I know I am a big fan of never skipping a Monday; however, today called for complete rest. After running my first half marathon in two years - just six months after baby number two and while nursing a sinus infection - my body is screaming!
Having found myself at Urgent Care on Friday to get antibiotics for a lingering sinus infection, I was very much debating my ability to run a half marathon just two days later. After all, this whole illness began when I ran (and won first place female) a 5K just three weeks prior. I know something was off almost immediately into that race when my lungs just didn’t quite want to work!
That morning I woke up feeling pretty good but still not knowing what to expect and I wasn’t going to push myself into doing it if I started running and felt like I couldn’t complete the race.
Most of you probably do not know this about me, but I grew up as an athlete - playing softball, basketball, volleyball, dancing, and running track in my youth and continuing that as I grew older. I found success running distance races and carved out a niche for myself in that area. After college, I spent most of my time dancing (professionally) as a performer on various stages and cruise ships. Running took a back seat and didn’t make a serious appearance back into my life until the fall of 2012, when a friend of mine urged me to compete in the Broad Street Run 10 Miler with her that following spring. I started training and never stopped. I even went on a cross country roadtrip that summer, waking up in a different city every morning. I spent the hours between 5 and 6am pounding 5 miles into the pavement and watching the sun rise over a new landscape, every single day. It’s still imprinted upon me as one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things I have ever done. Trading for my first Broad Street Run, I ran my first adult race in March of 2013 - a Saint Patrick’s day 5k - and ended up winning my age group. I was pretty hooked on the medals.
Fast forward a few years to when I met my husband - then, just my coworker and friend - who was also an avid runner. Living on the island. I primarily did my daily runs on the Atlantic City boardwalk and so did he. It was only natural that in 2015 we would start running together as partners. I moved to a different state that year and kept up running,
competing in races - sometimes winning my age group - and improving my PRs, but the furthest races I was doing at the time were still 10 milers.
After a year of weekend 5 hour commutes to see my now-boyfriend, I moved back to the area and in with him. It was that fall - the fall of 2016 that he signed up for his “enth” Half Marathon, incidentally the Atlantic City Half. I hadn’t trained for it, but figured we were running enough to pull
it off, so I signed up last minute as well.
Fast forward to 2 weddings, 2 kids, 1 pandemic, and 5 years after that first Half Together, we competed in the 2021 Atlantic City Half Marathon - our 7th half together. I stopped running during both pregnancies (never liked the feel of it), but came back both times to win a 10k as overall first place female in 2019, and then recently this summer - less than 6 months after baby 2 - I won overall first place female in a 5K. Color me surprised, but I’m nothing if not competitive and that was just the kick I needed to get back into running longer distances.
Okay! Let’s talk about the 2021 AC HALF!
Having rained the night before, the air was considerably cooler at 7am than it was the day before. Crisp fall air coming with the sunrise over the ocean lay the perfect backdrop for a morning leg stretcher.
My husband suffered a knee injury at the beginning of 2020, just before the pandemic disrupted everything, and so this was his first race since rehabbing. We both went in with little expectations, all things considering. Finishing was really the only goal.
We started a little further back in the queue than I would have liked, so I spent most of the first three miles dodging other runners, pedestrians, and general obstacles while jockeying for a position in my pace area. The wet boards and roads made for a little extra hazardous conditions, but ultimately did not prevail during the length of the race, but I did see more than a few people take a dive. It was in these crucial three miles that I realized that yes my lungs are working well enough to race, despite a never ending stream of mucus running down my throat. (Yuck) This part of the course is actually my favorite part of the course as it takes you off of the famous Atlantic City boardwalk and into the streets and highways toward the back bay. It even includes a run through the AC/Brigantine connector, which is a tunnel that runs under the bay connecting the two islands.
My 5K time clocked in at just about 25 minutes. Not my best, but certainly better than my worst. I was in it for the long haul.
This is where, for me, it really became a mental game. I didn’t feel the endorphins kicking in just yet and was mostly mentally talking myself into putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t stop to drink anything because I was scared it would exacerbate the manageable levels of mucus in my throat and I definitely did not want to start choking on the course. I also eased off of my pace a little and let myself enjoy the race more than just competing. I decided that this was not going to be a PR long before the start and so I gave myself permission to go the speed I felt I needed to go. This part of the run takes you back behind the bay casinos and under the Brigantine Bridge on a series of over and underpasses while cars waiting to exit the casinos give you the death stare. It eventually spits you back onto the street and leads you north through Atlantic City to Gardner’s Basin. The best part about this section of the course, my best girl friend Tamara is always waiting on the roads to cheer me on, and she didn’t disappoint this year! Her presence certainly perked me up enough to put a little pep in my step to keep it moving. Also, shout out to the musicians outside of Kelsey’s - they kill it every year.
Mile 7 leads you back to the boardwalk and mile 8 sees you taking your first steps down it. This is where you really start to see crowds of cheering people. Those who are anxiously awaiting family and friends competing in either the half or the full, and random passersby who just happen to get caught up in the excitement unintentionally. The boardwalk has just enough give and it’s completely flat.
it’s the homestretch! Though, truth be told there is nothing more depressing than passing the start line knowing you have 4 miles left before you will see it again! Endorphins finally came to me and I was happily running along to my Spotify half marathon playlist, courtesy of Nike. All smiles.
Mile 11 gets it’s own category because it always seems to be the hardest one for me. So close, yet so far. I start to feel a little achey in my legs and know that I have absolutely zero inclination to ever run a full marathon! However, it was just at this moment that I made a friend along the way. Full Marathon Runner 4631 (I have to look up his name), was hyping me up and helping me keep a solid pace despite my waning enthusiasm. We ran together a good stretch before the turn took me back toward the finish line and he started on towards the half way point of his distance. What an MVP! I hope he killed - wait, I know he did. Total gem of a human sent to me in my time of mental need!
Ah, the light at the end of the tunnel. A bit wind whipped at this juncture, I am now once again on top of the world knowing that it’s literally a matter of steps until I am finished! Mile 12 saw me get a car key handoff from my husband who was a bit behind me, but we passed each other at the part, and we had that effortless exchange. It also gave me joy to see that he kept it up and didn’t quit - that his knee was allowing him to finish this race and that was huge! Coming up to the finish line, someone yelled “NUGGET!” and that was all I needed to give it a final sprint for the last 10 meters and crossed the line at 1:51. By far not my worst time, but about 5 minutes shy of my best time (1:46 done in 2019, the last time I ran the race and probably in my peak form).
I’ve done the AC Half 7 times now and each time I find something more beautiful in it. It is a gorgeous, mostly flat course, with a few challenging sections. The ocean front weather can absolutely make or break your run - the wind can be a killer. I am so glad I decided to push myself to run it this year, when I could have had a perfectly legitimate excuse to quit or not even start. I love this run because of what it symbolizes to me. There is so much history in it for my husband and myself and our relationship. It’s course is the course we started running all those years ago as friends and running buddies. It’s where we had dates and fostered our love. It’s seen our ups and downs, where we both eloped and had our wedding. It’s seen our progress. It’s full of our love. Sappy, yeah. True? Absolutely. Looking forward to number 8 in 2022.
Hi! I'm Nugget. I am wife to my awesome husband, Fran, and mama to our toddler son, Remington. We also have another baby on the way (due very soon!) and our pup, Fiona. I am body positive fitness instructor, teacher, and health/wellness advocate. I believe in the potential of EVERY body to be happy and healthy.