Following is a guest post by Team Zer, Eileen S., who recently completed her first half marathon in Virginia Beach, the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon.   Way to go, Eileen!   Let this be the first of many happy half marathons!

Kevin and I signed up for the Shamrock Half marathon as our very first half marathon.  We did our best to follow the training plan over the winter, but a number of factors, including the weather, kept us from completing a number of the long runs.  Still, we headed off to Virginia Beach hoping that the training that we were able to do prepared us enough to complete the race.  We spent Saturday cheering on the runners in the 8k race, and then enjoyed the pre-race dinner, met dozens of other Zers, and listened to Alexis’ pep talk.  We were ready.

We set three goals for the race:

  1. Start;
  2. Finish;
  3. Don’t get injured.

Since it was our first half, as long as we finished, we were guaranteed a PR, so neither of us was concerned about time.

We anticipated windy and cold conditions on race morning and were pleasantly surprised when we woke up to perfect running weather ”“ 40s with very little wind.  Score!  We ambled the few blocks from our hotel to the start line, found our corral, and lined up with all the other runners.

When our wave was released, we started off the race to cheers on all sides.  There was so much energy and enthusiasm all around us, it was amazing.  When we hit the first mile mark, it felt like we had gone only a few blocks.  Pretty early on, we passed the first beer stop.  I had heard there was beer on the course, but I didn’t think that there was, in fact, beer, being offered, on the course.  As tempting as it was, we passed on the opportunity, but based on the number of empty cups scattered on the roadway, it was popular among many of the runners.

At about the 2 1/2 mile mark, we saw a jumping banana with a vuvuzela.  Alexis.  Yes!!  We knew he’d be there to cheer us and all the runners on, and boy, did he ever.  In style, and with gusto!

Just before the 3 mile mark, when we turned onto Shore Drive to start the 6 1/2 mile loop around Fort Story, we saw the two leaders heading back at the end of the loop at the 9 1/2 mile mark.  Holy crap were they fast.  Their strides were so long and smooth, it looked like they were on wheels.  I remember thinking that we had a looong way to go before we got to where they are now.

The next three miles went pretty well.  There weren’t many spectators in that stretch, but we passed a couple bands keeping the energy up with music.  Then we turned into Fort Story at about Mile 6.  No more spectators.  No more bands.  No more beer or water stops.  Miles 6 through 9 were pretty quiet, a bit boring actually.  My legs started to get tired, and my right knee was sore.

By the time we exited Fort Story at 9 1/2, I had run longer than I ever had before, and I was definitely feeling it.    I thought about walking a bit, but then I heard Alexis with the vuvuzela again.  I looked back and saw his bright orange Boston marathon jacket, and was motivated to keep going.

At about mile 11, my chest started feeling tight, and I wished I had brought my inhaler with me.  I slowed to a walk, concentrated on breathing and getting air in my lungs, and after several scary minutes, the feeling went away and I felt like I could continue.  I alternated running and walking for most of the rest of the race.  Kevin had run with me the entire race, and I told him he could go ahead–I didn’t want to hold him back, as it was his first half as well.  He said no–we ran the first 11 miles together, we’ll finish it together.  So we did, and crossed the finish line together.

We collected all of the awesome swag in the finisher’s chute, and then went into the tent for the finish line celebration.  Beer and stew never tasted so good!  We hung out there for a bit, caught up with some other Zers, rang the PR bell, and then back to the hotel for a nap and shower.

All in all, it was a fun race, and a great weekend.  It definitely would not have been the same without Alexis and the rest of Team Z.  Such incredible energy, support, and enthusiasm.  I’m ready to sign up for my next one ”“ perhaps at Disney World in January.

— Eileen S.