On Saturday, December 1st in St. Helens, Oregon I ran my 18th half marathon, the Reindeer Run. I can’t say enough how spectacular ALL of the volunteers were! From the people giving us our bibs to the men handing me prizes at the finish line to the people done with their role and still lingering to show support and cheer, every single volunteer was great. I’ve never felt so appreciated. During the course the volunteers would be genuinely thanking us for participating, and in turn I was genuinely thanking them for putting on such a lovely event for me to participate in! So let’s back it up now and start at the beginning!
I guess for me the start is in the middle of the night while sleeping at my future brother in law’s guest room. I was awoken to the sound of pouring rain and a terrible wind storm. I kept thinking, “will I need to be that person in the garbage bag?” and “Should I get up early to go to the store for rain gear?” Once up for the day I looked outside and it wasn’t all that bad, but still dreary. Oh well, what can ya do? Man Friend and I excitedly put on our Christmas apparel and hopped in the car for the “long” drive just around the corner to the church that was putting on the race. We quickly parked and hurried in to get our bibs. Inside it was glorious! Christmas trees, music inside and outside, and a roaring fire… Heaven!! I decided to go grab my food and water and just hang out by the fire stretching and enjoying the atmosphere. Just before 8:30 we went outside to start the race.
The gun goes off and I just kind of laughed and stretched a bit. The field was so small and I was certain I would be the back of the pack, so I may as well not push to try to get swept up in the initial burst. When I began running it was really nice! Weather-wise it was perfect and dry, I actually had to borrow some free expo sunglasses I had given MF earlier this year. We left the church area and ran along a main road until turning into a neighborhood and farm land. I kept hearing people on my tail (I don’t REALLY have a tail, mind you). I pushed harder than I wanted to since this really was just a training run for me and not a race. But I didn’t want to let these girls pass. Finally I succumbed and said to just let them go, that I knew we’d pass them again. And so there they went… and there I was … THE very last runner in the race. Not a soul behind me. Que sera sera!
I decided on intervals of .4/.1 since they’ve been working so well for me in the past. What hadn’t been working well was my stomach. Soon the ratio was “run when I can and walk when I’m about to vomit”. Great. I think after 4 miles I was officially not last. I did pass those two girls again, as well as another couple. My goal became to stay ahead of them, regardless of how sick I was feeling. *I never did let them pass or even get close to me! About 2 hours into the race I was finally NOT sick and I was ready to run it on home … Hello, Marathon Injury. Fortunately my spirits were high because if they weren’t I’d have been miserable. My leg was hurting pretty bad so we realized we had to walk more just to save myself for Goofy. I wasn’t out to impress anyone or prove anything, so I had that in my favor at least.
The course was very rural. I had to keep avoiding road kill consisting of frogs and mice. I saw some ginormous dogs that I thought were fake at first. A volunteer had a dog in his hands, so I did make a slight detour around mile 10 to go nuzzle my face into his. So sweet! Hilly, another word to describe this course. The middle was flat for the most part, but to get to that point you had to go down and then up, both ways! At least it was an out and back, so the return trip wasn’t any surprise to me!
Coming into the finish I was babying my leg again, just like during the marathon. Once I saw the finish line though, I decided to run it in. And MF, dang it, he tried to keep up, so then I’d have to speed up. Somehow he finished a second before me even though I crossed before him, guess we didn’t start in sync. Next time it’s MINE! We barely crossed the finish and ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ started playing – perfect given MF’s attire for the day! A volunteer handed me a bottle of water and a package in bubble wrap, which I thought was my medal. Then I saw MF get a medal on a lovely lanyard. Huh? Then they gave him bubble wrap, and soon I got a lanyard. Turns out we not only got really nice medals, we also got reindeer Christmas ornaments!
Inside there was an assortment of fruit, bagels, donut holes and coffee. People were mingling and waiting for free massages. I decided to people watch, sing and just enjoy what felt like a big accomplishment. Upon learning that this was my 18th half marathon, one of the volunteers even asked MF if we had any advice on ways to improve. All we had was to put one more water stop at the turn around … I kid you not, I was about to put my face in the ditch and drink the water than was flowing. Gross, but I was THAT thirsty!
But really this was a top notch race! I don’t even go to church but said to MF that if I lived near St. Helens I’d probably have to go at least once just because everybody was so welcoming and nice. I’ll never stop raving about it. Oregonians and SW Washington peeps, if you ever need a December half, I suggest the Reindeer Run!