Shamrock Half: The Day I Channeled Forrest Gump and Set a PR

All dressed up and ready to run

At 6:15 in the morning on March 16, Virginia Beach was freezing. I was standing at the starting line of the Shamrock Half thinking to myself, “Why did I sign up for this? I don’t want to be here. I hate the cold. This is never going to end,” and so forth and so on.

At 7, the corrals started running. I was in 8, so I was standing there literally shivering for a good 15 minutes before we made it to the start gate. I was still having a pity party and freezing when they started the countdown.

“5…4…3…2…1!” I started running. And I didn’t stop for the next 13.1 miles.

I always have to take walk breaks. Of course, that’s in Lynchburg where you can’t go more than half a mile without encountering some form of incline. I ran the first mile in a little over 10 minutes. I looked at my watch and thought, “There’s no way I can keep this up for 12 more. I’m going to have to walk sometime.”

Half and Dolphin Challenge medals

Mile 2 brought gloves for my freezing hands. Whoever tossed away a thick blue pair of mittens, thank you. I threw them back later so they’ll make it to charity.

Mile 3 made me start to think, “Okay legs, you holding out down there? Cause the lungs are fine, this flat ground is nice and easy.

At mile 4 there was water and a party of cheering spectators. I couldn’t stop with all of them watching.

Then I hit mile 5, still running, still at about an 11 minute pace. “I could do this. I don’t know how, but I can do this.”

(I will say I did walk the length of every water stop. Otherwise I would have gotten all the water down my shirt and none in my mouth.)

At mile 6, we went into some woods, but still on the road. There were signs with corny jokes on them that I thought were hilarious. What’s purple and green and next to Ireland? Grape Britain! (Okay, that’s not so funny now. It was much funnier after an hour of running.)

One excited face

At the GU stop, I grabbed one from the kid passing them out. I ate it. I kept running.

Mile 7 had a Saint Bernard with a sign that said “I like Runnners. You taste salty.” He was my favorite spectator. I still kept running.

I lost feeling in my right hand at mile 8. It wouldn’t move. I don’t know if it was my arm band, or the cold, or both. I switched the arm band to my left arm and passed the next mile trying to get my fingers to move normally.

Mile 9 had Oreos, and I will forever swear that the Oreo the man gave me was magical. I love Oreos, but that one was the best Oreo I have ever had in my life.

Feeling like Michael Phelps

Mile 10 I was feeling beat. I remembered the magic Oreo, touched a sign that promised to give me super powers, and vowed to run the last 3.

Mile 11 was where it really got hard. I passed the 11 mile marker right as my watch hit 2 hours and knew I was going to PR if I kept it up. I stopped for a quick stretch to loosen up my quads. And I kept running.

Close up of the medals

Mile 12 was emotional. During training, I wanted a PR so badly, but I had very little luck training. In my mind, I wasn’t getting faster, I was getting worse. Some runs had ended in tears. The tears that threatened to come this time were tears of pride. I could never have imagined running 12 straight miles a year ago. I didn’t even dare to dream of getting a PR until last night after running the 8K. The emotions powered me through the last mile.

Mile 13 was a mile of cheers. People were lined up elbow to elbow cheering both for people they know and the ones they didn’t. They were reading our bibs and every time someone chanted, “Come on Leah, you’re almost there!” I got more and more excited. I saw the finish line and the statue of King Neptune. And I ran.

The last .1 brought celebration. My watch time was 2:23 (the official time was slightly longer. I’m believing my watch since I started it at the exact second I crossed the start). My first half was run in 2:43. I had PR’ed by 20 minutes.

I was handed my finisher medals and savored the moment. I don’t know when I turned in to Forrest Gump, or how such a miserable morning turned in to such a great race, but it did.

Shamrock, I may never do you again, but thank you for the amazing experience.



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