This past weekend I participated in and completed my very first half marathon! I decided to run in this race after a good friend said she had signed up for it on a whim. At the time, it was about four months away and as I began my training plan, it felt like race day would never actually arrive.
And then it did.
My friend, Mary, and I were up early, taking our time getting ready. I made us some oatmeal with bananas and blueberries, and some french press coffee. The coffee was excellent, but I could barely manage more than a few bites of my oatmeal. Maybe it was pre-race jitters, or just the fact that I was up earlier than usual and my body was rejecting so much as the idea of food. Either way, breakfast was slim.
But I was still confident. I knew I could finish the distance. Once before, I was able to hit 13.1 miles in just over two hours. On that run, I had stopped to take a few breaks, and I didn’t want to do that this time around. I was going all the way!
My goals for this race: 1) To not stop running, 2) Finish under two hours, and 3) Finish with dignity.
The race started at 8 a.m. sharp, with big crowds of runners and supporters lining the streets. I really wanted to take one last trip to the bathroom, but the lines were long (filled with people with the same idea as me) so I decided to just warm up and see how I felt.
The race was sold out and everyone was really packed in there. It made the first half-mile of the race extremely slow. Just trying to get the group moving and find some space to get into a good groove was a struggle.
At the same time, one of the great parts about a race this big is the supporters. They have great signs and what seems like unlimited enthusiasm. One of my favorite signs was at the start of the race —->
I was able to stick with Mary for about a mile and a half before she dropped back and I picked up my pace as the crowd began to thin.
In retrospect, I should have been more patient in catching up to the pacer holding the 2:00 sign. I made the mistake of weaving through a bunch of people, averaging around an 8:15 pace (when I should have been sticking to my more comfortable 8:45-9:00 pace). Sure, I was feeling great through miles 3-5, but now I know that such a fast pace early on is not sustainable over such long distances, and it definitely came back to haunt me later in the race.
At mile 6 there was a fuel station with GU energy gels. This was a lifesaver. I had never tried one of these before, but I will definitely be investing in crates full of these little guys for increased distance training and future half marathons. It was convenient, tasty, and gave me the boost I needed since those few bites of oatmeal I had for breakfast just weren’t cutting it.
The best part of this race was the course itself. It took us through all of the most beautiful parts of Columbus, including campus, the Olentangy river, the Short North, downtown, and German Village. Of all these stretches of the course, downtown was the hardest. There were multiple hills (that all felt like they only went uphill) and the pavement was uneven, which was much more distracting than I thought it would be.
By the time I was in German Village, it was getting toward the end of the race. At mile 11, we passed by Katzinger’s Deli, where my wonderful boyfriend, Ben (aka the best supporter in the world), was snacking on a sandwich and waiting for me to pass by. He got a great action shot of me running, and gave me a high five–just the motivation I needed to keep going!
This picture is incredibly deceiving because I look really happy, when in reality, I was 100% focused on not stopping, completely throwing out my goal of a sub-2 time. I wanted to stop so bad, but I was so close to the end…I refused to let myself stop running in the last three miles, let alone the last mile–the victory mile– which was almost entirely uphill.
As I reached the finish line, the crowds in my sights, I saw runners being attended to by medics scattered alongside the road. I felt for them–they had come so far and had to stop. But I wasn’t going to let that be me. I was not going to stop, no matter how bad my legs hurt, no matter how hard it was to breathe. I had less than a mile left. There were tears in my eyes as I pushed onward.
As I hit the last tenth of the race, I saw Ben again, and he even joined me briefly to make sure I got across the finish line alright. (I’m pretty sure I was looking like death at this point.)
But I crossed the finish line. I threw my hands in the air and knew that my ordeal was finally over. I had finished. I never stopped. And all in a time of 1:59:45–I was under two hours (even if it was just barely).
Thank goodness Ben was there to keep me upright and moving to get out of the way for other runners. The medics were fairly concerned as I had to stop and bend over a few times. I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep standing, and I was having trouble catching my breath. But then they handed my my medal and everything seemed alright again.
My parents (who had been tracking me online as I was running) sent me text messages of support. Mary finished very shortly after, and I was able to meet her at the finish line. We made our way through the crowd of finishers, picked up our water, bagels, and fruit, and met back up with Ben to head to the finisher’s party.
There we had champagne and chocolate milk, the perfect recovery combination! They also had Patron drinks and Beer for the finishers, but somehow, those just didn’t seem as appetizing. (Okay, maybe the beer, but we still had to drive home!)
Overall, it was an amazing experience. It was painful and for a portion of the race, I really, really (REALLY) wanted to give up. But I didn’t, and I’m really proud of that fact.
And I definitely want to do it again. Maybe not for a few months, since I want to get into some more serious training and try to get down to about a 1:45 race time. I know it’s a big goal, but what is life if we aren’t working toward something?
I’ll probably be signing up for some smaller 5k races in the near future, and am already SUPER excited for the Color Run in July! Running is just the best.
Important Things I learned:
1) Pick a pace and stick with it. You’ll thank yourself later in the race.
2) Be patient. It’s crowded and will take some time for everyone to get started. (I think next time I’ll try to start closer to the front of my corral.)
3) Basically, RUN!