I did the thing, girlfriend! Two weekends ago, I ran the Rock Hall Half Marathon, my very first half! Not only that, I went from sitting on the couch and not running at all to running 13.1 miles in just 16 weeks! You might be wondering, how did she do it? You see, it all started with an I can mentality.
Besides that though, what it really took on my part was a firm decision. I made the decision to start and complete the Couch to 5k running program, no excuses. Here me out – running has never been my thing. Sure, in high school I played tennis and softball. Neither of those are really running sports! Sure, I ran a little bit here and there during conditioning, but I never ran for the sake of running.
Why start now?
For starters, one morning I woke up and asked myself, what else can I get into that would be a challenging, more cardio-based workout than my typical yoga? What is something that would challenge both my body and my mind and push me out of my comfort zone? What is something that will do all of the above and not break the bank? Ka-ching! Running is what I came up with.
How I Started Running
My start up running costs were $3 out of pocket. The premium version of the C25K app was the only thing I paid for to get started. If you are looking to get off the couch and ease into running, I highly recommend this app. I was able to complete every single workout, since it made me alternate between running and walking for each of the workouts. Most of the workouts were around 30 minutes, and I only had to train 3 days per week. By the end of the 8 week program, I was able to run a non-stop 5k without any problem!
Besides downloading the C25K app, I figured I would definitely need to come up with a game plan for shoes. I ended up spending zero moolah on shoes, because I had a couple pairs of barely used cross training shoes collecting dust in my closet. I told myself that once I finished the program, my reward would be brand spanking new running shoes.
The C25K App Created a Running Monster
After getting up to the 3.1 mile (5k) mark, I just knew I could go further. I started increasing my mileage by one mile per week, as I worked up to a 10k distance. 3 weeks later, when I ran the 6.2 miles, I realized I was practically already halfway to a half marathon distance. That’s when the crazy in me came out. I started looking up local half marathons that were going to take place this calendar year. For whatever reason, I had in my mind that a half marathon is something that needed knocked out in 2017. Upon just a little bit of research, I came across the perfect race for a beginner, the Rock Hall Half Marathon! The third annual Rock Hall Half Marathon was scheduled for Sunday, August 20th, 2017. I had exactly 7 weeks to get to where I needed to be.
Once I made up my mind, the rest is pretty much history. I texted my bestie from 2nd grade, Katie, and asked if she’d be interested in coming all the way up to Cleveland to run the Rock Hall Half Marathon. Of course she said yes, and we got to spend an entire girls weekend together!
Why the Rock Hall Half Marathon?
Why this particular race? First of all, the time requirements for race participants to finish the race in seemed very doable, even if I walked some. Second of all…. Rock & Roll baby!! I love music and figured the live bands along the course would only help me cross the finish line sooner! Third… the guitar medal is super cute, just saying! Fourth, how could running along Lake Erie for the last several miles not keep my spirit up? Fifth, I read so many great reviews about the race. Admission to the Rock Hall of Fame, a BOGO Chipotle coupon, and finish line chocolate milk were all included in the race entry fee. Hellooooo half marathon training!
Training to Be Tough
Oh boy, those last seven weeks leading up to my first half were pretty intense, and even slightly brutal at times. Training consisted of 5 miles on Tuesdays, 3 miles on Thursdays, up to 3 miles on Fridays, and a long run on Sundays. The only long runs I got in during those final seven weeks were one of each of the following: 6 miles, 7 miles, 8 miles, 9 miles, and 10 miles. Starting after the 10 mile run, I tapered my running for the final 2 weeks leading up to race day. I had to get from a longest run of 10 miles all the way to 13.1 on race day!
10 Miles… No Biggie, Right?!
My 10 mile training run was definitely the most brutal. I had my long runs set up perfectly, I would lay out plenty of water and Gatorade on our front porch and stop by to hydrate after every couple miles or so. This mimicked what race day would be like, as the hydration stations were spaced every 1.5 to 2 miles apart.
I remember being an hour into my 10 mile run, and already feeling like toast due to the humidity. Buckeye started barking at me when I stopped for water, which prompted Sean to come outside and see how I was chugging along. I told him I was done with 5 miles and had 5 to go. I’m pretty sure he thought I was slightly nuts in that moment. I took a couple more sips of water and off I went. I told myself I wasn’t going to be done with my run until my Samsung Gear Fit 2 told me I had gone at least 10 miles.
For whatever reason, this 10 miler stands out in my memory, and was almost as rewarding as completing the Rock Hall Half. I knew that I had pretty much made it through the tough part of training. After this training run, I also felt fairly confident that 13.1 was in the cards for me!
Bring on the Rock Hall Half Weekend
Katie got up here the Friday night before the race, and we kicked off our fun weekend at Fat Head’s Brewery. It seems like everyone that visits Sean and I gets to experience Fat Head’s at one point or another. If you haven’t been to Fat Head’s and are ever in Cleveland, it’s a must. They have pretty awesome food, including ‘headwiches’, unique sandwiches the size of your head!
Earlier in the race week, I told Sean I couldn’t have any wine with dinner, because I needed to stay hydrated. Low and behold, Katie talked me into having an adult refreshment while we were at Fat Head’s catching up. Whoopsie daisy. Don’t worry, we each had one adult rootbeer, one of my all-time favorite drinks. Adult rootbeer consists of freshly brewed root beer and vanilla vodka. Let me tell you, starting at 7 the next morning, Katie and I were on top of our hydration game.
The Day Before the Rock Hall Half Marathon
Packet pickup was in front of the Rock Hall, starting at 9am on Saturday. Katie and I decided to start off our Saturday ‘Tour de Cleveland’ with packet pickup.
Remember how I said our hydration game was on point the day before the race? Katie and I both drank two whole containers of water before we got downtown. Then, we got there a little too early and spent forever trying to find a good place to park. Both of us were pretty much crossing our legs by the time we were finally parked. We did make it to packet pickup though, where we received sweet, and I do mean sweet bib numbers! They handed me a 99 and Katie a 100. Those are probably two of the most sought after race numbers!
Rock Hall Half Marathon Swag
In addition to our bibs, we received super cute Rock Hall Half tech t-shirts, a BOGO Chipotle coupon, and a voucher for admission to the Rock Hall of Fame. We definitely got our money’s worth out of the free Rock Hall tickets! Katie and I spent the next few hours exploring all of the Elivis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce memorabilia that you can imagine. We had a blast!
After we were done exploring the Rock Hall of Fame, we went back outside to explore the expo vendors. The expo for the Rock Hall Half was extremely small, with maybe 8 booths total. That’s to be expected from a local race that is only in it’s 3rd year though.
Staying Hydrated and Eating Tacos
If there’s one thing you should know about Katie and I, it’s the fact that we both love Mexican food! After finishing up at the Expo, we bought a couple bottles of water. We had to keep hydrating! Then, Katie and I made our way behind the Rock Hall so that we could snag a couple pictures with the ‘Cleveland’ sculpture. Throughout the city of Cleveland, there are several big script signs that read ‘Cleveland’. They are in picturesque settings, with great views of Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline. After having a photoshoot with the first Cleveland sign, it was time for lunch.
I took Katie to none other than the Barrio in Tremont, for a quick bite to eat. I am at a loss for words on how awesome Barrio’s tacos are. They are fresh as can be, tasty as ever, and actually not too unhealthy (unless you opt for the stoner shell). The stoner shell is a soft flour tortilla on the outside, a hard corn shell on the inside, with queso and chorizo sandwiched between the two shells. That’s just to hold everything that goes in your taco!! I will admit that we each did have one taco with the stoner shell. Shhhhh. We each also had two more whole glasses of water! Oh yeah, and I almost forgot to mention that we had phenomenal strawberry guacamole. Yes, you heard me right, strawberry guac!
The Infamous “A Christmas Story” House
After our quick lunch break, Katie and I made our way over to the A Christmas Story house in Tremont. A large portion of one of our all-time favorite Christmas movies was filmed right here in Cleveland. Naturally, it only seemed right to go on a tour of the house while Katie was here in town. It was her idea by the way, but I was right on board!
After taking tons of pictures depicting many of the funny scenes from the movie, Katie and I went hunting for two more Cleveland signs, and posed for some more picturesque photos of Believeland!
Lake Erie and Carb-Loading
Next, I took Katie to Huntington Park in Bay Village, just to show her Lake Erie one more time (In case she hadn’t seen enough of it for the day). Upon arrival, we bought some more bottles of water and took in view of the lake while hydrating. Guess what… after Huntington Park, it was just about time for dinner.
I understand that carb-loading is a thing for distance runners, especially for those that run full marathons. Katie told me she swears by pizza the night before the race. She said it’s just the right amount of carbs, with a bit of substance. Thus, we had some pizza!
We decided to hit the hay early the night before the race. I can’t tell you how many times I rolled around in bed that night, or how many times I looked at my phone, to make sure I didn’t sleep through my alarm. Once I was finally up for the race morning, I felt like I was frantically running around the house getting ready, even though I laid out everything that I needed to bring with me the night before. I also made some peanut butter toast for Katie and I, because you can’t run 13.1 miles without fuel! I’m pretty sure Katie ended up giving most of hers to Buckeye!
Despite being 100% high on nerves, we safely made our way downtown. Katie and I found parking with plenty of time to spare and even managed to make it through the porta potty line before it got ridiculously long. We joined Orangetheory Fitness as they led everyone through some pre-race stretching. Next thing you know, we were lining up toward the back of the pack, since I wanted to keep a fairly slow pace!
After listening to a rock guitar solo of the Star Spangled Banner in front of the Rock Hall, it was go time! The entire crowd counted backwards to one. After a few minutes of the corral unloading, Katie and I were at the start line, setting up our trackers. Elvis was high-fiving everyone and their mother once we crossed the start line. Naturally, I gave him a pretty serious high five! What a way to kick off the Rock Hall Half!
We were off to a very, very solid start, with a pace in the 10s. My training runs were typically done with 11:30 minute miles, so Katie kept suggesting we slow down a little bit. Maybe we were going fast because it was fairly cool outside. It also didn’t hurt to have downtown Cleveland as a change of scenery. Ultimately though, the quicker pace must’ve been due to the adrenaline kicking in, because I felt really great!
Despite the fact that most of the water stations throughout the course were 2 miles apart, the first water station was at the 1.5 mile mark. When we were rounding a corner and literally seconds from the first water station, Katie asked if I wanted water. I told her no, not realizing she already saw the first water station. We were both carrying our own water, since it was hot and humid, and I originally thought she was asking if I wanted to stop. No way, Jose. We needed to keep on keeping on! Seconds later, when I saw the first water station, I exclaimed to Katie “Yes, I mean yes, I do want water!” I wasn’t going to go another couple miles without any.
Miles 3 through 5
Let’s just say I was still feeling fabulous at this point in the Rock Hall Half. I even had enough breath to thank the cops as we ran by them on every corner. They did a great job; it took quite a crew of Cleveland police officers to block off the gazillion intersections that we ran through. It was wonderful to see so many other people on the course showing their appreciation for the cops, especially with all of the craziness in our country as of late.
We only saw one crazy Clevelander completely blow law enforcement off. A driver blew off a road block and drove where the runners were running. It literally happened 2 seconds after Katie was saying that so far the course had been blocked off properly, with no incidents taking place. The day before the race, I told Katie we needed to be on the lookout for random cars crossing our path. Prior to the race, I read a couple of blog reviews about the first two years of the Rock Hall Half. A couple of the reviews mentioned incidents with drivers ignoring blocked roads. Let’s just say for the incident Katie and I witnessed, the cop was screaming at the top of his lungs. He was not happy!
The tough part of miles 3 through 5 was the sun in our face, and a whole bunch of nothing to look at. I suppose it was neat to see the many buildings that comprise the main Cleveland Clinic Campus during mile 5. Other than that though, there was pretty much nothing to see as we were running east on Carnegie.
Miles 6 through 9
These three miles were my favorite stretch of the Rock Hall Half! I was starting to get a little bit tired, or I should say, my legs were. However, at mile marker 6, we hit our third water stop, which just so happened to have Honey Stinger energy gels. We each gulped one down and then went on our merry way. Poor Katie had to have been getting bored; I was getting to be more out of breath, and not much of a talker as we continued on our little journey.
Besides the Honey Stinger, I really loved the scenery throughout the Cultural Gardens on Martin Luther King. We saw some dinosaur sculptures outside the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. There were plenty of gardens with unique plants and flowers to focus on. We also passed two different bands along this stretch, which was music to my ears.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention that we were headed north toward the lake, which meant no more sun in our face! The Cultural Gradens actually had a decent amount of shade, and was a downhill grade all the way to the lake.
Miles 10 through 13
If you recall, anything past 10 miles is a distance PR for me! My longest long run leading up to the Rock Hall Half was only 10 miles. Well, guess what! We got to mile marker 11, where I felt pretty ok. The lakeside view was definitely helping!
That being said, feeling pretty ok was short-lived. It was hot outside, like really hot. It was humid, more humid than I would’ve liked. Additionally, dehydration and a lack of energy were starting to kick in. Do you want to know why else this final leg was so tough? Let’s just say hills are not in my circle of friends. Oh my goodness. We encountered two pretty brutal hills, which were extremely tough for someone who did not account for hill work in their training for the half (cough, Me, cough). Whoopsie daisy!
Somewhere before mile marker 12, I exclaimed, “Katie, I’m dying!!!” I actually repeated that phrase quite a few times. We continued chugging on for awhile, and then eventually told Katie she could go on without me. I had to get in a couple of extra long walks during mile 12. My bestie from second grade refused to leave my side, and said she was crossing that finish line with me!
The Final .1 Miles
For whatever reason, The Final Countdown, by Europe, was stuck in my head as we approached the finish line. The crowd for the final home stretch of the Rock Hall Half was also larger than anywhere else we had seen, besides the start line.
As soon as Katie and I crossed the finish line, I took about two more running strides and then came to a grinding halt. I find this absolutely hysterical. In my mind, I was thinking nope, not taking any more steps today. 13.1 miles is plenty. I also remember making some terrible sighing noises that I’ve never made before. Shortly after crossing the finish line, I also asked Katie if she wanted to sit down. Even a newbie runner like me knows that skipping a cool down is a bad idea. I’d always ended all of my training runs with 5 minutes of quick walking, to help me to recover faster.
That chocolate milk that I thought sounded so great at the beginning of the race? I wanted nothing to do with it for a good 15 minutes. Nothing. However, I did quickly down an entire bottle of water! Katie and I eventually made our way over to the after party food line, after ever so slowly walking around for a bit. Rock Hall Half finishers were rewarded with delicious cheese pizza, watermelon slices, and a banana. As weird as this may sound, slightly greasy pizza before 10 in the morning truly hits the spot after running a half marathon! I also must tell you that I indulged in a delicious glass of vino that night.
Moral of the Story
If you haven’t run the Rock Hall Half Marathon before, what are you waiting for? It’s an absolute blast, with what I thought was the perfect course and a great setup. I loved the bands along the course. A few more water stations would’ve made the course slightly better. The medals, the swag, and the after race pizza fuel were absolutely on point. The atmosphere was fun and inviting for all runners, not just competitive runners.
Ultimately, I did this race for me. I needed a little more challenge in my life, so I created some for myself. It all started with one mini fitness goal, which was to complete the C25K program. Once I knocked that goal out of the park, I made a plan to work up to 10k. 10k still was not enough of a challenge, so my final running goal for 2017 quickly became the Rock Hall Half Marathon. In my mind, I knocked all three of these goals out of the ball park. My goal was to finish the half. You know what? I finished the half! Was I the fastest out there? Heck no. That wasn’t my goal though, my goal was to complete the race. I set a distance PR of 3.1 miles longer than I’d ever run before during my first half marathon.
Friends, what an I can mentality boils down to is making a decision, coming up with a plan, and taking action. What is one thing you would love to do, that you told yourself you can’t do?
You’re not going to want to hear this, but I think you can do the thing. Do you want to know why I think you can? My article Turn your Can’ts into Cans and your Dreams into Plans will explain it all.