The Long Branch Half Marathon was initially slated to be my spring goal race. I ran into an issue with my arch in March and scaled back on running so things wouldn’t get worse. Obviously it was a disappointment to realize Long Branch wouldn’t be a PR race, but I was happy to be returning to run the shore nonetheless.
Race day started super early with a 3:30am wakeup call. The half kicks off at 6:45am and traffic starts to build pretty early on local roads. I made sure we were out the door, hit Dunkin Donuts (one of the 35 trips I made while visiting NJ) and on our way to Oceanport by 4:45am.
We hit traffic. It wasn’t terrible. I read plenty of complaints on the Facebook page about how traffic was horrendous and some even said they’d never run the race again because of it. Had they been paying attention to the many race director emails and daily (seriously, DAILY) posts on FB to arrive early, maybe they wouldn’t have had that problem. Just sayin’.
My longest run prior to race day had been 10 miles during the Austin 10/20 a few weeks earlier and I was oddly okay with it. Usually I’m antsy at the starting line of a race I don’t feel particularly prepared for. Instead of antsy and nervous, I was completely at peace and actually excited to hit the streets and run 13.1 miles through Monmouth County.
By 6:35 I was tucked into my corral, thankful for body heat from fellow runners that kept me warm on the chilly 40 degree morning. Starting around 6:50 (slightly late start), each of the five corrals were sent off with the traditional bugle Call to Post (since it started at Monmouth Racetrack) followed up with Sweet Caroline (for Boston) and Born to Run (by Bruce! for Jersey!).
My race strategy was to run 3:1 intervals and simply take it one mile at a time. No need to go crazy and push the pace. My only goal was to enjoy the miles and wrap up spring race season with a smile on my face, on the Jersey Shore where I grew up.
Most of the half is on residential streets…
and over a couple small bridges.
The course support was great! So many families were out very early Sunday morning to cheer us on, offer us screwdrivers/mimosas/jello shots, and blast Bruce Springsteen + Rocky from huge speakers at the end of their driveways. Race volunteers were amazing as well, positioning themselves before each water stop with a megaphone letting runners know which tables had water and which had Gatorade.
My father works near Mile 10 so my family was able to park there and walk to the mile marker to wait for me. I thought I’d be sad to have to wait so long to see them but it actually helped since it gave me something to look forward to! By that point my Nuun water bottle was empty and I was DONE carrying it. I tossed it to my mom, thanked her, and kept running.
The half/full split. I let out a little sigh of relief to be heading to the left of the barricades as we made the turn onto Brighton Ave.
Once on Brighton I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I’d see the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. The boardwalk portion of the final miles was no longer intact, the beach had shrunk, and many homes had been destroyed due to the massive storm that hit my home state last October.
The headwind on Ocean Boulevard was pretty brutal so I tried to keep my head down and hold a steady pace.
Half marathon #13 – DONE!
Spring race season – DONE!
After last year’s DNF in the full marathon, I really had no desire to return to this race. This year’s race had a different feeling to it. It could have been returning to the hometown race post-Sandy. Or maybe it was the way all of the runners banded together that day dressed in blue and yellow, with “Boston Strong” and “Run for Boston” shirts, singing the lyrics to Sweet Caroline. Maybe it was that I toed the line without an ounce of stress weighing on my shoulders. The only thing that showed up that morning was my desire to run.
And for all those reasons, I ran one of the best races I’ve had in a long time. This is probably the worst time of year for me work-wise to take a vacation, but I’m almost positive I’ll be back to run this race again in 2014. And if the stars align, I will be running alongside my sister during her first half marathon! Ahem, Kylie, go register. NOW! Please and thank you.
Long Branch, I hope to see you next year.
Run. Restore. Rebuild.