13.1 miles in 2:27 minutes.
This was the race that almost wasn’t. The Rutgers Unite Half Marathon was on deck to be my third and Chris’ first half marathon. We started training in January and put in between 10 and 20 miles a week for 16 weeks. Our longest run was an 11 miler, and our estimated finish time was 2:30. Our only goal was to finish the race though. Chris began really running last summer, so he moved pretty quickly up to a half marathon, and I just wanted to be sure he had a good training experience and a great race.
Unfortunately, the week of the race we heard dire predictions for race day weather. We were supposed to get rain. A lot of rain. And the race is in an area that is very flood prone. Last year, they shortened the race to 10 miles due to flooding, so it was looking very much like we might not be running a half marathon. We panicked in the beginning of the week and stopped checking the weather by Wednesday. Our nerves were just too frayed. Luckily, the running gods were on our sides, and we woke up race morning to cloudy but dry skies.
5am– wake up. Chris showers. I don’t. I’m gross like that. We both nervously eat cereal and drink some coffee. We change (shorts, short sleeve tech tee, socks, sneakers and a fleece) and pack a bag with rain jackets, long sleeve tech tees, extra socks, our numbers and gels. After hitting the bathroom 48 times and kissing Miles good bye, we hit the road.
6am– on the road to Rutgers in New Brunswick, NJ. I drive. We stop on the way down to pee again. Nervous.
6:45am– arrive at Rutgers. Chris and I use our super alumni knowledge to avoid the suggested parking deck and find sweet on street parking (free on the weekends!) We debate what to wear. It’s about 50 degrees out and very overcast but not yet raining. We decide we’ll probably be too hot in our jackets, so we opt for long sleeve tech tees, shorts, no jackets. If it rains, it rains and we’ll be wet. We pin on our numbers and head to the shuttle. I bring only my key, my Garmin and one pack of Gu Chomps.
7:30am– we catch a shuttle to the start line in Piscataway. We only waited for about 10 minutes, which was nice, and the shuttle’s not too crowded.
7:45am– arrive at start. We hit the porta potties. Again. There were plenty and barely any lines. So far, this race has been extremely well run.
7:55am– line up at start. This is a mass start. There are pacers, but no defined corrals. We line up between the 11 min/mile and 12 min/mile pacers. The Scarlet Knight (Rutgers’ mascot) is out taking pictures with the runners, but neither of us has a camera for fear of it getting soaked. He looks like this
He’s the man. None of the following pictures are mine. No camera, remember? They play Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Everyone around us is talking really loudly. Yep, we’re in New Jersey. We love it.
8am– elite runners start.
8:01am– we start! The gun goes, and it takes us about 2 minutes to make it up to the starting line. There’s about 4,000 runners out today. The race is chipped, but I’ve also got my Garmin which I start when we cross the line.
Mile 1– the first mile takes us around Busch campus through graduate housing and various academic buildings. There’s DJ music, live music and a few spectators and already a water stop. The roads are closed. The course is very open and scenic. There’s not much to look at at this point, but the frat boys handing out water and gatorade look absolutely miserable, which makes us laugh a bit imagining what force of nature or academia got them out of bed and volunteering so early on a Sunday. We guess double secret probation.
Miles 2– the second mile sends us to Livingston campus. It’s hilly. There are no hills in Jersey City, so we struggle a bit, but keep our pace under 11:30. We pass more live music, which is awesome. We pee. Again.
Miles 3-5– these miles take us around the most un-scenic part of Rutgers. We’re behind warehouses and dorms. It’s not too pretty, but there are 2 more water/gatorade stops and more miserable but good humored frat boys. We see the race leaders pass us in the other direction after hitting the first turnaround. People cheer for the first male. People go bananas for the first female. Get ’em girl!
Mile 6– this takes us past the RAC where the Rutgers’ basketball teams play. This is kind of fun, and we’re finally starting to see the good parts, but the hills are killing us. The rain starts. At first, we think it’s just the remnants of someone’s tossed water cup, but no it’s definitely drizzling. I check in with Chris. He’s been very upbeat and talkative, so I assume he’s doing well, but neither of us was really excited for rain, so I want to know how he’s feeling. He says great and gives me a huge smile. I feel super proud. I smile like a dope and trip on my shoe. I catch myself. Crisis averted. We both remark on how quickly the first half went by and how lucky we are the rain waited until now. We take our first gels. We packed Gu Chomps, and we each take 4. I feel instantly more alive.
Mile 7– by Mile 7, we’re back on Busch. We hit the halfway point and we can hear the DJ playing Jimmy Eat World, The Middle. I tell a hilarious joke about how we’re listening to the middle… in the middle of the race! Chris fake laughs. I smile because I’m so lucky to have someone who fake laughs at all my unfunny jokes even while in the midst of the most physically grueling thing he’s ever endured. We pass the Rutgers golf course and see the 10 minute milers passing us in the other direction following a turnaround point. My friend Judy spots us and cheers. She looks AWESOME! Go Judes! There’s more live music. We hit the turnaround feeling really strong.
Rutgers Golf Course
Mile 8– a frat boy handing out Gatorade tells us we should stop to drink it since we’re not going to win anyway. I scowl at him. We pass more live music heading out of Busch Campus
Miles 9-11– we head into and around Johnson Park for our last miles in Piscataway. We can hear people cheering from across the Raritan River over in New Brunswick. That’s where we’ll finish. It pumps us up big time. At mile nine, I take two more Gu Chomps. It’s really raining at this point. It’s in our eyes and getting sort of annoying. I check in with Chris. He’s still awesome. He says his legs are tired, but he feels really good. I love him. The frat boys are still handing out water and Gatorade. They’re still pretty miserable, but there’s two more bands in the park, and all the volunteers are cheering. We see Judy pass us again. She still looks awesome! The hills are finally done for a bit.
Mile 12– we are out of Piscataway and into New Brunswick. We’ve now officially run farther than Chris has ever gone before. I smack his butt and yell, “How cool is that!” He smiles, but says he’s starting to feel run down. We take some more Gu Chomps. He says he knows he can finish now. Duh. I’ve known that since mile 1, silly. We head into Buccelech Park. Here are some spectators, in the rain, cheering their faces off. That makes us smile. We hit the second to last hill and the rain is really coming, but we’re smiling and keeping our eyes on the prize.
Mile 13– we’re out of the park. We go up one last hill. Chris is struggling, but he picks up the pace and looks really strong and determined, and I tell him, “One hill, one straightaway, and you’re done.” I tell him how proud I am and take in the fact that this is the first half marathon I’ve ever run with anyone let alone my best friend, and my heart swells like the Grinch on Christmas morning.
13.1– as we approach the finish line, Chris grabs my hand. We held hands over the finish line at our 10k last week, but I figured he only let me do that since it was my birthday. This makes me immensely happy. We speed up, cross the finish line in 2:27, and freak out.
Post race– I give Chris a huge hug and a big sweaty kiss and tell him how much I love him and how proud I am of him. He looks so happy. It makes me happy. We freak out some more. We collect our shiny new finisher’s medals and head through the chute. We grab water and oranges. They’re out of bananas, but they have bread and cookies and peanut butter and pizza. I take all of the things and forget that I care about gluten.
10:50 ish– we head back to the car, put on some drier clothes and our awesome new rain jackets. We stash our medals, call our moms (they worry) and grab an umbrella. We head out to Sanctuary for some post race foods.
11:01- we get to Sanctuary. The sign on the door says they open at 11. No one is inside. Oh college. We head to Hansel and Griddle for chicken wraps and eat them in Student Center reliving the good old days.
11:45– we drag out butts back to the car and head home to Jersey City. I drive. Chris tells me how happy he is. I tell him how happy I am for him. We are both so happy our car takes out and we fly home on a cloud. Not really. We spend the rest of the ride discussing how maybe we could do a triathlon, how we definitely will do many more halfs together, how and why nipples chafe, what Body Glide is, which of us will sleep better than night and how very glad we are that the now torrential rains waited until we were done running our race. The race that almost wasn’t.
I got to run a race with my best friend at my alma mater. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
Summary: The Rutgers Unite Half Marathon was an awesome race. The pre race logistics and expo were really well organized. The race day parking and shuttles were easy to navigate. There were tons of porta potties. The race started on time. There were lots of water and Gatorade stops and many friendly and helpful volunteers. The course was hilly but scenic and uncrowded. The finish was efficient and incredibly well stocked with deliciousness. Overall I give this race an 8 out of 10. Even if you’re not a Rutgers alum, you’ll like this race.