Tuesday, March 11, 2014

26.2 with Donna Half Marathon

Love. Hope. Strength. If you've checked out my runDonna Expo post, you know that these words sum up my race experience like no other!
After driving from Orlando to Jacksonville, then hitting up the expo, and attending the Mayo Clinic dinner with my fellow ambassadors, I was tired. Race morning for the 26.2 with Donna Half Marathon seemed to come so fast. Liz picked me up at my hotel at zero dark thirty. Somehow I forgot that I was in a hotel and didn't plan for my pre-race meal. Liz to the rescue! I'm forever grateful to her because she arrived with coffee and bagels from Dunkin Donuts! My hotel was a short drive to the Mayo Clinic, so parking there with a parking pass was convenient. We took the shuttle to the start. It was dark and kind of chilly, so being in the shuttle kept us warm for just a little bit longer.

As we arrived at the 26.2 with Donna Runners' Village, the sun was starting to rise! There were runners everywhere. And not just any runners. Runners decked out from head to toe in pink. I knew we would be painting the city pink, but to see it come together in real life was awesome! There was a silent bond among us runners. We were there for a reason. We were ready to help finish breast cancer. And I was ready to do my part!
While hanging around the corrals, I ran into several friends from Twitter. There's nothing better than spotting familiar faces at a race! I was excited to see Jen, who was running the half. Every time I see her, it's usually just for a second or two. So we decided to run the first few miles together! I was slightly nervous about the race. Coming off of the 5K and 10K at Disney, I didn't want any issues with my foot to creep up. We kept things nice and easy for the first couple miles.

Around mile 3, Liz and I said goodbye to Jen. I had so much fun being able to run with her! The crowds really picked up around mile 4. There were people hanging out in the streets and driveways. The road was lined with running cheerleaders. Talk about encouraging!
We arrived at the beach at mile six. It was crazy to think we were almost half way done. It felt like we had just started. I wasn't sure about the sand at first. I have never run on sand. I don't even like sand. It's a fact. But I discovered that running on sand during a race is a different story. It was amazing!
After the beach, we were back on the roads. Once again we were surrounded by people cheering! I have never felt so supported before. Around mile 7, Liz took off on her own. This was her first half and she wanted to see what she could do. I wished her well and continued on. The funny thing is that I was never alone. All the other runners and spectators were there. Running side by side with survivors and those currently battling breast cancer was indescribable. We were all part of something bigger and I knew that.

The second half of the course had more hills. There was a ramp and a big ole' bridge. I'll be honest with ya....I had no idea about this bridge. I don't always check out the routes of races because I don't like worrying about what lies ahead. This bridge was no joke. And it was pretty much the only hurdle between runners and the finish.
After the bridge, it was just a short run to the 26.2 with Donna finish line. You could hear the crowd cheering and the after party music. It was all I needed to turn it up and finish strong. And I did just that!
My runDonna experience was amazing! From being an ambassador, to fundraising, and running, I owe a BIG thanks to everyone for your support! 

4 comments:

  1. Way to go Ashley! This race is on my bucket list; maybe in the next year or two!!

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  2. I was so happy to actually get to spend some time with you! Hope we can plan to meet up when I come back down to Orlando in October...I'll need some girl time after being around all boys! :)

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  3. Congrats! One day I'm gonna do this race!

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  4. Great recap! It was so nice to meet you! Good job on your busy running weekend! :)

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