I kept my sweats on until they started walking to the start. Then I took them and the neck gaiter I'd borrowed from my mom off and stashed them in the jail near the start area. Thomas and I saw Jeremy and we all ended up together. Jeremy didn't have anything to shed so he headed to the start while Thomas and I stashed our stuff. The race is supposed to start between 10:10 and 10:15 but they just start it whenever the parking lots are clear of cars. I figured it would start early this year because there weren't as many people as usual at the park due to the cold weather. This was the first year I'd ever run the race in tights, I'd always run in shorts before which means it was always mid 30's-40's for the race. Everything worked out perfectly to where I never felt cold. My toes had been numb but my warm up warmed me up enough that they were fine when the race started. Just as I'd predicted, the race started before 10:10. It took off super fast. Thomas had said he planned to go out really fast and then die. I joked I'd be seeing him in about a mile. In actuality it wasn't until about a mile and a half that I caught up to him. The first half mile is all downhill and my hamstring was not pleased. Between the cold and the pounding of the downhill I felt it tighten up almost into a knot and I was worried. Thankfully when we reached the bottom of the hill where we turn around in a parking lot and run back uphill it loosened up and was fine the rest of the race.
Jeremy and I were running similarly for the first 2 miles. I'd pass him and then he'd pass me back. There was a steady stream of shirtless runners with their shirts tied around their heads or necks who passed us at the beginning on the downhill and we passed a lot of them back later in the race. They seemed to be from a high school team and mom said all their yelling and chanting before the race got her super pumped up and she took out too fast. My first mile was 6:24. My fastest time on this course was in 2016 when I ran 19:45. That was also the year I ran my 15k PR so I figured I'd be significantly slower than that. Last year I ran 20:40 and I knew I could beat that. I assumed I'd be somewhere around 20:15-20:30. I knew in 2015 I ran the first mile in 6:25 so I was a little under that time and knew I could run a stronger last 2 miles than that year. Jeremy and I passed Thomas on the out and back section in the parking lot and I saw I was 3rd overall female. Jeremy pulled ahead of me up the first big hill. I was glad to have a flatter straightaway after that hill so I could get up to speed after all the turning. I was slowly catching the 2nd place female who had a decent lead on me after the first mile. She was wearing a light up vest like Jeremy which made it easy to zone in on her.
Jeremy and I were running side by side as I went through the 2nd mile in 6:54, I knew outside of 2016 I had run the 2nd mile in over 7:00 every year so I knew I was going to run a faster time than 2015 or 2017. I pulled ahead of Jeremy entering Silver Dollar City and kept looking ahead to the runners in front of me. There are a bunch of turns once you enter Silver Dollar City and I always feel a little frustrated during the last mile that I just can't ever seem to get up to speed because as you make it around a turn you go into the next one. There were a couple times where I wasn't sure where to go but then I caught sight of the girl wearing the light up vest ahead of me, thankfully. I felt like she had a good 15-20 second lead on me but I knew it wasn't out of the question to catch her, especially if she died. I passed quite a few men as we weaved our way around Silver Dollar City. My Garmin battery was really low so I had been worried it was going to die during the race but it was still going strong. The lights in the park are so amazing and I find myself in awe every year as I run through them. We hit that last big hill going up toward the finish and I didn't have anyone near me so it was hard to find the motivation to push up it. There was a volunteer standing about half-way up it cheering for everyone and he was really awesome. I smiled at him and he really hammed it up for me. I took off once I crested the hill and sprinted with all my might toward the finish line and around the turns. The spectators were awesome and were going nuts, I loved it. I was shocked when I neared the finish line and saw the clock just switching over to 20 minutes. I had no idea I was running so well. I was expecting to finish closer to 20:30 or so.
|Jeremy was 1st in his age group.|
|Thomas was 2nd in the same age group.|
|1st in my age group.|
I showered in my parents' room when we got back to the hotel so I wouldn't wake the kids or Ty. It was so sweet to see the kids nestled together sleeping in bed. I was so pumped about how my race went I had a hard time falling asleep. This race was exactly what I needed after my painful and disappointing race at the Tulsa Run. I was so miserable during that race and felt so awful I didn't really even want to run the marathon anymore. After this race I was excited to run again and it gave me my confidence back that I can run a good race with minimal pain! I definitely needed that and I'm so glad I ran this race!