This morning I ran the Woodrow Wilson Half and I have to say- I think it’s my favorite of all the half marathons I have ever done (and this was #16!). An absolutely beautiful course from Mount Vernon to National Harbor, perfect weather, great organization and amazing company along the way made this race very memorable for me. Here are the details!
My alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. so I could start getting ready for the race. I drank my coffee, ate my usual peanut butter and honey toast and got dressed. It was the chilliest morning we’ve had here since before summer (a little under 40 degrees!), so I went back and forth on what to wear. Eventually I decided on shorts with a short sleeved shirt, and I wore a really old sweatshirt of Kevin’s on top to throw right before the race started. I ended up being very happy with this choice!
Amanda came to my house at 5:45 and we all headed north. Kevin was going to drop us off at Mount Vernon where the race started and then meet us at National Harbor, since this was a point-to-point race. Chanda was already there when we arrived around 6:20 AM. We were really cold, but we quickly tried to find a porta-potty line so we could go before the 7 AM start. It was pretty dark out still and we could only find a single porta-potty with a really long line, so we got in and waited… and waited… and waited. Time kept ticking away and the line wasn’t getting any shorter. The sky started lightening up and soon we were only about 10 minutes away from start time. We were getting nervous!
Once it got lighter we noticed there was a sign on the porta-potty that said it was for elites/VIP runners only. Oops! Clearly a ton of other people missed this memo too. A man came over and told us we had to leave the line so the elites could use it. We were pretty annoyed because we had been waiting for almost 40 minutes at this point (this was literally my only complaint about the entire race). We decided to leave the line and go pee in the woods really quickly before the race start. I’m a veteran at this but the other girls were a little more hesitant. I was happy to show them it’s no big deal 🙂 Once we finally were able to go we felt a lot better and were able to hop right into our corral a few minutes before the start.
I felt relaxed, excited and ready to run! It was a beautiful morning! I said goodbye to Chanda and Amanda and we were off!
The first mile or so is entirely downhill so it was hard not to go too fast. I said I wouldn’t but of course I did! How could I not? I didn’t have any real goal for this race. I just wanted to enjoy myself and go with how I felt. I felt amazing in the moment, so I went with it 🙂
- Mile 1 – 8:23
- Mile 2 – 8:18
- Mile 3 – 8:24
Running on this course brought back a lot of memories for me because it is on the George Washington Parkway which runs alongside the Mount Vernon Trail. I have done many long runs on this trail and am very familiar with it, yet somehow I forgot that there are quite a few rolling hills. Nothing too terrible, but enough to make you work to get up and over them. Not surprisingly, once the hills started my pace slowed down a bit, but I was so happy and felt strong so I didn’t notice much.
- Mile 4 – 8:30
- Mile 5 – 8:39
- Mile 6 – 8:24
The course continued to wind through the trees and along the Potomac River. It was so gorgeous, and looking around the scenery really made the miles fly by. In the photo below of the river, you can actually see the bridge we were running towards in the left corner! However, shortly after mile 7 I started feeling that gurgly feeling in my stomach that no runner wants to feel during a run and especially not a race. Luckily I saw a porta-potty a few minutes later and made a beeline towards it. Talk about perfect placement!
- Mile 7 – 8:45
- Mile 8 – 10:34 (<— potty break)
After my bathroom stop I was pretty happy I had no real expectations for this race! I didn’t feel guilty or bad at all for having to stop for a potty break and just got right back to it- although it was a little hard to get my momentum going again after stopping. But I felt about 100x better and was happy that whatever it was that didn’t agree with me was gone! At about mile 8.5 we started heading into an out-and-back part of the race through Old Town Alexandria. I LOVE this area with all of its cute shops. It was a nice change of scenery, and seeing the runners who were on their way back was motivating. It was also really cool to run straight through all of the many red lights we usually have to stop at when we’re going through this area!
- Mile 9 – 9:01
The turn-around point was around mile 9.5. I was hoping I would see Chanda and Amanda on my way back and I did! I checked my watch when I saw them pass and noticed they were ahead of pace (Chanda’s goal was under 2:10, which would be a PR for her). I saw Amanda first and then Chanda a few seconds after her. Seeing them gave me a boost of energy, and I enjoyed my last mile before heading on to the bridge that would take me to the finish!
- Mile 10 – 8:47
Around mile 10.5 we made our way on to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. I have driven across this bridge many times and Kevin and I even ran on it once a few years ago, but the experience of running across it with thousands of other people was amazing! It almost made me forget I was running up a pretty intense hill! Of course I had to stop at the top to take a picture 🙂
- Mile 11 – 8:58
One of the coolest parts of running on the bridge was running through the sign that said Welcome to Maryland (in the photo below- but it’s really small!). I couldn’t believe I ran to Maryland! After that we started running on the ramp to cross back over the highway and exit the bridge. I could see National Harbor ahead and I was so excited!
- Mile 12 – 9:10
I texted Kevin that I was getting off the bridge and he started taking some photos as I got closer to the finish line. We circled around the water and then headed to the finish area.
- Mile 13 – 8:44
And then I was done!
- Finish Time – 1:56:20 / 8:53 average pace
I quickly grabbed a bagel, banana, and some water, dropped it off with Kevin, James (Chanda’s husband) and our babies, and ran to try to meet Chanda and Amanda. The end of the course was all roped and fenced off, so it was hard to get too far out. I was afraid I would miss them, so I just hopped a barrier and waited about .10 miles from the finish line. I saw Amanda and her bright pink compression sleeves coming through first.
And Chanda was only about 30 seconds behind her!
I hopped in with Chanda and ran with her to the finish. I was so excited for her because she’s been working toward a sub 2:10 half marathon, and she DID IT!
Both Chanda and Amanda finished in 2:08 and were all smiles when they were done! They loved the race as much as I did.
We hung around for a little while discussing the race and eating some food. I also got some snuggles from my #1 fan. I love him!
Eventually we got pretty chilly again so we headed out. I could not stop smiling on the way home. It was such a great race!
I hope I can run the Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon every year! It was actually ranked amongst the top 27 best half marathons in the U.S. by Runner’s World in 2013, and I love that it’s practically in my backyard. I’m also so happy I was finally able to run it, since it was rescheduled last year due to the government shutdown and the fact that the course goes through national parks. They ended up rescheduling it for the same weekend as the Outer Banks Marathon, so Amanda and I had to defer. It feels good to finally complete it! Also, the race director apologized for the porta potty issue afterwards and promised that would not be a problem in the future, so that was nice to hear.
I am so proud of my friends for their awesome performances too. Chanda got a new PR, and Amanda kicked butt in preparation for her full marathon next month. My friend Gina was also there and got 8th in her age group for the 6K race! I was also very happy with my time considering I had no real expectations, and made a bathroom stop and some photo stops along the way. What a wonderful way to spend a fall Sunday morning. I’ll see you next year, Wilson Bridge!
Edited later to add- at the time of this race I was actually 8 weeks pregnant! That explains the slower pace and the potty breaks 🙂