Kiawah Half-Marathon Race Recap

Back in August, I accomplished one of my greatest running achievements yet: a sub 1h45m half-marathon finish! Believe me when I say it was no walk in the park: it burned, tested me mentally, and left me sore as hell, but it taught me that these old lady legs of mine still have some fight left in them. 👵🏻

So now I've caught some Ricky Bobby fever: I wanna go fast. I gained a newfound need for speed, so I picked out the flattest (and arguably, the most beautiful) race in the South to test my wheels once again: the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon. And then I spent four months checking off every Track Tuesday, Tempo Thursday, and Long Run Saturday, preparing for what I hope will be my strongest race ever. 

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I ran this race back in 2010 with my mom and sister, so I went into it feeling prepared and fearless. But the one surprise that I wasn't ready for at all: a brutal forecast of 43-degree rain showers. 😒  So pair that curveball with a 4am alarm clock: you can say I wasn't exactly Mr. Rogers on the 1hr. car ride to Kiawah Island. 

But early bird gets the worm and I made it onto the shuttle bus and arrived at the starting line with 15 minutes to spare. I wrestled through hundreds of excited runners and quickly jumped into a 7:48 pace group, who was deep in a team huddle. The leader explained that he was the captain now and he planned to have us start out with a snail's pace of 8:10. His logic was this would keep our legs fresh and help us feel stronger later on in the race. Truth be told, I didn't trust him one bit, but before I had a moment to weigh the pros/cons, the crowd started shuffling towards the starting line to take on the 13.1 miles that lay ahead of us.

Kiawah Marathon

There was no starting line gun that went off (or if there was, Pitbull was rapping way too loudly in my headphones), but instead, a brilliant burst of multi-colored confetti filled the air as we began the race. It was nothing short of magical and it took every ounce of strength within me not to dance around in it like a crazy person. So, instead I started my race with a big cheesy grin and decided to take Captain Pacer's advice of enjoying a more modest pace for the first mile. Lo and behold, he was right: my slower stride granted me negative splits for the first four miles of the race!

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I was feeling stronger than ever, and before I knew it, we were parting ways with the marathon runners at mile 5. The race was flying by, and I was soaking in Kiawah's beauty each step of the way. Even though the sun didn't come out to color the moss-covered trees and grassy marshes, the views were breathtaking nonetheless. I was so grateful to be in this moment and I was so optimistic for the rest of my race.

But then after racking up a few miles, I noticed a concerning trend happening: my darn running app wasn't in sync with the on-course mile marker signs. In fact, I'd say the app was about 0.4 mile ahead of the race! Was my app simply acting up or was the race measured improperly? I was seriously confused about my pace, my distance, and which one to believe. 

Given that I've used this app all training season long, I decided to trust it with my pacing going forward. I convinced myself that the course signs were behind schedule and we would eventually make up for it with a "shorter mile" ahead. So I kept on trucking, trusting that my I was still on par for my best time ever.

Kiawah Half

At mile 8, another unexpected obstacle came my way: an excruciating pain struck in my right hip and begged me to pump my brakes. Determined to fight through it, I pushed on, knowing that I only had about 5 miles left. But those 5 miles were about as tough as they come, and they made me want to quit more than ever before. The pain throbbing in my hip distracted me from enjoying the beauty of the golf course, and I cursed my body for not being as strong as it should have been.

Then to top off my misery, when my running app chimed that I reached 13.1 miles, I looked up to see that the actual finish line wasn't anywhere in sight. My heart fell into my stomach when I finally accepted that since my GPS was off, my pacing must have been too. Therefore there was a very good chance that my goal finish time might have just slipped through my fingers.

Feeling disheartened and defeated, I hobbled the remaining 0.4 miles left of the course until I heard the roars of an excited crowd greeting runners as they finished the race. I rounded the final corner, and then faced the most fantastic runway of spectators and a gigantic inflated finish line about 100 yards away. 

In those last few moments, I completely forgot about my pain and I sprinted with all my might towards the tape. I knew my sweet mom was cheering somewhere in the crowd so I gave those last few steps everything I had to make her proud. I was in such a hustle that I didn't even glance up at the race clock to catch my final time.

Kiawah Half Marathon

Seconds later, my phone buzzed and I received a text with my official race time: 1:44:33... two measly seconds slower than my SeaWheeze finish. My heart broke while I racked my brain at how this could've happened.

I kept my head down until I saw my cheerful mom beaming with happiness and pride. Once I explained the frown on my face to her, she laughed at me in disbelief at how I could be upset about what I just accomplished. She told me I was nothing short of a champion for waking up early and tackling 13.1 miles no matter the speed, and that seeing me out there gave her the spark she needed to get back into running. 

Once I accepted that a new PR wasn't in my cards for today, I agreed with my mom that this morning was pretty darn awesome, for several reasons: 1) After sitting in a 30-minute traffic jam, we were still able to make it to the race start just in the nick of time; 2) Despite the week-long warnings of freezing rain, the clouds parted ways to grant us perfect running conditions; 3) I got to enjoy one of the most beautiful courses in the Southeast; 4) My best friend was there to cheer me on every step of the way. Even though this wasn't my best race ever, I'd certainly say it was one of the most memorable. Therefore, I'll be back for another shot next year, Kiawah!

Kiawah Half Marathon

RACE STATS:

1:44:33 finish time   //   7:59 average pace   //   12th F25-29 out of 217

72nd female out of 1,950 //   282nd overall out of 3,001

Kiawah Half Marathon