**This one is a long one so settle in....**
So this past weekend was truly one to remember for me. I finished the Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach with a time of 2:41:45. Before I go into details of the run, here's a little background on how I got to this point.
In January 2009, I participated in a weight loss competition with my friends. I decided that cardio has to be part of my routine in order to lose weight along with changing my eating habits. So I decided to hop on the treadmill during those first couple of weeks. I quickly realized that I was nowhere close to the shape I thought I was in. I quickly noticed here on Spark that members were doing this program called "Couch To 5K (C25K)". First, I looked up how far a 5K covered to see if this was something I could accomplish. 3.1 miles....shouldn't kill me. I trained for 9 weeks and completed my first 5K in March of that year, which appropriately landed one week before my final weigh in for the competition that I won! So I continued to run and signed up for 2 more 5Ks that year. I honestly had no intention of running any distance more than that. As I sat and watched an episode of The Biggest Loser, the contestants were running a marathon. I watched in awe and said to myself, "if they can do this....I could run a half marathon, right?". So I juggled around the idea at the end of 2009 and decided that if I put forth the effort, I can do this. So I searched and found this half marathon and started training in April 2010.
So on to the race. Training for the race, the program had you running shorter "maintenance" runs during the week and one "long" run on the weekend. The maintenance runs keep your endurance up and adjusts you to routine runs. The long run is intended to prepare you for the distance. My longest distance long run was 10 miles. Some programs have you run 13 miles before your half but I wanted that run to occur during the actual race. That may have bitten me in the long run. So here it goes:
We arrive in Virginia Beach around midnight Thurs night/Fri morning. We spend Fri and Sat relaxing and enjoying the environment. I had to pick up my package at the expo on Friday and took in the entire experience. Runners everywhere convened as the vendors had plenty of giveaways and there were so many shopping opportunities. I will admit that most of the stuff was priced high so I didn't go crazy and buy a bunch of things. I got my complimentary Rock 'n Roll running shirt so that worked for me. Saturday was a "stay off my feet" day and we were lazy at the beach most of the day. Enjoyed a nice "carb loading" pasta dish and off to bed before the big day. 4:15am comes very early, but I was up and ready to get this day going. I ate breakfast got dressed and headed down the street to catch the shuttle to the start line. As I hit the street, you got this crazy sense of a runner's life. The city was dead except for 15,000 runners preparing for one of the biggest days of some of their lives. I'm dropped off at the starting line and I check my bag and head off to my corral. There were over 23 corrals with 1,000 runners in each corral. The race had a staggered start so that everyone wasn't falling over each other. Nearly after 35 minutes and 20,000 runners, our horn goes off and the race has started. You notice the greatest part of this race right after the start.....the support. Spectators line the streets that early in the morning to cheer on complete strangers. Another great attribute about the running community, EVERYONE is rooting for you. There is no isolation and you are never on an island. Everyone is always there to support you and offer advice. So I set out and catch my pace and feel pretty good. At the 1.5 mile mark, I face the only hill during this race. It is actually a bridge but is nothing I haven't experienced during my training. I quickly run up on 3 miles without any problems and continue to keep moving. I know not to run until I can't move anymore so I plan on taking a break at 5 miles. I get to the hydration station at the 5th mile and I start walking to take a break. I get back to running and get through the 6th mile fairly well. However, the 7th & 8th mile was really tough. That great feeling started to come to a crawl. I was able to continue to run during these miles but I noticed my walk breaks were coming much closer than during my training runs. I knew that I would need to take breaks but I thought I could take small .25 - .50 walks and that would be plenty of rest to put up 2-3 miles of running. As I complete mile 10, I can feel my body starting to feel the effects. I can't get my breathing down, my walk breaks are coming nearly every .50 mile, and my legs are starting to cramp. I finally get to 11.5 miles and I had to take an extended break. I walked nearly .50 mile and I really didn't feel like I had anything left. The final mile is ran on the boardwalk so I know I need to have enough to get me through the finish line. I start to do a few run/walk sessions until I got to 12.5 miles. At this point, I told myself that I need to dig down and finish strong. I didn't go through all of this to walk across the finish line. The final .50 mile was still tough but I wouldn't allow myself to stop again. I finally cross the finish line and my first thought was honestly, "Thank God this is over". I always thought my feelings would be elation and joy but it was truly pain and fatigue. As I walked through the secure zone after the finish line, I start to remember why I did this in the first place. I wanted to finish this race and I did it. Many people called me crazy, asked me why I would do this, and probably never thought I'd actually go through with it. Through it all, it was definitely worth it and I'll always have the accomplishment of completing 13.1 miles.
If you read my blogs, you know I push people to try things they never thought possible. I do this because it has gotten me to where I am. I hated running but I knew it would help me along this journey. I don't really get that "runner's high" where I think I can go on for hours. However, I'm not scared to push my limits. If you give yourself a shot at succeeding, you will. Things will be tough and it won't be easy. You have to work for what you want and put in the time to accomplish it. Many have asked me how to start and you truly have to start from the bottom and slowly work your way up. Don't jump in over your head and quit after you run into problems. Make realistic goals and work up to them. I highly recommend anyone interested in running to start off walking. Get your body used to moving before trying to go out and run 3 miles. You have it in you so make time for yourself and do what you thought was impossible. The feeling you get when you reach that milestone is indescribable.