Run the Hill You’re In

I ran Riley’s Rumble Half Marathon last Sunday. I registered for it in a bout of optimism last March after successfully running a long, hilly race. I read, “Do you love running hills? Do you love running in summer heat? Does the DC area humidity inspire you to get out and sweat it out?” on the race description page and was all, “THIS IS THE RACE FOR ME!”

Just as a point of order, I don’t love hills, summer heat, OR humidity. But I guess Past Jean thought I did.

See, I am running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall and I figured that if I couldn’t do a tough half marathon in July, I had no business running MCM in October.

I ended up running just about 12 minute miles (I actually finished with the 12 minute pace group) at two hours and 39 minutes.

Me in a tank and shorts, running on a sidwalk

This is me at about mile 12.8. I had aaaaalmost reached the end of the hills. There was a gentle upslope almost to the finish line.

I was pretty happy with my time, especially considering the elevation, which consisted of more than 700 feet of elevation gain and nearly that same number of feet of elevation loss. I will run a flatter half marathon in September that will probably give me a better idea about my MCM pace estimate.

Photo of jagged up and downs on an elevation map

Yeah, I’m the dipshit who photographs a computer screen. In my defense, I was texting it to someone and the photo was easier than a screenshot.

I don’t think there was any flat ground. You might notice that long climb right at the end of the race. You might assume that it sucked. You’d be right.

I actually kinda really enjoyed this race. Maybe I DO like running hills. See, with uphills come downhills. Not to mention that it is more interesting to run rolling terrain than flat. And the course was really gorgeous. Also, due to Apple’s decision to make their new iPhone headphone jack-less and my absentmindedness regarding remembering to bring my adapter, I ran completely without music other than birdsong.

It was really sort of delightful. The race was on small roads surrounded by greenery, the sound of birds, and other interesting runners to eavesdrop on. Often on long runs, I am super focused on the distance that I’ve run, but at this race I just relaxed into it and kept on keepin’ on.

See how beautiful?

Me running up a road with green trees in the background. I am wearing shorts.

I just started wearing running shorts instead of capris this summer. That’s a whole other post. I have body image issues.

Riley’s Rumble provides sport popsicles at mid-race. That was awesome. Although I created a whole thing because I skipped the first few people and then when I demanded a cherry popsicle from the guy on the end, he only had other flavors and there was much flapping around (by me) and rushing for a cherry popsicle (by him) and I forgot to say thank you, so let’s consider this my heartfelt thank you because that popsicle was Good.

Speaking of popsicles, this race takes place at the end of July in the DC area, so it is generally super hot and humid. This year, however, the weather was gorgeous. It could not have been more suited for running. Also, much of the course was shady. (See above.) Humidity could have been a killer though. We got lucky.

I felt pretty good throughout the race, although I was definitely aware of how hard my legs were working. I’m trying to do less shuffling through races and more pushing myself during them, so I tried to keep attention on how I was running and how much energy I could expend.

At one point, on a kinda sucky uphill prior to the big one at 11 miles, I modified the running adage “run the mile you’re in” to “run the hill you’re in,” in an effort to focus on doing my best without despairing over the elevation to come. I gotta say, it worked.

I hadn’t managed to convince any of my running friends to run the half marathon with me, but there was an 8K race as well and my friends Lyda and Bob signed up for that one. The distance was shorter, but they still got to run the really crappy hills at the beginning and end, so you can feel reassured that they got their workouts in.

After their races, they stuck around for, like, an hour and a half to cheer me in. They even made a sign for me. I cannot tell you how awesome it was to see them. I was even inspired enough to ramp it up and pass two more runners between seeing them and the finish line. I wasn’t quite able to pass the 12-minute mile pace team (who had obviously trained together), but because I finished with them, I get to be the interloper in all their triumphant finish line photos.

Had you asked me at mile 12 if I was interested in running this thing again, I might have looked at you askance as I muttered “you can do it you can do it you can do it” to myself. In the afterglow of success, however, I could be talked into it.

I just hope Future Jean remembers that the Riley’s Rumble course is no joke if she decides to sign up. Fun, challenging, beautiful, popsicle-filled…but no joke.

Jean, Lyda, and Bob after the race. I'm holding a Riley's Rumble magnet.

My apologies to Bob and Lyda for making them stand next to the smelliest half-marathoner in the world to get this photo.

On to the next one.

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