lesson: Don’t ever judge a book by its cover.
All Jacked Up – Gretchen Wilson
Enter Sandman – Metallica
Dixieland Delight – Alabama
“If Britney Spears can survive 2007, you can finish this race!”
When I ask my husband if he knew my official time, he said, “Around a 3:50, based on where you were at mile 24. The 3:45 pace group was out ahead.” I guess my watch was wrong after all. A minute later, Shannon texted me my results, and you woulda thought I won the lottery.
- The start is first-class. Fireworks!
- There were TONS of port-o-potties at the start, yes!
- There seemed to be music and crowds the entire way
- The Corny Field, a half-mile stretch of bike path that ran right through a cornfield. It had the potential to be horribly boring, but some freakin’ geniuses put up speakers, blared Bon Jovi and lined the path with cheesy inspirational signs like, “Stay classy, Columbus Marathon!” featuring Ron Burgundy, of course.
- Running through Ohio Stadium.
- The Children’s Champion miles, especially mile 11, the “Angel Mile.”
- The “Fluid Ahead” signs that alerted you to the water stops, so no more surprise dodging and weaving.
- The guy who ran near me for most of the race, wearing a Dingle Marathon jacket.
- The PR gong! There was a huge line because this race is so badass.
If you need a fun, fast fall marathon, I highly recommend Columbus. The weather is almost always perfect, and the race itself is fantastic. (Although, my toes would disagree as they are livid pissed about this whole experience, but they’ll forget soon enough.)
Most of all, I found that turning 40 doesn’t really change anything. I did keep up, I smashed my own expectations. I not only PR’d at 3:43, I qualified for Boston again — something I never thought I’d be able to do — and this time I did it by myself, I didn’t have a pacer.
And you know what else? My knees aren’t wrinkly! I’m still me, except maybe now I’m a little bit smarter, a little more patient and a lot more humble – Amie
“Mind Over Matter” by Young the Giant
It’s a slow burn, one of those songs that helps you stay calm and steady, especially at the beginning of a race when your nerves and excitement make you want to bust out of the gate. Also, I mean, it’s called “mind over matter,” and with running, that’s a no-brainer. — Mags
For the Columbus Marathon, I am wearing an iPod Shuffle, which I plan to actually shuffle, so the order of these rad tunes doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that every song was chosen with care, some of them with special people in mind. It really helps for me to connect with my people during a marathon because they remind me of why I’m able to run in the first place.
I only have 3 hours and 40 minutes of music here, so I’ll need the Shuffle to recycle the tunes for an extra half hour or so. I’m confident the music will keep flowing, and I won’t lose my mind in the process. If I do lose my mind, the music won’t matter anyway.
- Dixieland Delight, Alabama (for my mama, who’s been cheering for me since day one)
- Fake ID — Big & Rich
- More Than a Feeling — Boston
- Crazy Bitch — Buckcherry
- Fighter — Christina Aguilera
- Born to Run — Bruce Springsteen (for Douglas, who has always believed)
- Survivor — Destiny’s Child
- Counting Stars — OneRepublic
- Latch (feat. Sam Smith) — Disclosure
- Turn Down For What — DJ Snake & Lil Jon (for Owen, who never fails to make me laugh)
- Sing — Ed Sheeran
- Burn — Ellie Goulding
- ‘Till I Collapse — Eminem
- Work B**ch — Britney Spears (for my loyal-as-f*ck girlfriend, Shannon)
- Basket Case — Green Day
- Womanizer — Britney Spears
- When I Come Around — Green Day
- Welcome to the Jungle — Guns N’ Roses
- Tick Tick Boom — The Hives
- I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) — Icona Pop
- Bang Bang — J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
- History of Rap (feat. Justin Timberlake) — Jimmy Fallon (for Maggie)
- Peacock — Katy Perry
- Come With Me Now — KONGOS
- Defying Gravity — Kristin Chenoweth & Idina Menzel (for Mackenzie, who defies gravity every single day)
- No Mercy — L.A. Guns
- Applause — Lady Gaga
- Daylight — Maroon 5
- Don’t — Ed Sheeran
- All About That Bass — Meghan Trainor
- Enter Sandman — Metallica
- Somethin’ Bad (with Carrie Underwood) — Miranda Lambert
- Classic — MKTO
- I Melt with You — Modern English
- Kickstart My Heart — Mötley Crüe
- Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
- Tennessee Bound — Old Crow Medicine Show (for Xavi, my little ball of energy )
- Lucky Strike — Maroon 5
- Love Runs Out — OneRepublic
- Titanium — David Guetta (for Jen, who’s bulletproof)
- Lose Yourself — Eminem
- Ain’t It Fun — Paramore
- Gone, Gone, Gone — Phillip Phillips
- Black Betty — Ram Jam
- Remember the Name — Styles of Beyond, Fort Minor
- Shake It Off — Taylor Swift (for Max, who shake-shake-shakes)
- Africa — Toto
- Blister In the Sun — Violent Femmes
- Here I Go Again — Whitesnake (for Kate, just because)
- Come As You Are — Nirvana
- Maps — Maroon 5
Wish me luck, Angels! It’s been three years since I’ve run a full marathon, and while I’m an expert at planning, we all know the marathon can take before it gives. Here’s hoping that my random-ass music mix can keep me distracted and focused, all at the same time. — Amie
This Sunday I’m running my first marathon since 2011. In fact, this is the first marathon I’ve run since we started the blog! I didn’t have the urge to train and run one again until this year, but once you have the marathon in you, it’s in you.
The race is just a few days away, and I’m anxious. When I ran my first, in Toronto, I was anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. I had never run more than 20 miles, and I had no idea what the last 10K would feel like.
This time, the feelings are similar, but I’m not so much anxiously nervous as I am anxiously excited. I know exactly what to expect—pain. And a lot of it. Generally speaking, I avoid pain at all cost, just like everyone else. But here I am, getting ready to inflict ungodly amounts of pain on myself. For what? To complete a marathon, and I can’t freakin’ wait!
I think back to my first full mary, with my friend Anthea. My IT bands quit working around mile 18 (or 28K if you’re Canadian), and I remember running straight-legged until the end. At one point, there was a cop holding traffic to my right and I wanted to lie down under the cars, because if I were there, I could stop running. But somehow, as I approached the finish and I saw my friends and family cheering, I sprinted the last kilometer (or 0.62 miles if you’re American). I use the word ‘sprinted’ loosely.
I think back to my last marathon, running alone in Boston, taking shots with bikers at mile 9, smiling and crying the whole way. I remember Heartbreak Hill and thinking “I am never, ever doing this again.” And yet, here I am.
Some things haven’t changed at all: obsessing over weather, writing out my race plan, and rocking out in the car while visualizing the finish. Some things have: I’ve done weights, yoga and trained with a group. My only hope is that it’s not so bad that I don’t want to do this again next year. I’ve had the best summer ever, and it’s partially due to my renewed love for long (really long) distance running.
Isn’t the real appeal of the marathon the unknown? The part you can’t control, the test we put ourselves through. How will we do? That doesn’t change if you’re running your first or your 100th.
I have no idea what Sunday will bring. Will I want to be flattened by a line of cars? Will I smile the whole way? Will my body crash and burn or can my mind block it out? I have reviewed my training log (many times); I’m as ready as I could be. This isn’t my first, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be my last, but as with every marathon, I hope it’s my best. –Amie
The drawback of telling everyone your goals and dreams is that when you fall short, you do so publicly.
All year, I’ve been talking about trying to earn a Boston Marathon qualifying mark at the Chicago Marathon. I trained harder than ever, put in more miles and more speedwork and more literal blood, sweat and tears than ever. I learned a lot, I grew as a runner and a person, and as a happy byproduct, I recorded personal records at every race distance along the way — 5K (twice!), 8K, 10K, 7-mile and half marathon (also twice!).
I did my very best to prepare both mentally and physically, and while I had my doubts, I trusted in my training and confidently toed the starting line at Sunday’s race — my fifth Chicago Marathon — with a perfect combination of confidence, patience, joy and focus.
When the 3:35 pace team disappeared — why, pray tell, did the pacers NOT carry signs with them during the race? I’ve never seen that before. — I didn’t panic. When I realized my first mile had been 30 seconds too fast, I slowed down. I used the 3:40 pacers (also sans signs, but they did have “pacer” handwritten on the time bibs on their backs) to start steady for the first five miles before making my move to a slightly faster pace.
An intense pain in my outer left hip hit me around mile 9, but it didn’t slow me, and by mile 11, it was all but gone. I could already tell that I’d have a bruised toenail on my right foot. Eh, whatever. I momentarily lost track of which aid station I was *supposed* to take my Shot Bloks and ate one too early. Oh well. Better than too late, I thought.
The miles were clicking by and at each marker I would check my watch and then my pace tattoo. I was between 70-90 seconds off my 3:35 target all the way — which was just what I had planned with my slower start. I made it to mile marker 22, feeling confident. I told myself, “Only 4.2 miles to go. It’s just 35 minutes of your life. You can do this.”
The Agony of Defeat
And just like that, the pain in my left hip returned. It was becoming difficult to keep my stride and fatigue was coming on. I decided to take 30-second walk breaks at the aid stations, to drink my entire cup of water slowly, carefully, and then I’d start running again. So I did.
The miles were not clicking by quickly anymore. I soon became enraged by every song on my playlist and kept skipping to the next one. I would look up, hoping the mile markers and the giant jumbotron at the turn onto Roosevelt would become larger, but they still looked so tiny and so, so far away.
I checked my watch and the seconds, minutes were adding up too fast. My No. 1 goal, 3:35, was long gone. My No. 2 goal, 3;37, gone. My No. 3 goal, 3:40 — the absolute limit on my Boston qualifying hopes — was slipping away.
I was fighting off tears and trying to repeat my mantra — “it’s only 10 minutes out of your whole life, you can do this” — but the pain became unbearable. I finally reached the turn onto Roosevelt — and the wretched bridge hill that I knew was waiting for me — and I couldn’t bring myself to look up for my friends. I couldn’t waste one ounce of energy because I needed all of it to propel myself forward.
I made it two steps up the bridge and had to start walking. My entire left leg was now utterly useless, and my back hurt so badly that I couldn’t stand up straight. I was hobbling along like a car with a flat tire, veering off to the right, trying to steady myself while on the verge of collapsing from pain and exhaustion. At that moment, a stranger pulled alongside me. She looped her left arm through my flailing right arm and said, “Come on, you can do this.” She didn’t yell it at me, and I’m not sure I believed her, but I picked up my feet and started to shuffle along with her anyway. A few seconds later, she unhooked her arm and told me to keep going.
I made it a few more steps before stumbling into a zombie-shuffle walk. A volunteer approached me. “Ma’am, are you OK?”
“I’m gonna finish!” I shouted through clenched teeth as I choked back the tears. If I fell down, I knew they would haul me off the course, and there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to cross that goddamn finish line.
Another volunteer approached me, and I told her the same thing, “I’m gonna finish!” I said it as much for her benefit as for mine.
And then I broke into a run. I had to. That’s just what you do, you RUN over the finish line, no matter what. My arms flailed wildly and I swung my left leg around as best I could while hunched over and wobbling with every step.
I finished the race.
And I missed qualifying for Boston by 24 seconds.
Immediately after crossing the line, a medical volunteer, Chris, was at my side. He put his arm around me and grabbed my hand to steady me. I was still drifting to the right, and the dizziness hit me hard. He led me to get my medal, my space blanket and water. He was asking me questions to make sure I was lucid and to assess my potential injuries, but all I remember saying is, “I just couldn’t do it. I had it. It was right there. I just couldn’t do it.”
We reached the medical tent, and Chris passed me off to a small army of medical volunteers. They led me to a cot and helped me lay down. Nurses and med students surrounded my bed, covered me with hospital blankets and elevated my feet on a box. They gave me water and Gatorade — thankfully, not lemon lime — and took my vitals. Everything was normal, I was just dizzy and dehydrated.
One of the students pointed to my left arm. “Cool tattoo. I’ve never seen one of those before.”
I looked down at the 3:35 pace tattoo. “It’s kind of a mark of shame right now,” I sighed before explaining my near miss.
A nurse called my emergency contact, Kendra, and handed me the phone. “Kendra, it’s Maggie. I’m in the medical tent, but I’m FINE. Can you please text Jennifer to let her know I’m in here? I was just dizzy and dehydrated after the race, I’m TOTALLY FINE. I’ll meet her at the hotel.”
Fifteen minutes later, after I’d had a bottle of water, a bottle Gatorade and a bag of potato chips, the med student checked my vitals again, and I was ready to try sitting up.
The nurse, Andrea, pulled me up as I swung my feet over the side of the cot. For the first time, I looked at my medal. And I started sobbing.
Andrea sat down on the cot across from me and held my hand. “I know you’re disappointed and I know it hurts, but you still accomplished something great today.”
After a few minutes, I stood up and walked around the tent, and this time, I could stand up straight and I didn’t feel dizzy. They signed my discharge papers, and Andrea walked with me to the exit.
Take a Bow
Every couple minutes during the slow, painful jaunt back to the Palmer House Hotel — where my American Cancer Society Team DetermiNation post-race party was happening and where my friend, Jennifer, was meeting me — I would burst into tears. I couldn’t believe I had worked so hard and come so close only to fall short.
I reached the hotel, and Jennifer was waiting for me on the stairs leading up to the party. On sight, I began crying. She enveloped me in a huge hug and told me she was proud of me. After a few moments of ugly crying, we finished ascending the stairs, and a chute of ACS volunteers welcomed me with a chorus of “congratulations!” and ringing cowbells. When I walked in the hotel ballroom, everyone applauded, and I took a bow. (From now on, I would like that to happen every time I enter a room, please and thanks.) For the next hour, I abandoned my pity party and tried my best to revel in the actual party happening around me.
When I got home, I fielded dozens text messages and phone calls and Facebook notifications. I attempted to process what I had just gone through and cope with the physical and mental anguish. I broke down in tears again and again.
Following victory beers, burgers and cheese curds with friends, I finally got the courage to look up my results. I saw my finishing time, 3:40: 24, and my splits — and I lost it all over again. I had it. I was right there. I just couldn’t do it. I replayed those last couple miles over and over in my head. I should’ve been stronger, I should’ve pushed harder.
And then, before getting ready for bed, I composed the following Facebook post:
The drawback of telling everyone your goals and dreams is that when you fall short, you do so publicly. Today, I ran my fifth Chicago Marathon, and ultimately, I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do. And while I know that time will help that wound heal — and motivate me to try again — it’s still difficult.
But in the end, I believe this day served to remind me of the good people in the world. From the incredible support from my friends (especially Jennifer, who drove all the way from Cincinnati just to meet me at the finish line), to every spectator who yelled my name, to the stranger at mile 26 who looped her arm into mine and helped me start running again, to the volunteer who steadied me when I thought I would collapse after I finished, to the nurse in the medical tent who held my hand while I sobbed and told me that I still accomplished something great today.
Yes, I fell short, but I didn’t fail.
What happened next amazed me.
Soon, dear friends and vague acquaintances, runners and non-runners, were posting comments, and each one of them lifted my spirits.
“As I read your words, tears well in my eyes. You should be so proud of your accomplishments. I know I am. You Rock Maggie.”
“The last thing I want to do is make light of your feelings, but this is honestly so much more inspiring to read than a simple “PR!” type post would be. Thank you for sharing.”
“You are more bad ass than many of us could ever hope to be. But when you lay it all out there to go for a dream or goal, you inspire us all to reach for ours, my friend.“
And they just kept coming — and the tears kept coming. But now, the tears were not of defeat and disappointment, they were of love and inspiration. And then late Sunday night, I returned to the results page.
3:40:24. Holy shit, Maggie. That’s fast! That’s 15 minutes faster than your PR, 25 minutes faster than your Chicago Marathon time a year ago! And you finished 6,900th out of 40,000-plus runners! 348th out of 3,435 in your age group, which includes the women’s champion! And 1,538th out of 18,389 women! And those splits! You paced yourself, trusted in your training and look at that! Even the last mile, when your body was broken, you ran a 10-minute pace! That’s incredible!
The next day, every conversation I had with friends about the race helped me gain more perspective, and seeing my brutally honest and horrifying finish line photos showed me just how close I was to not finishing at all.
Yes, I’m still disappointed that I didn’t qualify for Boston. Looking back, though, there’s nothing I would’ve done differently in my training or during the race. Some things you simply can’t prepare for, and we really can only push our minds and bodies so far. I did my best, I finished the race, and that’s good enough.
As it turns out out, the best part of telling everyone your goals and dreams is that when you fall short, you do so publicly. And everyone helps you get back up again. — Mags
- My aforementioned friend, Jennifer, really knocked it out of the park on friendship. She drove the 5-plus hours from Cincinnati to Chicago on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning, she hopped on the El to see me at mile 8, hopped back on the El to see me at the turn onto Roosevelt (and witness that carnage first hand), went to the medical tent after being relayed the message and just missed me, then went back to the hotel to meet me there. She took the dry clothes out of my gear check back and shoved my gross race clothes into my backpack after I’d changed. She drove my car home and walked my dog while I took an ice bath. And then she drove the 5-plus hours back to Cincinnati to go to work Monday morning. She is my hero, and I cannot thank her enough.
- The people in Lakeview/Boystown know how to spectate. You can tell the difference between people who ONLY come out to watch THEIR runners and the people who come out to watch RUNNERS — and the fans in that neighborhood are of the latter variety, and I love them for it.
- I gotta say, the race organizers really dropped the ball on both the race shirt and medal this year. The shirt is SO BORING — dark gray slate with the corporate Bank of America Chicago Marathon logo and NOTHING MORE — and the medal doesn’t even have the exact date on it. What’s the deal?
- Five stars for the marathon’s medical tent staff. Honestly, while I was laying on my cot I thought to myself, “Well, maybe this is a good thing because I’ll have something new to blog about!”
- For the first time ever, I had zero chafing problems! Shout out to my Athleta Hullabraloo sports bra and Body Glide on the valiant no-chafe tag-team effort.
- Thanks again to American Cancer Society Team DetermiNation for all of the support throughout the year and for the outstanding pre- and post-race perks. Top-notch in every way. Oh, and no big deal, we all raised a combined $1.2 million. Suck it, cancer!
- I also couldn’t have run that fast for that long if not for the training and guidance from the stable of Chicago Endurance Sports coaches and runners. I’ll be back.
Signs I Loved
- “I’m just trying to cross the street”
- “When your legs get tired, run with your heart”
- “You’re not cool unless you pee your pants (while running)” with corresponding Billy Madison photo (Side note: If peeing your pants while running is cool, consider me Miles Davis.)
When my friend Tessa, who has known me since I was 8, asked if I’d run a fall half marathon with her to help her get back in shape after having a baby, I happily agreed. After all, she agreed to run a half marathon with me after I had my first baby a couple of years ago.
Besides, I, too, was looking for a fall race, so when the organizers of the Flying Pig Marathon announced the inaugural Queen Bee Half Marathon, we knew it was fate. Tessa (who lives in St. Louis) and I agreed to train together, from afar. And even though we were both a bit conflicted regarding our feelings on running a women’s-themed event, by the time the big day arrived, we were both totally excited.
The Expo: If the expo, which was held at the brand-shiny-new casino downtown, was any indication of how this race was going to go, I knew we were in for a treat. I already love race expos, and this one was particularly awesome. Along with a long-sleeved (well designed) race tech shirt, we also received a nice bag, a Queen Bee-themed Sweaty Band and a pair of sunglasses.
While race expos always have decent discounts on local merchandise, this one truly had some of the best deals — and it was all women’s apparel. The local running store, Bob Roncker’s Running Spot, had Moving Comfort sports bras for $10. Seriously, people. Ten! Dollars! And yeah, OK, I know, I KNOW you’re not supposed to wear new clothes on race day, but they had the cutest Queen Bee tank tops and I had a pair of arm warmers I’ve really been wanting to give a whirl, so what the hell, I bought a tank to wear for the race. I had to get back to work, so I didn’t partake in the massages, braiding bar, mini facials, and multitude of other free awesomeness at the expo, but like the race it is named for, this expo really ruled. (Ba-dum-CHING!)
The Parking: Race morning, I was a little concerned about parking for the race. The start and finish were at the casino (which is where the race organizers encouraged everyone to park), so I had a chance to case the scene while I was there for the expo. I observed that this potentially could become a ridiculous bottle neck, and when race morning came, that’s exactly what happened.
Luckily, I work downtown, so I know the area well and was able troubleshoot and find an open parking lot near the finish line. It turned out perfectly because we were able to weave through the finish area (and to the vast number of open port-potties) before making our way to the start line. Five dollars well spent.
The Start: This race sold out and reached capacity a full two weeks before race day. Race organizers must have been prepared for this because the start line was wonderful. It was well-organized, not crowded and easy to find our way to the appropriate pace group. Because of the parking snafu, race organizers announced that they’d delay the start of the race 10-15 minutes to allow people to get to the start line. Since it wasn’t TOO chilly out (actually, it was ideal running weather — cloud cover, no wind and approximately 50 degrees), this was just a slight annoyance. Hopefully next year, they’ll find a better solution for parking, and it won’t be an issue.
I was surprised by the number of men I saw on my way to the start. While the Queen Bee is a women’s-themed race, it’s not women exclusive, and men could run — with a 15-minute handicap. I should also note that while the men’s shirts weren’t as awesome as the women’s, they were still pretty great. I also saw a few dudes proudly sporting their race-themed Sweaty Bands. I, for one, appreciate a man secure enough in his masculinity to rock a purple Sweaty Band. Well done, dudes.
The Climb: Our fool-proof race plan was to hang with the 2:10 pace group (that’s about a 10-minute mile pace, for those of you who suck at race math as badly as I do) and to NOT GO ANY FASTER than them for the first 5K. I have a tendency to get excited at the beginning of races, go out way too fast and die somewhere in the middle. But because I made a pledge to eliminate reckless miles – and to enjoy this race with my childhood girlfriend — we were sticking with the pace group, dagnabit.
The pacers, dressed in full bee costumes, cheerfully led us up the beast of the hill that was the first three miles of the race. The climb to Eden Park is ALWAYS hard, and it’s especially hard when it comes at the beginning of a race when you haven’t yet found your rhythm. Despite that, the fall leaves looked beautiful and showcased the city wonderfully. I saw my friend, Cat, cheering near the top of the hill, and her high-five gave me the energy to power up the remainder of the climb.
O’Bryonville and Hyde Park: Ah, sweet relief. In my mind, I was thinking, “It’s all downhill from here!” and wished my legs would sync up with my brain a bit faster. Our scenery got decidedly more urban, and the crowd support picked up. There was a particularly enthusiastic group handing out Twizzlers somewhere around mile four.
At one point, I said, “Do you hear that music? What is that?” before I realized it was the music in my own headphones that I had been completely oblivious to until this point. In fact, I can honestly say I could have run this race sans music entirely (this is not something I say lightly, as a music-reliant runner).
Mt. Lookout: As we turned the corner onto Linwood toward Mt. Lookout Square (and my home turf), my friend, Sara, popped out onto the street, ready to run a few miles with us. Whoohoo! This was a godsend because the pace group was just starting to get away from us as I was starting to feel the fatigue from the early hills.
There was a big crowd in Mt. Lookout Square and all kinds of funny signs, treats and even a table of beer shots. And then … wait a second. What? What the crap is that hill?!? DAMMIT. I drive Linwood almost every day, so it never occurred to me to run this little section of the course, but it was decidedly uphill. Since I had already signed off on being DONE with the hills, this was not a welcome discovery. Up ahead, I saw my daughter, Nora, waving wildly at us from atop my husband’s shoulders. She looked so happy! And it made me happy! Tessa and I stopped to kiss our kids and hug our husbands. Well worth the 30-second break — AND now we were halfway home.
Historic East End: As we cruised into the back half of the race, we lost sight of the pace group once and for all and decided we were tired anyway, so we might as well just enjoy the ride. Aces! They were handing out orange slices just as we were having this very conversation.
The East End is one of my favorite sections of Cincinnati. The beautiful historic buildings, painted ladies and little shops make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. I thought the crowds (both the runners and the spectators) would thin out, but they were pretty steady the entire race, the East End being no exception. In fact, we got cheers from Bad Angels Chrissy and Allie, who were spectating along with my favorite twin toddlers, Ben and Charlie.
The awesome mile markers and themed fuel stations continued to rock throughout the this section. My favorite was a line of people handing out Vasoline on popsicle sticks. I’ve seen this (and needed this) for a full marathon before, but never for a half. Since my ArmPocket was rubbing me raw, I grabbed a stick, swiped my arm and had instant relief. Thanks, random stranger with lubricant!
River Drive: The best part about River Drive is that it is almost completely flat. The worst part of River Drive is that it is completely flat. Ugh. I really hate River Drive. I have bad race memory from the torrential downpour of the 2013 Cincinnati Half Marathon, and I just generally never run well on this section of road. Which really isn’t fair to the road. It’s a perfectly nice road with interesting sites and a beautiful view of both the river and the city skyline. But all I could think about at that moment in time was just how far away the city looked. I wanted to be done. Done running. FOREVER.
But I had made a pact to enjoy this race, so I distracted myself with the race ridiculousness. Luckily, River Drive offered up a few of my favorite mile stations.
First up was “Margaritaville,” where the local Parrothead Club was handing out leis whilst blasting Jimmy Buffett. Sing it, Coral Reefers!
Next, we reached the “Royal Tea” station, where they were wearing crowns and handing out cups of tea. Don’t mind if I do!
And at mile 12, we hit the Chippendale’s mile marker. When I saw “Chippendale’s” as a mile theme in the race pamphlet, I was fully prepared to go into a full-blown feminist rage about equality for BOTH genders, expecting to see half-dressed men in bow ties handing out water. What ACTUALLY greeted us at mile 12 was a group of middle-aged men and women, wearing T-shirts with muscles drawn on them, handing out chocolate chip cookies. OK, now that’s funny. In fact, it was my favorite fuel station.
The Finishing Stretch: What goes down, must go up. And, since we’d been running down on the river for a handful of miles, there was a bit of a climb to come back into the city. I was completely tanked and just trying to get one foot in front of the other to finish this thing. Just then, Bad Angel Kelly whizzed by us and flashed her horns. Since I knew she was aiming for a 2:30 finish time and was blowing by us at mile 11, I also knew she was well on her way to a big-time PR. Rock on, Kelly!
Then, Tessa started scoping out people we could pick off before we finished. We cruised by crampy-crying lady and long-religious-skirt girl before we hit the finishing stretch. It was the first time I noticed the wind all day, and it felt pretty good, even if it was working against us.
The crowd was cheering, a glee-club was singing and when we crossed the finish line, military guys in full uniform placed medals around our necks. Very classy. So classy that I teared up as Tessa gave me a high-five and a huge hug. I glanced down at my watch and realized that Tessa had also PR’ed — and by a solid 8 minutes. Not a bad day at the races at all.
The After Party: The After Party was pretty awesome. Unlike most overly-crowded race parties with long lines for the good goodies, the Queen Bee Race Party had a plethora of easily-accessible presents. There were chocolate-covered strawberries, mimosas, Skyline three-ways, a medal-engraving station and even race-themed flip flops. The band was rockin’ (albeit a little too loud for this old lady) on the outdoor stage, and everywhere I looked, I saw groups of girlfriends with smiles from ear-to-ear.
Final Thoughts: Nearly everything about this race surpassed my expectations. For all of my fears about the female theme feeling condescending, the Queen Bee managed to find a way to make it all feel empowering, fun and inspirational. From Rosie Red at the starting line to a sunflower for every runner at the finish line, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this race.
And since the race itself was geared toward female camaraderie, this recap would not be complete without mentioning that it allowed me to spend a couple of hours (which is hard to find with kids and jobs and distance and families) with one of my best friends in the whole wide world. And while Tessa keeps thanking me for helping her get through training and to the start line, it was she who helped me through the end of the race and to the finish line. But after all, isn’t that what friends are for? — Aidz
“Daydream Believer” by The Chipmunks
I know. I, too, had my doubts when a friend selected it for my Chicago Marathon playlist as part of my song-for-a-donation deal. But when it came on about mile 6, I was fully on board. So silly, so damn catchy, so upbeat; the perfect recipe for a good running song. — Mags