One of my New Year’s resolutions has been accomplished: this morning I completed my first half-marathon. THIRTEEN POINT ONE MILES. I am so proud of myself. I’ve never really thought of myself as a runner – which may be because growing up I definitely wasn’t one. I couldn’t even complete the mile run in gym class; I usually walked half of it. Then I slowly started getting into jogging when I was bored in Florida, and in the summer of 2006 I completed my first 5K. When I say completed, I mean I still couldn’t run the whole thing, but I still finished with a respectable time. In the summer of 2007, I made it my goal to complete a 5K while running the whole thing, and that’s what got me started on this whole running thing. I worked up to a 10 mile race (in the Adirondacks, no less, where the elevation profile was so up and down you wouldn’t believe). Then as summer wound down and I moved to New York and started work, I stopped running. I did a 5k here, and then a 5 mile, but I wasn’t running with any regularity. In fact, in December I had a bunch of friends trying to convince me to do a 10K with them, but I thought it was too far.
And now, a month later, I’ve finished a HALF MARATHON! Not just finished, but came in with a pretty respectable time too: 1:58:24, according to the posted results. My reach goal was to make it in under 2 hours, and I’m so proud of myself for doing that.
So how’d it all shake out? Well, it was actually a pretty interesting race. My mom came in for the weekend to watch me run, and yesterday I prepared for the race by running lots of errands around town and eating a ton of Tasti D. Like – three servings in a day. Oops 🙂 I’ll just justify that as my “carbo loading.” Note that this is day two of carbo loading, as I ate a ridiculous amount of cookies/pastries and drank a ton of wine/beer on Friday at our quarterly staff meeting. I should really do a race every weekend so I can justify all the days leading up to it as carbo loading.
I woke up this morning feeling very ill-prepared. I hadn’t yet figured out what I was going to wear; I hadn’t created a playlist for the race, and I hadn’t even fully charged my iPod. Not to mention the pesky little fact that the furthest I had run in my life was 12 miles, and that 12 miles is what caused my ITB injury. So did I climb back into bed and forget the whole thing? Nah, I just affixed a few ibuprofen to a piece of Scotch tape (to keep them together), tossed them in my pocket, and told myself I was going to finish this race even if it meant I messed myself up so badly I could never run again. I realize that was a pretty stupid mentality, especially since I’ve been following Frayed Laces and know how dangerous it can be to run through the pain, but I really didn’t care. I was going to make this goal.
I checked the weather forecast, and found out that it was supposed to snow all day. While my mom started bemoaning that fact, my thoughts were, “Cool, I’ve never run while it was snowing before. I hope it makes everyone else in my age group wuss out and stay home.” Sadly, it did not – there were close to 5000 finishers, 667 of whom were in my age/gender group.
We got a cab over to NYRR for packet pickup. My manager Rob was running, so I checked his name to see if he had been by yet. They didn’t even need to look – apparently he had been there a few minutes before and they remembered his name! Hot on his trail, I picked up my t-shirt, pinned my number on and got my chip attached to my shoe, and then headed off to the start where we had planned to meet. We caught up with about 30 minutes before the start, and had fun just chatting and stomping our feet to get warm. Did I mention it was 30 degrees before wind chill? And oh boy was there wind chill! Rob and my mom claimed to see a few flakes, but I didn’t notice them, and the snow actually held off throughout the day. As much as it would have been cool to say I ran my half-marathon uphill both ways in the snow, it was pretty nice not to have to get soaking wet and even more cold than I already was.
The race started and I felt really good. I lost Rob after the first 1/4 mile or so, and just concentrated on keeping a good pace. I was feeling very warm after the first mile – not too warm, but “wow did the weather suddenly become 60? It’s a great day for running!” warm. My ITB was definitely hurting, but it was the dull ache that I’ve just gotten used to now, and it didn’t get worse, so I kept going and avoided the ibuprofen in my pocket. Somewhere around mile 5, I was feeling really great: I had a bunch of great power songs come on my iPod and had the “runner’s high” that caused me to run with a huge goofy grin on my face, which several spectators commented on. We’ll see in a few days if the official race photographers captured that…
After the first loop (6 miles), I was feeling completely awesome. I felt like I could run forever. I began contemplating whether I should maybe go through the finish and then run another loop, just to see if I could. I realized that it would be really stupid to suddenly add 7 miles onto what I’ve ever run before, but I still kept the idea in mind. Until… I got to the 8 mile aid station. This one had Gatorade and water, and I thought it would be a good idea to get some Gatorade to keep me going. However, it turned out to be a terrible idea. The Gatorade was super cold – would have been perfect for any summer race. For a January race, however, it was awful. All the warmth I had generated immediately vanished, and I felt as cold as I did when I was back at the start just standing there. In addition to being cold, I felt like the life had been sucked out of me. After the 8 mile aid station is a pretty intense uphill, and I was just struggling.
From then on, the race was really a challenge. I felt really sluggish and slow, but just didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace at all. As I passed each mile marker, I found that I was running about a 9:00 pace, which is fine, but I had really wanted to try for 8:45. The music on my iPod was no longer energizing me, and then I circled back to the east side of the park for the two mile stretch to the finish. Shouldn’t have been bad, but we were running into the wind, and I found some tears streaming down my face as I ran. My look of sheer exhaustion did not go unnoticed by spectators, who kept pointing me out to their friends and then all of them cheering for me. Kind of nice, but also kind of a letdown for someone who’s used to running races looking like she’s not trying (believe me, I always am, but somehow I never seem to show it).
In the last 1/2 mile, I put my power song on, and just tried to get up some energy. Honestly, I probably picked up my pace by maybe 10 seconds – not my best. I did manage to do my usual sprint to the finish for the last tenth of a mile, and again I saw spectators looking at me in horror as I ran with tears pouring down my face, my mouth open to get as much breath as possible, and my nose curled in a snarl as I just tried to push through. I didn’t even get a good look at the clock when I finished because I was so concentrated on just getting there.
As awful as all that sounds, I was actually pretty happy. That’s the first race where I’ve really felt like I pushed as hard as I could and couldn’t have done more. Usually I finish a race, rest for a few minutes, and then feel good as new, like I could run it again. This time I just wanted to pass out (though I actually went to the gym and did 30 minutes on the bike, in hopes that it would prevent some ITB soreness tomorrow). As silly as that sounds, passing out is kind of my ultimate goal for a race: to go all-out and just give 100%.
Now that I have the half-marathon bug, the Bronx Half-Marathon is coming up in two weeks and I am SO in. I’ll do a short race (4 miles) next Sunday for the Superbowl, but mostly I plan to just rest up. New goal: drop under a 9:00 mile for the Bronx Half. Check back in two weeks to see if I can do it!
Distance: 13.1 miles
Overall place: 2,658/4,989
Age group place: 293/667