Around the time my MBA program was winding down, I started to notice how far my weight had crept up from all of that stress eating I did my last two semesters. I dusted off my old running shoes and went for a run with my crew and told them I was thinking of signing up for a full marathon this fall to get my butt back in shape. Thankfully they talked me into signing up for a half marathon instead and we chose the inaugural Ron Jon Cocoa Beach Half Marathon. I’m not sure how we chose this race, but I think timing-wise it worked for us and it happened to have a really cool Genie Bottle medal. I’m not a big medal person (I end up stashing them all in a big fish bowl), but appreciated that the race was near Orlando.
Just three weeks into our training, I found out I was pregnant and not long after that I had to take three weeks off from running due to the pregnancy. I rejoined my friends in training at the start of my second trimester and knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Sure, it was muggy so the runs were a struggle for all of us but I couldn’t seem to get enough air! And what the heck was up with my bladder? Why did I feel like I needed to pee all of the time?
I kept up with the girls for a few weeks until one long run I just couldn’t keep up. After a mile I split from the group and finished my six miler on my own. From then on, I was running all of my runs on my own. Thank God my husband is terrified I’ll fall and die, so he’s been riding his bike or running with me. I even got to fit in some training runs during our vacation in Portland, Maine and Boston.
Unfortunately, I approached the half marathon start with an 8-mile run being my longest training run. I like my longest run to be at least 10 miles, and knew I was going to pull 5 miles out of somewhere on race day.
I knew the expo was being held behind the race’s main sponsor, Ron Jon, so I didn’t expect much out of the expo. My friends and I showed up around 2pm and got through the packet pick-up line pretty quickly. It took us about another three minutes to walk the “expo” and then snapped some shots as Jeannie before we headed off to find some lunch.
The race started at 7:45am, but we had to board our shuttle to the start of the race no later than 5:45am. Afraid I would not fuel enough before the race, I ate everything I could get my hands on over the course of three hours:
- Starbucks oatmeal (bought the day before)
- Apple (courtesy of our hotel)
- Pastry (courtesy of our hotel)
- Nutri-Grain bar (courtesy of our hotel)
- Banana (courtesy of our hotel)
The only thing I ate in the hotel was the oatmeal. The rest I ate as we walked the mile from our hotel to the shuttle busses and once we got to the start line. I can say that running out of fuel was never an issue with the race. I was fully fueled for the 13 miles.
It didn’t take us long to get to the race start on our shuttle, and found ourselves there with two hours to spare as we waited for the race start. We used the time to take pictures, watch the sunrise, snack on our hotel goodies, stretch, and use the porta potties.
I started the race with my friends, but it wasn’t long before we split up since I’m now a slow, pregnant runner and they are not. For the first time in a long time, I popped in some ear buds and settled into my run while looking for the next set of porta potties. Basically, I have to stop every two miles to use the restroom. The first mile I feel okay, and then I spend the next mile looking for a restroom. It’s pretty much the story of my pregnant life.
Around mile 6 I saw my husband who told me he would jump into the race with me to keep me some company as soon as I looped back out of the park we were running into. I took the opportunity to use the park restroom, then he joined up with me as I exited the park. I’ve never run a race with my husband before, mainly because he’s a fast runner, so it was nice to have his company.
Around mile 8, that familiar IT band pain started to creep up on me and I knew the minutes I had to bend my knees were numbered. Around that time the beach portion of the race began as well. Don’t get me wrong, beach runs are beautiful. But running three miles at the end of a half marathon is hard, especially when you aren’t used to running on the beach. I knew it was going to be a struggle and I was right.
Somewhere during the beach part of the race, I started to notice that my run was pretty much as slow as my walk and decided to switch to walking permanently. My husband didn’t seem to mind. He said he was enjoying our beach walk. Ha!
I think I tried to shout out with glee when I saw the runners ahead of me heading off the beach, but what actually came out probably sounded more like a grunt. Around this time, my husband ran off towards a bar that was open to see if he could use their bathroom and I walked ahead knowing he could catch up. I should probably mention that there were plenty of bathrooms during the first half of the race, but the second half of the race was seriously lacking rest stops. Oddly enough, after my six mile restroom stop, I think my bladder became numb to the bouncing and squishing by my little one and I didn’t have to go. Thank goodness because I would’ve been out of luck.
Admittedly, I wondered aloud several times if it would be silly to quit with less than a couple of miles to go. It was nice having my husband there to remind me that I would have to walk back to the start regardless. When we hit the final mile stretch, I tried to run but my legs were shot. I decided to save my legs for the final 20 yards.
Finally we approached the park where the finish line was and I could see the finish line. I sucked it up and started to run and managed to finish the race in under three and a half hours. As soon as I finished, I sought out a medical tent to wrap my knees with ice. That ice was glorious.
We found my friends sitting nearby and we all congratulated each other on finishing a tough race. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one that struggled running during those three miles on the beach. But guess what? We all finished! And I finished my first race pregnant!
Afterwards, we had to walk a mile back to our hotel, which was torture. We quickly rinsed off, tossed on our bathing suits, checked out of our room, grabbed breakfast at the Waffle House and then spent the afternoon laying on the beach.
Overall, I would consider running this race again if I needed a local half marathon to run, but I wouldn’t put it on anyone’s “must-run” list or choose it for their first race. This time of the year in central Florida is still pretty hot (we were lucky enough to have cloud coverage but it was still in the 80’s) and running 13 miles is hard enough without tossing in three miles on sand. And if bathroom stops are important to you, be weary of the lack of bathrooms towards the back half of the race. The race, however, does get props for letting me watch the sun rise on the beach while waiting for the race start.
- Time: 3:25:23.0
- Distance: 13.28 miles
- Avg. Pace: 15:28
- Local race if you live in the Central Florida area
- Watch the sunrise at the start of the race
- Cool genie bottle metal
- A lot of runners dressed up like Jeannie so that was fun
- It’s typically still hot in Central Florida in October
- Running on the beach for three miles is brutal if you’re not used to it
- Course lacked restrooms on the back half of the race
- Most of the course shared the road with vehicles
Did you run the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon? What did you think?