30 Before 30: A Birthday Half Marathon

Guest Blogger:  Brandon Boucher

When I was planning out the races I wanted to do before the end of the year I figured it would be cool to do a race on my birthday, December 1st.  This year my birthday landed on a Saturday so I figured I could find a 5K somewhere, but low and behold, I find the Annapolis Half Marathon.  Score.   As Jessica and I were planning out the weekend—waking up at 4AM and an hour drive to Annapolis, Maryland—the race was looking less and less appealing.  So we decided to make a weekend of it.

Packing for the trip was easy.  I brought next to everything running related I own.  I wasn’t a 100% sure what the weather was going to do so I wanted to be prepared.  I packed a suit case full of my running stuff and a small bag for my normal clothes.  Jessica had made a reservation at a nice restaurant for my birthday so I made sure to include a nice button up shirt.

As I was packing my shoes, which are Mizuno Inspires, I notice a few things.  The sole of my shoes are starting to look pretty smooth, and all the traction has started to wear away and little things here and there are starting to fray and tear.  I bought these shoes in early June.  They have some miles left in them, but not very many.  I stuff them in my bag and we’re off to Annapolis. 

After an hour we arrive in Annapolis and quickly find the race start.  Further on we come up to the state capital building and down town Annapolis.  We walk around the shops for a bit and find a place to have a quick snack.  Then we head over to the hotel and check in. A quick change of clothes and we’re off to The Chop House for my birthday dinner.  The Chop House is an upscale steak house.  The menus were on an iPad, and when you clicked on a picture of a menu item, a brief description of that item came up.  The wine list was huge! And it featured an $1100 bottle of something or another.  I begged and begged but Jessica wouldn’t let me get it.  It’s my birthday dinner after all!  Something about bills and a wedding and more bills kept me from getting that bottle of wine.  Oh well, I had a Guinness instead.  After dinner Jessica arranged for the staff to bring out some vanilla gelato with a candle.  I make a wish and blow it out.  After a great dinner, we head back to the hotel.  I lay out my clothes that I might need for the morning and turn in. 

The next morning I wake up at 5 am for a 7 am race start.  The hotel is not far from the start so there’s no rush.  I grab a honey stinger waffle and start to get ready.  I checked my phone to get the weather, 45 degrees, feels like 40 degrees, with some clouds.  All right, I can deal with that.  I put on a base layer, Mizuno breath thermo long sleeve shirt, Brooks shorts, a running pant and my shoes with some thin wool socks.  At 5:30 am I woke Jessica so she can start to get ready.  We’re out the door by 5:45.  Apparently, last year, this race had a few problems with the distance of the course and parking, and they recommended we arrive by 6AM.  This year there were no problems and we were able to park without a hitch. 

On the way over, I notice it is dark, really dark, and I can’t really see very far.  It’s fog, pea soup, dense grey heavy fog.  We hang out in the car until 15 min before the start.  I started my normal stretching and ate my last power bar gel and before making my way over to the start.  At this point it is still really foggy and it’s not too warm.  I decide to leave my running pants in the car and run in shorts, long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves.  I kiss Jessica and she wishes me a happy birthday, and then I head to the starting line and seed myself near the front.  The starting horn is blown and I’m off.

The start was at the Navy Marine Corps stadium in Annapolis and we head around the stadium and out to the street.  Now, when I was researching this race I looked at the course map.  After studying the map for a couple minutes I was thoroughly confused.  It looks like there a bunch of out and backs and loops and meh, I was confused! And I don’t get lost! Ever! So I follow the pack as me make the first turn.  I get about 50 yards down the road and I hear someone yelling.  “COME BACK” “DON’T TURN!!!!”  The race volunteer had sent us down the wrong road.  Crap.  I turn around and head back and get back on the right course.  But now I’m stuck in the crowd. It’s not bad, everyone is running the same pace.  About 3 miles in I get passed by someone who is flying, then again by a pack of three or four runners.  They were the race leaders; they never got the word to turn around.  Oh well, I don’t feel bad, the way they were running, they will be in the front in no time. 

By now the sun had come up, but the fog is so dense, I don’t notice.   All I can see is grey.  I crossed over a bridge and I can barely make out the shore, and that’s only because of some lights on a house.  We start to head in to downtown Annapolis and near the capitol building.  Again, I don’t see much, it’s too foggy just a grey abyss. We head through old town and around by the Naval Academy.  Soon we’re heading out of town and at mile 5 the fog starts to get really dense and I can’t see very far in front of me.  My legs start to burn and I can feel my feet begin to hurt.  My shoes need to be updated I think to myself.  But that doesn’t explain my legs.  I’m also breathing heavier and I can feel myself slowing down.  I start to look around and get my bearings.  I’m running uphill, across a bridge over the Severn River.  I can’t see the water below, I’m waiting for the eerie fog horn to sound in the distance, but it never comes.  I crest the bridge and start to make my way down the bridge, and I begin to make out the shapes of trees in the distance.  The next three miles, are fairly boring.  I see the runners who flew past me earlier.  Like I suspected, they had made their way to the front and were leading.  I hit the last turn around and start my way back to the bridge.  Same thing, I have to get my bearings to realize I’m running uphill.  Some spectators have set up at the crest of the bridge.  They have an iPod blasting Moves Like Jagger by Maroon Five.  I hate this song.  During my first marathon every time I ran past a band or music stand they were playing that song, and for 26.2 miles I had Moves Like Jagger stuck in my head.  Anyway, a few signs caught my eye.  My favorite was “you trained longer then Kim Kardashian’s marriage.”  Funny stuff!  After the bridge, at mile 10, I see something that I won’t soon forget.  At this point my feet really hurt, and my legs are starting to get fatigued and not feeling good.   Then a fellow runner asks me, “did you see a runner dressed as Santa Claus running a half marathon whilst juggling.” I reply, “yes, I saw a runner dressed as Santa Claus running a half marathon whilst juggling.” He returns, “good, I’m not feeling so hot right now and I thought I was in trouble there for a second.”   I chuckle and continue on.  I ran past an overly enthusiastic spectator who asked “if I’m having fun?” I replied “of course! It’s my birthday!!”  It’s not far now, the fog keeps the stadium hidden in the distance.  Slowly it starts to emerge through the fog.  I cross the line at 1:38:09. 

As I cross the line I get a quick photo, a finisher medal and a foil blanket.  It’s still a little cold and I’m soaked in mist and sweat.  I found Jessica and we head over to grab my shirt and head back to the hotel.  My time is two minutes slower than my PR at the Navy Half Marathon, but with the hills during this race it’s pretty close to even.  I also have to say that running in that dense of fog was pretty cool.  How often does that happen?  Jingle All The Way 8K is next.

About mileoneandcounting

I'm a young professional living in the Washington, DC area. Since moving here in 2007 I have honed a passion for running and fitness. Growing up I played soccer and softball (and tested track & field for one year). After college I ran a few 5K races, but running was really only a means to staying in shape for me. Never in my wildest imagination had I thought I'd ever run a marathon, let alone three. Nor did I think I'd get the running bug after doing so, but I'll admit I'm hooked! Over the years my blog has grown into so much more than a running blog though. Sometimes I have deep thoughts. Other times I'm simply sharing a training story or a review of a product. Here's the place where you'll learn about me through my many adventures--even I enjoy going back to re-read some posts from time to time. I've also been able to hone my love for health and wellness through my business called IDLife which stands for Individually Designed Life. I'd love to help inspire you to live your best life yet so please don't hesitate to reach out to me and may my words resonate with you. See you on the trails...
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