After 15 weeks and a couple hundred miles of training, we finally awoke at 5 am on race day to the sound of pouring rain outside our window. Rain was one of several things I failed to train for. The hotel was very accommodating and supplied everyone with supersized garbage bags, and after fashioning them into sad attempts at ponchos, we made the wet half-mile walk from the hotel to the starting line.

We wandered around for a little while, saw a few folks we knew, then made our way to our “Corral”. Since there were 30,000 some odd people running in this thing, they pretty much have to treat you like cattle. See, we were in Corral 22, so our race numbers all started with 22. I was 22397, my dad was 22394, etc. I think it’s some sort of class-based system, where the really good people have super-low numbers, and slow pokes like me are way at the end. One of my sister’s friends had a 2,000 number. She’s better than me. However, at one point I scoffed at a guy with a 25,000 number, so it all evens out. Truthfully, all you really need to know about Corral 22 is that we got to hear “Ready, Set, Go!!!” 21 times before they were talking to us.

Luckily, shortly before Corral 22 got the green light, it completely stopped raining, and turned beautifully overcast. The mass removal of Hefty sacks commenced, and we were on our way.

Miles 1-3 – The Great Humbling of ’08

The beginning of the race proved to be the absolute worst for me. If I had any strategy whatsoever, it was to make sure that I paced myself and didn’t give out too early. I paced myself alright. I spent the first two miles being passed. Not just by the fast people either. I hit rock bottom at the 2 mile mark when I looked to my left and saw that I was being passed by a lady who was walking. That was enough encouragement to speed me up a hair, and get me all the way through to the 3 mile mark. That’s where I went into the porta-john Clark Kent and emerged Superman. I hit my groove, and felt great. I didn’t even curse at the guy sitting in his front yard drinking champagne and eating grapes. I quietly applauded my restraint.

Mile 4 – I Love Oranges

It was early in mile 4 when I realized that I hadn’t trained for a very important aspect of running this race. Mobile rehydration. I’m very skilled at drinking water while standing still. Heck, I can even do it while traveling in a vehicle at a high rate of speed. But I fail miserably at drinking while jogging at 5 mph. I didn’t want to stop, fearful that I might not start again. So 3 cups later, I had a small taste of water and a soaked shirt. Then it happened.

Up ahead, I saw a bright white light shining down as if from the heavens. It was fixed on a big burly guy who had what appeared to be a tray of fruit. There are very few times I would recommend taking a piece of cut fruit from a random guy on the sidewalk, but this time, I make an exception. That small sliver of orange was the best thing I have ever put into my mouth. Somehow, it completely wiped away the images of getting passed so much the first few miles, and my failed rehydration. It was amazing.

Miles 5 & 6 – A bit emotional

Just as I was figuring out a way to make Florida’s orange groves hurricane-proof, I looked up and saw a lady standing on the side of the road with a sign that said “I am a Survivor. Thank You.” Sadly, I rarely let things of that sort effect me emotionally, but on mile 5 of the Music City Half-Marathon, I teared up. I couldn’t help it.

So, in my head, I proceeded to have a conversation with Andy (who works for The American Cancer Society) about what I needed do to help cure cancer. However, the emotional stage of my half-marathon ended rather abruptly when the Chinese guy beside me took a hard right and began urinating right there in the grass on the side of the road. (He gets no sympathy from me…Dad & I stood in the porta-john line for 45 minutes in the rain before the race ever started.)

Miles 7 & 8 – Pickle!

Mile 7 brought another beloved volunteer handing out amazingly wonderful oranges. My favorite fruit, possibly even my new favorite color. It was right around mile 8 that I looked up and saw two people dressed as though it were halloween. There was a giant Banana, and its distant cousin the Pickle. I couldn’t say much at this point in the race, but I do remember yelling out “Pickle!!” as loud as I could muster.

Miles 9 & 11 – One step at a time in the land of sticky goo

This is the point in the race where I really started to question all of my beliefs. Do I really think that I can run a half-marathon? I can’t even figure out how to get water from that cup into my mouth! Who do I think I am? Who’s idea was this? How could anyone be stupid enough to try and run twice this distance? And then, ‘Why are my shoes so flippin’ sticky?’.

Around mile 10, I entered the asphalt version of quick sand. The lovely people at “Power Bar” decided this would be a good place to hand out nasty packets of goo. They didn’t count on the fact that once the people tasted that crap, they would throw said packet onto the ground to be stepped on by the next clueless goo-grabber. It ranks right up there as the grossest quarter mile I’ve ever jogged through in my life. Just as I made it through the stickiness, the song “Another one bites the dust” came through my ipod earbuds. Note to self: If I ever do this again, pay a little more attention to the songs you put in your playlist. Not the encouragement I was looking for.

Miles 11 & 12 – Are we there yet?

I knew once I saw the sign for mile 11, I was home free. I mean, anyone can run 2.1 miles, right? It was right about there where I saw the race photogs up ahead. It felt kind of awkward, but I was straight cheesin for the next 300 yards…you never know which one’s taking your picture. I hit a bit of a snag at 11.5 though.

It was here that we made the turn onto the final stretch. The problem was, we were turning the wrong way. I could see the 12 mile marker up a huge hill to my left, but they were making me turn right! How cruel. Anyway, we finally made a u-turn and started up that street the right way, towards the finish line.

Mile 13 – Don’t forget the point 1

The closer I got to the stadium, the more people there were cheering. Most of them were joggers that had already finished, because they were proudly displaying the medals around their neck. As I passed the 13 mile marker, and turned the corner, the finish line was a beautiful sight. About 50 yards out, a lady ahead of me fell, and I felt worse than I had since mile 5 (thankfully, a couple of people ahead of me picked her up, and helped her across the finish line). Then the time came for me to cross the line. It felt amazing. For about a half a step. I crossed the line with both feet, and then on my very next step my left calf seized up. Figures. A medic lunged for me, but I somehow managed to recover before I hit the pavement.

The next 20 minutes are pretty much a blur. I remember wandering around trying to figure out where to go. I remember grabbing a medal from somebody who I hope was giving them away. I remember looking down and realizing that I was eating Gogurt. I hate Gogurt. Then, after following some very confusing signage I finally found the big letter “C”, under which my family was waiting. The longest 2 hours and 43 minutes of my life were complete. We had done it!