I headed downtown to the race expo on Friday. I have to admit that the Country Music doesn't offer the best race expo... but there were some pretty cool aspects this year. Namely, I got to meet Ryan Hall. And get a free copy of his book. And he signed it and we talked for a minute. It was definitely one of those really cool moments I think I'll always remember, and it was just so cool to meet him.
I also got to meet Kara Goucher, and she signed my copy of this month's Runner's World. That was also pretty cool, but I'll admit I wasn't quite as starstruck as I was with Ryan. I think she's awesome, but he's the fastest American marathoner and half marathoner right now, and I think it's incredible! I'm also really impressed by the way he shares his faith, and I can't wait to read his book. I got a picture with Kara as well, but for some reason it refuses to upload.
I also worked at the pace team booth for a while and had a chance to connect with some runners that wanted to run with me in the morning. I was wearing my Run for Mercy shirt, and it was really neat how many people kept telling me they loved my shirt and asked where to get one. It was cool to get to tell them about Mercy and how we have a team of 65 people who raised over $31K while training for the race.
It was also kind of neat that I got to talk to a lot of runners throughout the time I was there, both at the pace booth and while in lines to meet Ryan and Kara. When people found out I live here, everyone wanted to know where they should eat, what they should do, etc. Sometimes I feel pleased with myself for being able to give people good suggestions. I also got stopped twice while walking down the sidewalk by people sitting in traffic in their cars that needed directions. I was really glad I actually knew how to tell them where they were going!
On Friday night, we had the Run for Mercy team dinner at Mercy. It was so fun to celebrate the fundraising efforts of our team and eat a yummy dinner. I came home, got everything ready for the morning and read a bit until I got sleepy.
My parents picked me up at 5:30 on Saturday morning, my little sister in tow as she was going to run her third half marathon.
She headed to the porta-potties, and I headed to the VIP area to have a little breakfast and chat with my fellow pace team members before we all headed to our corrals. Meredith met back up with me as we made the trek to corral 16, and I ran into a few friends along the way. It's always cool to run into people you know in a crowd of 30,000!
Once in the corral, people started to flock around me to join our group. My sister and a couple of friends also decided to start out with me. I told the group about my strategy and started talking and getting to know everyone a bit. It wasn't long before it was time to start slowly moving up so that we could start the race.
The first mile passed pretty quickly, and I was laughing and talking with the group some and telling them a bit more about myself and our plans for tackling the hills of Nashville.
It wasn't long before we hit the first pretty tough hill, so I let them know we were going to keep it steady and make up any time we lost going up later when we come across a downhill.
My parents were along the course a few times and snapped a couple of photos of us.
The below picture is actually one that I took at the start, but these two were a father/son pair that ran with the group for the biggest part of the race. The dad was a riot. He was SO funny, and he was definitely making jokes and keeping us all entertained over the first 4-5 miles.
After we got up that first rather large hill, we turned and made the steady incline up Music Row. I kept reminding my group to keep it steady, and I promised them we'd have some relief soon. Some more friends of mine were spectating along this part of the course, and one friend even made an awesome poster for me about my "Pa Pa Pacer Face." Loved it.
We made the path down Belmont pretty smoothly, and it seemed like everyone had good energy. I got to talking to one of the gals in the group a bit more and found out that it wasn't long ago that she was finishing up chemo for breast cancer. It was such an honor to be running with her!
There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and it was quickly warming up to 65 degrees or so... WARM for distance running in Tennessee. We turned and began heading UP the rolling hills of 12 South... I had managed to build us up a little time in the bank when we came down Belmont since it's not as hilly, and we definitely used it to climb these hills.
Before long, we turned and found this guy as we headed back down the other side of Music Row.
Somewhere along here my sister pulled away and took off. I was excited for her, and I encouraged the group that if they were feeling good that it'd be a good time to start trying to pull on ahead. A few took me up on it, and a few kept hanging with me. I did my best to keep encouraging everyone - I could tell we were all getting hot and tired.
I continued to see all sorts of friends I know from college and work and other random social circles along the course... it's always exciting to see a familiar face and have them cheer for you. Thanks to all of the spectators out there, whether I know you or not!
Somewhere around mile 11, there was a blonde that yelled out to me and said she reads my blog. It took me a second to piece together what you said my friend, but thanks for calling out! So glad to know you're reading - email me and say hi sometime!
My group was definitely quieter the last 2 miles, but I kept talking to them and encouraging them to keep pressing on. We were definitely on pace. It's kind of funny though how much you feel like a celebrity when you run with a sign... the entire time I was running, I kept hearing spectators comment about me being the pacer, and it was just kind of fun to have people noticing even though in general I'm not one to call attention to myself. I guess this is the one time it's kind of nice.
The last mile has some decent hills, so I told everyone to hang on and keep pressing on. Before long, I was turning the corner and heading to the finish line.
I crossed the line in 2:14:50. I'm pretty pleased with how close I was able to get to 2:15, and if you're going to be off a few seconds then I'd rather be under.
I hung out in the finish area for a while and connected a bit more with people in my group. Some were able to pull on ahead. Some were just behind me. Everyone seemed pleased with their time, and I was so glad to be able to be a part of helping them to get there. There's something that's just really fun about helping other people reach their goal.
I headed to the VIP tent to say hi to the other pacers and grab some food before heading to find family and friends and hang out for a while. I am 100% in my element when I'm at a race... it's just so much fun!
My sister ultimately ran a 2:07 and was really pleased with it. We of course snapped some photos with our medals.
I still had a temporary tattoo from a previous year... they don't even have this same logo any more, but I totally wore it. VINTAGE. :)
The below photo is from where I was in corral 16... of like 30 something at the start on West End. This is definitely a HUGE race.
After I got home, I totally took a four hour nap. And then I slept like 12 hours Saturday night. I ended up getting a little sunburned, and I think the combination of the 5am alarm, running 13.1 miles, being in the sun for hours and talking for hours just drained me.
It was definitely a ton of fun to be able to run this event again as a pacer. Thanks to everyone who ran with me, and thanks to everyone who supported and cheered us on!