I ran my first half-marathon in Portland, Maine last Sunday!
In August of this year I ran the Beach to Beacon 10K and had a really good run. I ran side-by-side with my brother Jon and I remember telling him afterwards that I was confident I’d be okay running the half, as long as I committed to training. After a comprehensive review of the highly-regarded About.com Running/Jogging section I found a beginners schedule and became pretty diligent. I ran long runs every Saturday and two shorter runs during the week. Two weeks before the half I ran 13.5 miles, so I knew I could handle the distance.
Michael and I drove to Portland Saturday and went to the race expo, where I picked-up lucky bib #2242. The swag bag was impressive and even included a small can of B&M Baked Beans. I can’t think of a more appropriate pre-race snack than baked beans.
My Mom hosted a lovely pasta dinner Saturday night and I offered to make the meatballs.
I woke-up at 6:00am Sunday morning and enjoyed my usual pre-run breakfast of whole wheat toast with almond butter and strawberry jam. I went to the race with my good friends Mary and Guido. The Maine Marathon is a multi-race event which includes a full-marathon, a half and a relay. Guido was running the full-marathon because Guido is a machine – this was his fifth marathon! The three of us actually ran the relay together in 2009. We were a pretty fierce team, but this year we were out for individual glory.
The weather was cool, cloudy and dry. It was a bit chilly standing around at the start, but I knew I’d warm up as soon as I started running. My shuffle was loaded with guilty-pleasure faves including classics by Tone-Loc and Enrique Iglesias. I had a stash of Fruit Punch Jelly Belly Sports Beans in the pocket of my shorts. I was ready to go.
The race went better than I could have imagined. My adrenaline was high at the start, but I made an effort to hold-back for the first 2 or 3 miles because I knew I had a long way to go. I saw my Dad and Judi on the sidelines around mile 5. They handed-off a second pack of sports beans to me. Mary and I spotted each other shortly after the turn-around (the course is a loop). I recognized my friend Amanda in the crowd a bit further-up near mile 8. It was really nice to see familiar faces along the way. There were a couple of doozy hills at miles 9 and 10 and it was just after the second hill that I saw my sister-in-law Seanna cheering from the sidelines. She ran the half last year and has been a major source of encouragement over the last few months. Most people’s eyes would glaze over when I’d start recapping a long practice run, but Seanna was always extremely enthusiastic.
I was nearing the home-stretch at mile 11 when I spotted my sister Allyson, my brother-in-law Silas and my niece Ryleigh cheering up ahead. They really put a pep in my step. The last mile and a half was relatively flat and scenic. I spotted a girl who looked to be keeping a pretty good pace and I decided to stick with her. Before I knew it, the finish line was in sight and I was scanning the crowd for my family. I saw my Mom, Jon, my niece Lucia, my nephew Connor and Michael cheering and snapping photos. It was an amazing feeling.
I walked up ahead to the volunteers handing out medals and shiny silver thermal blankets. Truth be told, I was more excited about the blanket than I was about the medal. I have always wanted one of those blankets. The ubiquitous, post distance-race accessory really pulled-together my hot pink and black race ensemble.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first half-marathon. The crowds were incredibly enthusiastic and supportive. There were bands all along the course and only in Maine will you see a moose running a half-marathon.
The spectator signs were outstanding. Some of my favorites included: “Worst Parade Ever” and “You trained for this longer than Kim Kardashian was married”. I was high-fiving little kids as they held their hands out at the sidelines. I was working hard, but I felt strong and truly enjoyed every minute of the race. I finished in just under 2 hours.
Afterwards Allyson and Silas hosted a brunch complete with Holy Donuts and mimosas.
It was an incredible day. I am so grateful to have such an amazingly supportive husband, family and group of friends!
And now it’s only 190 days until Boston!
Spicy Meatballs and Spaghetti
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
These are a slight variation on Ina’s (we’re on a first name basis) Spicy Turkey Meatballs. I use ground beef primarily because I’m not a huge fan of ground turkey. They’re pretty amahzing. Michael once said they, ‘smelled like sin’, which I took as a compliment.
3 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread cubes from your favorite rustic bread (I include the crusts)
2/3 cup whole milk
2 lbs ground beef (90% lean)
1/2 lb hot Italian pork sausage, casings removed
4 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp coarse ground mustard
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meatballs
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3 (24-oz) jars of your favorite pasta sauce (or your own, if you have some on hand)
2 lbs dried spaghetti
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Place the cubed bread in a small bowl, cover with milk and set aside to soak for 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, sausage, prosciutto, bread mixture, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, mustard, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper. Lightly combine the ingredients with your hands. Add the 3 tbsps of olive oil and the eggs and stir lightly with a fork to combine.
With your hands, lightly roll the mixture into 2-inch-round meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the meatballs with olive oil. Bake for approximately 40 minutes until he tops are browned and centers are completely cooked.
Heat the pasta sauce, boil the spaghetti and serve with meatballs. Top with parsley and cheese.