Illinois Half-Marathon: Race Day

I want to be able to share every moment from my race…and the only way I know how to do that is by writing. It was such a beautiful day for so many reasons. There is so much to be thankful for.

Saturday morning I woke up ON TIME! This was huge because my first attempt for a trial run wake up-I super overslept. There was no way I was going to let myself miss one of my biggest days of my life so far because I couldn’t get my butt out of bed. Friday Matthew told me there was no way he was going to let me oversleep so he set his alarms as well to make sure I got up-he’s such a blessing! When I woke up at 3:40ish Saturday morning I kinda just laid there. Like okay Jerica this is your day! I sat up in bed and took some deep breaths and told myself it was just a normal morning-that I had to just go through my regular routine. Friday night like normal, I had set out everything I would need to have a successful and stress free morning. I got up and brushed my teeth, took my vitamins, got dressed and headed to the kitchen. Filled my water cup up to drink my first 10oz of the day and sat down to do my Daily Devotional. Timing was everything on Saturday. A couple differences from my normal routine and today were what I thought was going to throw me off. I had to be up and moving at 3:40ish but my race didn’t start until 7:03. Usually after waking up I’d be running or working out an hour after waking up. I run fastened-meaning that I don’t eat until after I run. Well today I was going to have to wait to eat for almost 7 hours….like whaaat!? And of course I woke up STARVING…like my stomach was growling. As someone who is obsessed with food this was a massive battle. Also because I was up so early but not running until quite a bit later I had to put off drinking my Liquid Rose Gold(pre-workout) until 6:15ish. So I was literally running off of the food from last night. Just in case you were wondering, Friday night I ate 6oz of a steak, mashed potatoes, bread, and a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from DQ(about 30 mins before I went to bed). Chalking up surviving that long period of not eating thanks to that late night sugar-DQ is BAE.

The game plan for the morning was- be at my friend Jor’s house to pick him up at 4:45, then go to the hotel where my family was staying to pick-up my brother in-law, then be at the event by 5:45ish so that we could start lining up at 6:30. Well I had a small time set-back. We were keeping my sisters dog at my house for race weekend and he is a chihuahua like Gunner, my dog. Kodah and Gunner have known each other since Gunner was a baby because we always take both dogs to family events at my moms. When these dogs are together it’s like a giant zoo. Gunner thinks he was to dominate and has zero boundaries so he constantly wants to jump all over Kodah who is half his size. Kodah of course gets angry and shows his teeth/tries to nip at Gunner to tell him he does’t like it. It can be a cluster but about 75% of the time they get along or just sleep. This morning they decided to have extra energy and run around like crazies while I was trying to get out the door. I had left some wiggle room in the schedule in case running behind happened. As I was gathering the dogs I texted Jor to tell him I was running behind and got no response…just figured he was busy getting ready. Once I was walking out of the door I decided to give him a call to update him on ETA and thank goodness I called. My phone call is literally what woke him up. Mind you we only live 5 minutes from each other. When I pulled up to his house he was walking out of the garage…talk about being speedy! Jor made a last minute decision to take my sisters’ spot in the race due to her not feeling the greatest-they recently announced that baby #2 is on the way!! The minute Jor got into my car he told me how stupid it was to say yes…LOL. Janelle reached out to him on Thursday to ask if he’d be running and Jor responded-

“I really wanted to but (fiance) talked me out of it. Because I might hurt mustard since Ihaven’t trained.”

Yes he said “mustard” instead of “myself”. He has been going to the gym for about two weeks and running everyday-because he’s Jor and totally is an all or nothing person-so I’m sure he was running like 6 miles a day. He knew he was capable of running the whole thing but didn’t want to over do it. I reassured him that the race wasn’t about going as fast as you can that it was about finishing. I told him that since I’ve been training for so long he is welcome to run with me to keep a steady pace and that way he wouldn’t over do it. Later he told me that was basically all he needed to hear. This man is capable of doing anything he puts his mind to. I’m so happy that he decided to join us and later on l’ll tell you about his incredible finish with only two weeks of training.

After picking up Jor we headed to town to the hotel that my family was staying in. Walking into a lobby full of racers was such a cool experience. To this day I still feel weird calling myself a runner because I more so use running as my outlet but there were some LEGIT runners getting prepped for the race. I’m talking short shorts, 0% body fat, and crazy muscular legs. I was so impressed and probably starring too much..ohh well. The three of us sat down together to get ourselves settled and ready to head to the race. I ended up eating a banana because I was so starving and decided it would probably help with my cramping down the road. My boyfriend had made us team shirts and the saying on them fit us so well! On the shirt was a turtle dripping sweat and it said “Turtle team. We’re slower than Shell’. Isn’t that fabulous!?? I bet 10 strangers stopped Avery to comment on his shirt and one even asked to take a picture of it. Shout out to my sister for finding the design and Campus Ink Printing for the awesome shirts! If you’re ever looking to get shirts made for an event let me know-Matthew will get you hooked up!


Next stop-State Farm Center! If you haven’t ever visited Champaign, IL and the U of I campus-you totally need to. Even better way to view that gorgeous area-run the half next year with me! We were super early so it was nice to just cruise around and find a good parking spot. Once we found where we needed to be we put the car in park, blasted the heat, and really just let all the nerves out. We had about 45 minutes before we needed to make our way to the Start Line. Jor told us we were all crazy and what were we doing “running for fun”. My brother in law was focusing his energy on doing better than his last half. I was trying to keep myself calm and not let my anxiety get the best of me. One thing I’m so grateful for is that we parked right by the porta pottys. If you don’t run this may not be familiar to you but running gets your bowels and bladder really moving! A part of our training that people often don’t talk/think about is using the bathroom. Goes back to timing is everything. You can’t plan how your body will respond with all the adrenaline and nerves during a race. But you best believe I focused during my training on how much was just the right amount of water in my system and when to drink my performance supplements so that I didn’t have to stop running to use the bathroom. Since I had to push back when I drank my Liquid Rose Gold it messed up my regular bathroom schedule hard core(biggest part I’m upset about). I only went to the bathroom twice while waiting but of course that wasn’t enough-fill ya in later. Once 6:00 came it was game time. I started drinking my Liquid Rose Gold and got out of the car to do some light stretching. That next 30 minutes flew by!

I took my last bathroom run at about 6:18 and before I knew it, it was time to start walking to get lined up. I’m getting butterflies right now just thinking about it. When we got ready to start walking I knew I had to start getting in my zone. You guys are going to laugh about this one-I have a music playlist for my dog. Gunner is super anxious and when we used to live in a loud apartment complex one night I decided to make him a playlist of relaxing songs to fall asleep to. Well this playlist has become a huge part of my training. Whenever I was stretching and felt anxious about a run, that’s the playlist I’d put on. All about those routines guys-can’t say it enough! I threw on my headphones, pressed play on Gunny’s playlist and started to soak it all in. As we were making that walk it was a picture perfect moment. Now I’m crying and it’s going to make my glasses fog up while I’m typing…get it together Jerica! All around me was groups of runners jogging, stretching, headphones in getting in their zone…it was increddible. I looked over to find the guys chatting away and thought-how in the heck are you guys talking so much right now? We started to get into a super crowded area so I pulled off my Beats because I didn’t want to lose them. I found a free parking spot and told them I was going to go through my stretching routine. It felt so good to just get in my zone and watch all these other runners around me as I got my body ready for the longest run of my life.

Per our shirts-we were the true turtle team…well not Jor because he’s like a pro runner compared to us. So we all registered for the last heat-which was “H”. Where I was stretching was right by the announcer and all the sudden we heard “runners it’s now time to start loading into your Corral from the back”. Since we were the slowest heat that meant we had a long walk to our corral as well as the longest wait to be released. As we made our way back to “H” the energy was rapidly starting to build around us. I wasn’t sure if I was going to puke or pee my pants…it was so much more intense than I could have ever imagined. The Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon had over 20,000 runners guys. So imagine the most crowded bar you’ve ever been to and that body on body experience….multiply it by about 25. That’s how it felt. Now that we were in our corral there was no turning back. Standing behind me was the sweetest group of older woman. At one point I had half way put my phone in my fanny pack and didn’t even know it. I soon hear a voice telling me and hands pushing my phone back in. I was so shaky and nervous I honestly hardly knew what was going on around me.


We got into our corral at probably 6:40ish and didn’t get released to start our race until 7:15. Those were the longest 30 minutes of my entire life. One of my favorite moments of that waiting time was our group prayer. My brother in-law lead the three of us in a prayer over our run and it was just what I needed. After our prayer a woman came up to us and told us how great it was to witness it. At 7:03 the announcer released the first corral. For the next 12 minutes is was clapping, cheering, and for me- continuing to pray. God has been my rock throughout 17 weeks of training and I now needed him more than ever. We slowly inched our way up to the front. Ever since we had got into our corral I couldn’t stop messing with my jacket. It was a chilly-cloudy day and I had ran a few times in this jacket just in case I needed it race day. Well I was over that jacket-it kept messing with the placement of my fanny pack. So I decided to toss it to the side and risk being cold and rained on.

It’s time for us to be released! Holy cow… it’s happening guys! As we were released it took a good 10 seconds of me walking to get up to the line. I saw Jor for maybe 3 seconds and he was gone. I wasn’t surprised because he’s a lot faster than me. I looked ahead of me and it was a SEA of runners. SO AMAZING! My heart was pounding out of my chest. Guys I do not like running next to other people. When people talked to me about how my adrenaline would make me run faster on race day I knew that probably wasn’t going to be true for me. I have ADD hard core and get distracted/annoyed so easily when there are other people by me. The first three miles are always the LONGEST for me…and that carried true for today as well. There were so many things to be distracted by that I just couldn’t get in my zone. People dressed up in costumes, cow bells ringing every two seconds, and sooo much noise. Also holy cow-why do I feel like my bladder is going to explode…I JUST peed so may times!? Okay I made it past the 1 mile marker-great! Now I know they said there were porta potty’s every so often but how far apart were they….dang it Jerica this was something you needed to remember. Why didn’t I study the course more….ughh. Okay mile 2 has to be coming up. I had gone past 3 bathroom stations and was now making sure to position myself on the right side of the road to scout out the line because I wasn’t about to stop running until absolutely necessary. At this time I had been ahead of the 12:35 pacer just by a little bit and it was my goal to stay ahead of them. All of my training I had paced a 12:05 mile or faster. I was coming up on Mile 3 and spotted a bathroom station with no line…perfect! I was so uncomfortable at this point that it had slowed me way down and the 12:35 pacer passed me. Either I stop and be okay with a slower time than I wanted or end up peeing my pants…yep I’m stopping!

That no line at the bathrooms was great but all the bathrooms were full. So here I am jogging in place waiting for one to be vacant. The minute I got in there I could not get my pants down. My hands were shaking, I was drenched in sweat and it was just a mess. All while I’m trying not to freak out about all the pee everywhere. Finally got situated and literally peed for 2 minutes…not kidding at all. Then of course I couldn’t get my pants on-sweaty mess. Now I’m getting angry because I know that clock is ticking away every second that I’m not running. Got the pants up-let’s go! I didn’t skip a beat guys. Felt like a new woman now with an empty bladder. Right before we went to line up I realized that my apple watch didn’t charge last night as was now dead. So I went the whole race with no idea how I was pacing or how long I had been running…sucked! Once I got back out there though I could tell my body was moving at my normal pace.

Miles 3-6 are kind of a blur to me. I was hard core in my runners zone-it was awesome! Friday night I had told Matthew that the only thing that mattered to me was that he was at the Finish line. I knew I could mentally carry myself through the race with the thought of him waiting for me. His mom had come to support me as well and they had planned on being out on the course to see me and then making their way to the finish line. My mom, sister and niece had told me they would me in the Mejier parking lot at Mile 7. My goal was to make it past that 7 mile marker without stopping to walk. Putting my family as my motivation was gold, guys! As I was coming up to Mejier I took off my sunglasses and looked for their smiling faces. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it there. I immediately didn’t let myself get sad and used that as even more motivation to look forward to at the finish line. As I was running past Mejier I texted my family and Matthew to update them. The first time I walked was as I got into Meadow-Brooke park. Which I believe was mile 8. My left knee was killing me and I was about in tears. I was coming up to a Medical Station and told myself that I refused to end up at one of those and if I didn’t give my knee a break I was probably going to. I walked for a good 30 seconds. I took long strides to stretch out that knee and prepared myself to compensate for that knee pain by putting more weight on my right side. That left knee had has a previous injury and I knew if I didn’t adjust now that I wasn’t going to make it through the rest of the race.

Now I’m running again! I really was questioning my walk break at the beginning of the park because now I’m going through the first hills we’ve seen. Mind you, all of my outdoor runs were on huge inclines so my body was totally ready for this. But my left knee was really getting to me and now causing my right hip to be in some major pain. As we were coming toward the last half of the park I saw a girl on the side leaning on her friend holding her ankle. I don’t know what it was about that situation but it motivated the heck out of me to keep moving! There was one runner who inspired me to keep pushing miles 8-10. Her name was Beth and she was 7 months pregnant! This women had her friend running with her, who was holding a sign that said her name was Beth and she was running for 2….so incredible. A little before mile 10 I heard the girls say that there was a water station around the corner. Ahead of us was quite the hill. I told myself just like I had a handful of other times when I was getting ready to climb a hill-that once I climb that hill, I can rest. That there is no way I was giving in just before I came across an obstacle. My right hip was in so much pain but I knew that ahead of me I was going to hydrate and be able to walk.

Made it! Thank you Beth and your friend for the tip and extra motivation! I walked past the mile 10 marker, snapped a picture and sent it to my family and Matthew. After I had already passed the water station I saw a message from Matthew saying that’s where they standing. My heart about sunk… Had I really just missed them!? I didn’t have time to be sad I had to get back to running-he’ll be waiting for you at the finish line! I was coming up on Mile 11 when on the left side of the road at the corner I saw him. Matthew had seen that we missed each other and did some kind of magic to get me at the next mile. I ran up to him and gave him the sweatiest kiss ever. God thank you for this incredible man! Kissed him a couple more times and he told me he’d see me at the finish line. There was nothing stopping me now!

3.1 miles to go and this body wasn’t stopping until I cross that finish line! Mile 12 came and I had to dig real deep. I flashed back to my 6 week program that I had just wrapped up Friday morning. Shaun T came into my head and told me- when you are feeling tired and like you can’t go anymore that’s when you have to find that power! My body was capable and strong-I had ran so many 1 miles’ over the past 17 weeks…this is no different. I switched playlists to the very first playlist I started training with. This brought back all the memories. Every single minute spent on that treadmill when I wanted to be sleeping. All of the sweat and tears that had gone into getting me here today.


Now I’m running right on campus. I could feel that Illini pride all around me! I looked up ahead and could see the lights from Memorial Stadium. Runners who had finished were walking around with blankets on. Families were piling into the stadium to celebrate with their family. Mine was waiting for me to cross that finish line. Yep here come the tears….no stop crying you won’t be able to see. Okay sunglasses off-I want to see those facial expressions in my pictures from when I cross the finish line. Running in on the football field-OMG!! I literally can’t hear anything but my heart beating out of my chest. My legs are numb but I’m almost done. Lady get out of the way-I know I need to run through the line… DONE!


Jor finished a whole 30 minutes before me-he’s insane. My brother in-law crossed the finish line frustrated but guess what…YOU DID IT!!

6 pages later… THANK YOU. I can’t say it enough!! Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t. I love you guys!

Truly Yours,


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