Halloween Themed Half Marathon = New PR!

It was dark and gloomy when I woke up and made my way out to the train stop on race day. Kind of perfect for a Halloween themed race. Right? Unlike the day before, I made it to the train stop with plenty of time to spare. Something cool about taking the train was that I was not the only runner doing so. It was fun to chat with my fellow runners as we awaited our first train. One of the runners was part of the Pasadena Pacers, a local running group that I’ve thought of joining, but never have. Another runner was there with a friend and they were running their first race ever with the “mini” half marathon (3.5 miles). Before we knew it, the train arrived and we were on our way!

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I was surprisingly awake for such an early hour. However, there were no problems getting down to the starting line. When I got off the first train, I was surprised to see how many runners were in the other cars of the train as we all exited and made our way to the second train. Using public transportation was actually fun! When we arrived, the marine layer was still pretty thick…

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See what I mean by gloomy?

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Since it wasn’t too crowded, I wanted a picture of the start line.  As I made my way to take this picture, I saw this guy…

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Two Captain America’s ready to rock n roll for 13.1 miles. Of course, I didn’t have the shield. He said that was okay. The other Captain wasn’t even sure how long he’d be carrying his shield. I saw him once during the race and there was no shield. So, apparently, the shield didn’t stay with him very long. After the picture, I wandered around the start area. LA Live looked amazing in the dark with the fog…

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If I had driven to the race, I would have parked at the LA Live parking area. They were offering a discounted rate of $10 to park. So, there were lots of runners milling around. Right off the LA Live area was my corral…

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I thought it would be cool to take this picture of me with my corral number…

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I was in corral 16 of 21. As I walked around, I saw this guy…

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This is Brian who writes the Pavement Runner blog. I haven’t been following his blog for very long. However, I can tell he’s a really amazing runner. Be sure to check out his blog if you haven’t found it already. He was running this race with Linzie of the See Sharp Run blog and Lisa of the Run Wiki blog (whom I got to meet). The run community is made up of some pretty cool people and these guys are most definitely some of them.

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Eventually, it was time to line up for the start. I took this picture because of the 2:45 pace card. When I saw this, I wondered if I could hang with the person holding it. After all, it was 5 minutes faster than I wanted to finish. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I finished with that pacer?” Hmmm… What was interesting to me, after the race, was that I lost sight of this person in the first mile and never saw them again. Since I finished faster than 2:45, I wondered if I ever passed them without knowing it.

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Look at all the people running behind me! While I don’t think this race had the same number of runners as the runDisney races, there were still a lot of people running.

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Since I train alone, it’s always fun to do these races because it gives me the opportunity to be around a lot of runners. Fun times!

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The national anthem was sung by someone who was on The Voice whom I didn’t know. And the race officially started. However, since I was in corral 16, I was still waiting.

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Getting closer!

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Getting excited!!!!!

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Then, we were the corral that was next to go. When you get to this point, it’s always exciting. Interesting note…I was in the 16th corral and started less than 30 minutes after the start of the race. With the Disneyland Half Marathon, I was in the 7th and started around 45 minutes after the start. I’ve heard that the runDisney folks have created more corrals for us and are trying to speed up the start process. I really liked how quickly the Rock n Roll folks got us going.

The first couple miles went by pretty quickly. I loved the fact that the start was not nearly as crowded as the runDisney races. There was less weaving in and out of traffic for me. I loved this! Come to think of it, this was probably the least crowded race at the start I’ve ever had! I think the first mile took me around 11 minutes to finish. That’s been pretty typical for me. In the Disneyland Half Marathon, I think I had a similar start. Where things started falling apart at the Disneyland Half Marathon was in the third mile…after we had entered the theme parks. In the second mile, of this race, we passed by the USC campus and made our way to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. After running around the Rose Bowl the weekend prior, I was looking forward to running around the stadium where my favorite college football team plays their home games…FIGHT ON!

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As we entered the parking area for the LA Coliseum, things were going really well. I loved the cool temps and was enjoying everything. During a run interval, either in mile 2 or 3 (I can’t remember which), I hit a pothole in the road unexpectedly. With the way my foot hit the hole, I immediately feared the worst. I though, “Great…I’ve still got more than 10 miles to go and I’ve already screwed it all up.” The person running next to me at the time asked if I was okay. I was and told her so. The walk break was a few seconds later and she asked again. That was a really nice thing to do. I was still okay. I was a little shaken, but there was no pain.

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Then, we got to enter the concourse area of the LA Coliseum! That’s all I needed to forget how close I came to an injury just a few minutes prior. I loved running around this area!

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We made our way around to the open end of the stadium…

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Here, we found the next water stop…

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I decided that I absolutely needed a picture of me with the inside of the stadium in the background. So, I turned around and went back for this picture…

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Well, the fog/marine layer, made this picture not as great as I had envisioned. Oh well. Although, doing this set me back 15 seconds and meant that I was late to start a run interval. So, it was time to get going…

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Just past the third mile marker, and close to exiting the stadium, we came to this sign. Fight On is the Trojans rally cry. For reasons I cannot explain, this sign was a huge inspiration to me for the next couple miles.  After taking this picture, I was now 30 seconds off my intervals and realized that if I wanted the 2 hour 50 second finish, I had to focus more on the running and less on taking pictures. So, this was my last picture from the course. However, there were some cool sights that a few other runners captured that I wish to share along the rest of this journey.

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For example, Brian posted this picture on his race recap of these Thriller dancers from just outside of the Coliseum. When I saw them going into the Coliseum area, I had no idea they were a dance group. However, as we went back, they were doing their Thriller dance. Lots of runners were getting their pictures of them. Since I was running behind, I had to choose to skip taking a picture myself.  From what I saw as I ran by, they were pretty good!

By the end of the 4th mile, things were going really well for me. My time at the end of the 4th mile was similar to the training runs I do in the weekdays. I was still under a 12 minute per mile pace. The longer I could keep that up, the better my chances were of hitting my time goal. My time kept going my way through the 5th mile as well as I crossed that mile marker in under an hour. By the 5th mile marker at the Disneyland Half Marathon, things were not going this well. As each successive run interval passed, I could feel my confidence building. I was enjoying this race so much. I crossed the 6th mile marker and was still under a 12 minute mile average!

The six-mile marker was not too far from the starting line. So, we had gone out to USC and back. I quickly crossed the 10K mark and did so in 1 hour 14 minutes and change. At Disneyland, I did so around 4 minutes or more slower. If this was a 10K race, I would have a 10K PR! Score!

In the 8th mile, we passed through this tunnel….

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I so wished that I took a picture of this. They had music blaring so loud that I couldn’t hear the music in my headphones for the entire tunnel. They also had this crazy light show going on in the tunnel. Such a fun moment! When we passed through this in mile 8, I knew I’d pass it again later on! As I ran through this area, I also thought how great this tunnel would have been if we were running in much warmer temps. This tunnel might have been a welcome relief to the sun. However, on this overcast morning, it was just cool because of the music and the lights.

In mile nine, we ran up this…

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Again, I want to credit Brian from Pavement Runner with this photo. This hill I thought was going to be the end of my goal of finishing the half marathon in 2 hours, 50 minutes. I saw this hill coming from a good distance away. As I got closer, I kept trying to figure out how to approach the hill and not lose too much time. My initial thought was to switch to a run 30 seconds, walk 1 minute intervals. This worked until the second time I tried to run. I only made it 20 seconds. Then, I decided to walk for 5 minutes or until the top. Well, as I kept watching the time run, I decided to make another attempt at running…that failed after 10 seconds. By then, I felt a little defeated and it must have shown. Another runner came along side of me to ask if I was okay. I told her I was.

That was the moment where the reality of a PR under my goal time started to crystallize. I decided that I wouldn’t give up and I would continue to go as fast as I could for as long as I could. This is where training in the hills of Pasadena really helped me. From those long runs, I learned that once the hills were behind me, I would recover and be alright. I believed that and remembered that as I walked as fast as I could to get to the top.

I got to the mile 10 marker in 1 hour 58 minutes and change! Yay! This was my goal from the beginning. I knew that if I could get finish 10 miles in around 2 hours, I would make my overall finish goal. So, crossing the 10 mile marker when I did was HUGE for me. From there, it became a game of guessing how fast I would finish. The one downside of knowing that I was going to make my 2 hour 50 minute goal was that I took it a little easy during the last 5K. So, I had a couple of run intervals that fell short of my 1 minute time. But, the miles kept ticking away.

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Before I knew it, I could see the finish line! By then, I knew that I wouldn’t cross the line in under 2 hours 40 minutes. I also knew that I would cross somewhere between 2 hours 40 and 2 hours 45 minutes.  Seeing the finish line always does wonders mentally. As I mentioned yesterday, because of where the 13 mile marker was, I knew I’d have to either run longer than 1 minute to the finish or be walking at the finish. Even though both options would get me there faster than my original goal, I decided that I needed to run. I wanted to finish strong. As I started running for the last stretch, there was a moment where I thought of taking a few seconds to walk and then finish running. However, that thought was immediately followed by a “No! I have to run the entire way. It’s not that far.” With that thought, I felt free. I felt the awesomeness of crushing my old PR! I felt like a real half marathoner!

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I was almost in tears as I crossed. It felt amazing! Then, after crossing the line, it was time to stop the watch and see what the time said. Of course, i knew that the time I’d see was longer than my official time. However, it gave me the instant glimpse of what the official time would say. Shortly after that, the final text came from the runner tracking and I saw my time…2 hours 43 minutes 25 seconds. A new Half Marathon PR by 16 minutes 35 seconds! And BOOM goes the new PR!

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I got some water and this new, awesome medal to add to my growing collection. Like the runDisney races, there was a place to get your official finishers photo. Following that, we got Gatorade, two full size Power Bars, Jamba Juice

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Chocolate Milk…gotta Refuel!

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My only wish was that there was something to carry all of this with. My hands were full and I could hardly carry it all.  So, I missed out on the oranges, bananas, and a second water. If only I had 3 or 4 hands, I could have brought it all with me. I found my way over to the LA Live area so, I could put my stuff down and organize myself. While there, I got another runner to take this picture…

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Mission accomplished! New Half Marathon PR…check! Finishing in 2 hours 50 minutes or less….check! It’s as if the spirit of Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) carried me. Or maybe, it was being around legends like Kareem…

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Whatever it was, I felt like a king afterwards!

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I took in the part of the concert afterwards….

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Then, I wandered around the finishers village…

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The ASPCA was the largest sponsor of this race.

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Then, I headed to the Merch area. This is something I wish runDisney would do. They had the “I Did it!” type of shirts sold here…after the race. You couldn’t buy that shirt at the expo. Once I saw this shirt, I felt the need to buy it. After all, this was a race I wanted to remember.

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From there, it was time to walk back to the train station and head home.

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As you could tell, I LOVED this race! There was some fun course entertainment. I loved running around the Los Angeles Coliseum! Having the “I Did it!” kind of shirt at the finish area was something that I think was perfect. There were plenty of water stops along the way. There were plenty of Port-a-Potties along the course as well. I loved the smaller corrals and how quickly they got us  started. This race had far less crowding than I’ve ever had at a race. I really don’t have any complaints about this race. Without a doubt, I will be back next year!

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Happy Halloween!


6 thoughts on “Halloween Themed Half Marathon = New PR!

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