The half marathon cherry that is.
Up until the age of 5, I had spent 10 days every month in the hospital because of my severe asthma. I have a vivid memory of when I was six, and my dad took me jogging with him around the school track in Hawaii...I couldn't even finish 1/2 of 1 lap around the track because of said asthma.
And today, today I finished my very first half marathon...13.1 miles...in 2hrs 8 minutes and 20 seconds. It was not easy, far from it, but I am very happy that I finished. It's something that I never dreamed of doing, even when I was in junior high and high school on the cross-country & track team (those races were only 2 miles). It was just too long...(well okay, it is still long...)
I had to get up at 4am this morning, because of the limited race site parking...the race didn't start till 7:30! It was freezing (okay, like 49 degrees in the morning) and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get my muscles loose.
Prior to the start of the race I found the 2hr15min race pacer leader (good looking dude by the way), and decided that I should try to stick with them for as long as I could. Started the race promptly at 7:30am...down residential roads in Coronado. There were a kajillion people and you had to be crafty to be able to avoid stomping and tripping on the other runners.
The first 3 miles weren't difficult...in my mind I naively thought, Oh, this isn't too bad! I can do this! By this time, I left the 2hr15min pace group and broke out on my own. I decided I could pace myself by listening to my own breath.
Then it started heating up...the sun was glaring in my face...and there was Hwy 75. Just one long strip of hwy and you could see down the entire miles and miles of road. That's when your mind starts thinking, shit that's a long ways to go! I was still feeling good at this point in time, but I regretted not bringing my camel pack with me (I had assumed that I'd be hydrated enough with the aid stations along the way). By this point in the race people had started spreading out and some people were already walking. Passed by a few of the challenged athletes (they were kids who were paraplegic or missing limbs and were on hand bicycles or running on prosthetics) and it was inspiring to see them give it their all. I said, self, if these kids aren't giving up, you can't either.
Passed by mile 5, and then my mind started taunting me...saying, you have EIGHT miles to go. EIGHT?!?!?! That's like another 80 minutes of running! Nevertheless, I kept on putting one foot down after the other, step by step and kept chugging along. I kept an eye on my watch, and I was still keeping a decent pace at this point...
Miles 6-9 blended in together and I turned my mind off and focused on the backs of the people in front of me...saw a few people stop running to go off to the side of the road to take a leak...found that amusing. Saw a golden retriever running with his owner(uh, and the dog/owner dynamic duo was running faster than me by the way)
Then I hit Mile 10...treacherous mile 10. Somewhere back on Mile 6 or 7 the tongue on my right shoe started digging into the top of my foot in a weird way. It was more irritating then painful, but when I reached Mile 10 it started becoming painful...it almost felt like it was bruising my foot (it didn't). And I could feel the lactic acid building up in my quads...I kept pushing through though...and at this point I did stop to retie my shoe and walk out some of the soreness in my legs...but I kept it at a minimum because I was determined to stay on pace with my goal. I was so tired, and my mind tried to tell me stop running so many times. It tried to tell me to slow down so that I could run with the pace group again...I almost listened and gave in...but then I remembered my other post about how distance running is about overcoming your mind and about how my other runner friends told me it's mind over matter...I couldn't let myself give up like that. I fought past my mind trying to get me to give up. I was surrounded by people who were in the same position as me, and I didn't see them give up, so I couldn't let myself do that either. Three more miles! Three more miles!
Miles 11 and 12 seemed like the longest 2 miles I have ever ran. My legs felt like lead. It was even hotter than before. I was thirsty but I didn't want to tank water because I was afraid I would get a massive sidepain right at the end of the race. It didn't help that I saw people sitting in their homes (it ran alongside residential homes) drinking icy cold beers. Cruel cruel onlookers...But the instant I passed the 12 mile marker, I told myself ONE MORE MILE.
I dug deep. I made myself forget about the heaviness in my legs (and boy oh boy they felt heavy)...and I started thinking about running past the finish line and the glorious nap that I will be taking this afternoon. I picked up the pace, said words of encouragement to the people that were walking when I past them and told myself outloud "Almost there. You can do this." (I find that it helps when I do this...but I probably look insane) Turned a corner and there it was, about 1/4 mile away...but I could see it...The Finish Line. The minute I saw the glorious finish line, my body forgot about the lactic acid buildup in my legs and it let me really pick up the pace to the finish line. I finished strong, but I forgot to smile at the camera.
My first half was a great experience...I see areas where I can improve my running now though. And I am amazed at what one can do if you push past the mental wall that you put up for yourself. I'm looking forward to the next one...