Just a Small Town Girl and Her First Half Marathon

I moved from the small state of Delaware mid 2022 to the Twin Cities after graduating from University. After a month of research, I discovered Twin City Track Club, and looked to get back into shape. Prior to moving, I had set a goal to run my first half marathon by the end of the year. Unfortunately, due to some unplanned circumstances, that fell through. So I settled on finding a race I could do for 2023. Now one thing to note is that Delaware is a pretty flat state; almost every race I researched that was local to Winston-Salem or any others in a reasonable distance had killer hills that may be easy peasy for the locals, but not for me. So I looked and found a race in Delaware that met what I was looking for. 

I did my due diligence in signing up early as the site stated it would sell out (it in fact did, two months early). A couple days later, a friend boldly asked if she could accompany me so she could accomplish her first half in a flat state as well. As we’d been growing really close despite knowing each other for less than six months, I invited her along and thus started training. We practiced both apart and together to hold each other accountable and ensure we were getting our workouts in. The daily countdown ticked away rapidly as we prepped for this race. Finally came the time to trek up to Delaware for the race. 

The drive whizzed by in a blur of fun as we laughed and talked our way through four states to our destination. We were staying with my parents, who welcomed my friend with open arms. We attended the expo, where she got herself a First State keepsake and I deliberated for about 20 minutes on the keepsakes I wanted to buy. I showed her around the town that would be hosting this lovely event and had dinner before heading back up to my parents’ house to round out the night. Day before the race I toured my friend around my hometown and family. A heavy storm WITH HAIL kicked on and off which put a bit of a damper on plans for mini golfing but other than that was pretty relaxing and enjoyable. I made my Nana’s beloved spaghetti for pre-race carb loading and, as we were finishing up dinner, Tricia arrived for the night stay as well. Tricia had approached me a couple weeks prior to ask to tag along so she could do the full marathon in an attempt to qualify for Boston in 2024. We met her mom and brought her stuff in so we could prep for bed before an early wakeup the next morning.

RIIIIINNNNNGGGGG – race morning! Time to get up and seize the day. I bolted upright out of bed and started my morning routine with fuel and getting dressed before doing some last-minute packing and off to the venue we went. My morning fuel was two bagels with cream cheese and peanut butter (each half eaten separately, not sandwiched together), and then sipping on gatorade and water. I could only stomach about 1.5 bagels before my body said no more. We arrived, and it was go time. 

Tricia’s race started at 7, so we let her out and I found parking. Now mind you, my thermometer and weather app stated it was in the 50s, but it felt much warmer than that when I stepped out of my car. Time ticked away quickly as Tricia warmed up and found her corral. The horn blew and she was off for her race. The race started on the boardwalk of the local beach before taking you around town, through the marshy trails and back to the boardwalk for the half marathon specifically. The full takes you farther around the town. My friend and I warmed up for our race. We start to line up in our corral. We both had the same goal time of going sub two hours, or about 9 min per mile. We had pacers, our pacer stated he wanted to come in about 1:59:30 that way anyone who fell a bit behind could still come in sub 2. Our horn went off. I remembered from my training that I didn’t want to bank time, but I also wanted to avoid staring at my watch and instead listen to my body, so I did. I started off a bit behind so I could still see the pacer and his sign. Unfortunately for me, this strategy did not work out so well as I still went faster than I wanted to. 

The watch pinged at 8:55 for the first mile. At that point the pacer was way ahead, lost in the sea of people; I could barely see his sign. I try to slow my roll a bit into the second mile so that I could stay on track for sub two-hour time. Then mile 2 hit: There was something I forgot to mention. My legs felt heavy, and each couple of hundred meters, I could feel them getting heavier. By mile 3 I realized the heavy legs weren’t going away and I threw out the plan of going sub 2, but instead tried to stick to about 2:05:00. 

I kept trucking along with my heavy legs, the count of the miles slowly going up and the amount left slowly counting down. You know how I mentioned that it had stormed and hailed the previous day? It caused part of the course to flood between miles 6 and 7… and it was unavoidable, there was going to be some splashing up ahead. Some police who were monitoring the course gave us a warning about a half mile in advance. As we approached the affected area, more course monitors swiftly explained where to step and where to avoid. I managed to get through the water hole without getting too wet and avoided falling into a hole. Not long after that was the 7 mile marker. At this point I saw my times were still going up, so I tossed the time goals in general and wanted to finish without walking. Seven miles in, more than halfway through. “You got this,” I told myself. I could feel the mental block slowly creeping its way into my mind, making the race mentally difficult. I keep going for another couple of miles, mile 9, another layer of mental difficulty. During miles 9-12, the temptation to walk was an all-time high. I was almost in tears because I was uncomfortable. I was hot and thirsty. I just wanted to finish and the race kept dragging on. 

If you know me, you know that the last mile and .1 I typically have a solid kick. But with my heavy legs, I could hardly kick at all. The last mile, I felt tears start to form in my eyes as I just wanted to finish. I crossed over onto the boardwalk. It was about 400 meters to the finish. I could see the inflatable finish line, so I tried to pick up the pace, but my body rejected the idea and slowed down further. At this point my eyes were welling up. Time felt like it was slowing down, and the finish line didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Somewhere between the start of the boardwalk and the finish, there was a lady who was passing me, but she turned toward me to say “Let’s finish this together.” 

That was enough to pull me out of my head and pick up the pace. It wasn’t much of a pick up, but I did it. I crossed the finish line, thus completing my first half marathon and accomplishing my goal of not walking. My body was not happy with me though, I wanted to cry, vomit, and pass out all at once. A volunteer put the medal around my head, I trudged along trying to catch my breath, another volunteer handed me a finisher’s hat. I got out of the main chute, and now I was looking for my friend, who finished well before me, as well as my family. I found her and she helped guide me away from the chute. Meanwhile I was telling her I never want to do another race like this. That was too much, and it wasn’t fun. This is the first time I’ve ever had these thoughts about a race that I’m trying for the first time. I’ve questioned the sanity of me and my peers during the race, but I had always felt a sense of pride and exhilaration almost immediately after finishing a race for the first time. I found out what my official time was, and while I wasn’t particularly happy with the time as it was well past my goal. I was happy that I achieved my goal of not walking and completing a half marathon. My finishing time was 2:15:11.

There was an after party following the race. My friends went, but I didn’t want to eat or be squished by the large number of people, so I wandered around until we met up again.  After that, my friends and I were pretty spent, so we packed up and headed out to lunch at a popular spot before heading back to my parents’ house to rest and freshen up before heading back home the next day.

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely. I chalk up not meeting my goal to just not being my day. That’s nothing against the venue, racers or anyone else. The venue is beautiful: a tourist attraction that shows off the southern Delaware charm at the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk. It’s before the season starts, so there’s no paying for parking meters, though that does limit some of the shops you can go to, but there’s enough shops for a memorable visit otherwise. Race or not, it is a lovely town to explore when the weather is nice. As for the race itself, you really can’t ask for more. It’s well organized, from the packet pickup and expo, to the race itself and afterward. The race bibs are organized by color so it’s fairly easy to distinguish each participant in their race. The course is well marked: Turns and mile markers are clearly visible and there are frequent timing mats that check in your time, as well as an added tracking app for spectators to track their athletes if the athlete has their phone during the race. 

Despite the unexpected puddle, course monitors prepped runners far enough in advance so it wasn’t a shock when we got to it. The finisher medals are specialized for each distance and challenge race, making each medal unique to the different races. There was an added bonus of a finisher’s hat as well. The keepsake shirts are lovely and comfortable. 

Yes, this small town girl will be back. I guess I’m not going to be a one and done half marathoner like I initially planned. I have a goal I still need to accomplish.