Day 305: My First Half Marathon
Monday, April 22, 2013
My goodness, guys, I've been brewing on this blog!
Before I get to the meat and potatoes referenced in my title I figure I should cover a couple of quick things. First and foremost, Dad is out of the hospital. He's home and doing well. Second, the scale graced me with 183 again this weekend. My weight loss might be slow; but, it's still happening. I'm okay with the slowness, it just means it's going to be more likely to stay away in the long term!
Now, as to the title of my blog - my very first Half Marathon was this past weekend. All 13.1 miles. All of it. Mine. I did it.
Race Recap is as follows:
First and foremost I got to registration at 7AM sharp. That's right, the race didn't start until 9AM but I was so worried I wouldn't be able to transfer my friend's registration that I wanted to be sure to get one of the race-day registrations. Unfortunately they wouldn't allow the transfer; fortunately, I still got a race-day bib. Whew. However, that meant I got to spend about an hour stewing in my car. I played a lot of Candy Crush Saga before making a dash to the porta potties and meeting up with my friends from the SCRRC.
Waiting for the race to start was uneventful. Just the usual jitters. Of course you start off thinking about your pace and planned finish time. 2:45 was my hope. I decided that 3:00 would be respectable.
The first mile or so was pretty uneventful. I settled into my pace and got comfortable. It was me and the usual crowd of Galloway run-walkers, amazing older people (Really, I genuinely think they're amazing - can you imagine being older than 60 or even 70 and doing a Half Marathon? In my mind, they're flipping incredible), and the sag-wagon. (For those who aren't runners, the sag-wagon is what picks up people unwilling or unable to complete the race. But, something magical started happening; I couldn't stop smiling. Even among the cold (39 degrees!), the snow (ugh), the rain (Double ugh) and the sunshine - I just couldn't stop feeling, well, blessed.
Around mile five I started having one of the most amazing experiences of my life. You see, it was an out and back course. You ran out about six and a half miles and then turned around to come back. At first it was the uber athletes - and you could tell they were very serious about their times. They were 'in the zone' - staring hard at the trail and looking like they could run a hole through the sun. However, once those lonely, really fast runners got away, I started seeing small clusters. And these people? These people carried me for a couple of miles.
Strangers telling me things like "Good job!" and "Keep it up!" and "You're doing amazing!" Strangers. More than strangers, fellow runners. People who do this sport better than I hope to and they were cheering me on. I can't even articulate what it feels like. I also got to run by the rest of the club. High-Fives all around - and those were even more amazing.
I have to say, though - the six miles back on my own were the loneliest and hardest I've ever done. You see, this was on a trail - an old rail-trail of flat, crushed limestone that's running past the Youghegany River. It's beautiful; but, the only other souls I got to see in that time were the people manning the water stations. Believe me, I was counting the two miles in between them.
Around mile eight I started feeling a twinge in my knee. Around mile nine when I slowed to walk and drink I realized I was in trouble. My knee felt wobbily and weak; hell, it hurt. I tried to start running again; but, I have to admit, for the first time in my life I had to limp. It was heartbreaking. Usually the saying goes "The body is willing but the mind is weak." Let me tell you, my mind was more than willing, my body otherwise felt strong; but, my knee was not happy. Up until this point I had kept between a 12:00 and 12:45 pace. After all, I was treating the day as a race-distance, training pace kind of day. In fact, at the half-way mark I was turning around to go back at 1:22. I was on track to hit my 2:45 goal.
Deciding to be bold I found that the pikes they put up to keep trucks and carts off the trail were an asset - I balanced myself between them, put ankle to knee and did a sit-stretch. It felt amazing. At mile 11 or 11.5 I started jogging again. It was sore; but it wasn't as terrible pain as I'd felt before. By the time I got to mile 12.5 I was having some pretty ridiculous thoughts. What if the finish line was gone? Surely the rest of the club had drank all the chocolate milk and taken off for all their plans. There probably weren't any medals left at all.
Yeah, my brain imploded.
And then, by the grace of God I swear, I happened to see a couple of my friends headed up the trail. They probably have no idea how much I needed to see them. I posted on my Facebook how they carried me that last tenth of a mile; and they really did.
I was coming around the corner - and then even more magic happened. The club was there. No crap. I didn't believe it. There are photos on the race website and I'm totally buying them. Short of my family I never would have expected these kinds of cheers. Really, I get all sappy thinking about it.
It was amazing.
I got over the finish line at 2:59 - a respectable time for a 185lb girl who never thought it was possible to want to run more than a 5K a year ago. I'm so very proud - I worked hard for this and trained, too. But, I was carried by friends, family, and strangers.
I have another half in two weeks. I just can't wait. I'm hoping that I'll have all of my hips and knees stretched out real good before the PIttsburgh Half Marathon and that I'll be able to get my time more in line with my pace. After all, I can do ten miles in 2:08; there's no reason I can't do another 5K in 40 minutes.
In terms of this race, I don't know if I'd recommend it as a first Half-Marathon. It gets lonely on the trail by yourself. However, for my first half marathon, it was perfect.