My Half Marathon Experience
A little bit about me before I start—I like to run. I’ve ran competitively since I was 11 years old, and as of late, I’ve become a bit of a race junky. This year alone, in a space of three months, I ran a duathlon, trail half marathon, road marathon, and three 50K trail ultramarathons. That might sound impressive to some, but what it did was leave me very burnt out. I was tired of my weekends revolving around 20-mile runs, and having to travel for a race every other Saturday. I was ready for some “me” time. I decided to take the next month off from organized training. I still ran on occasion and lifted, but I didn’t commit to an official schedule.
I’ll be honest. I loved that time off. If I wanted to go running, I went running. If I didn’t feel like it, then I didn’t. I felt free. I wasn’t strapped down to a training calendar that ran my life (pun intended). I was able to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about not sticking to something I had committed to.
Then I looked at my calendar.
“How is it August already?”
It snuck up on me like college deadlines used to. And there I was, less than three weeks out from my race, completely unprepared. And I don’t mean unprepared as in I wouldn’t be able to finish, but rather unprepared in the sense that my time would probably hurt my pride just a tad. I usually love half marathons because they’re “short,” generally not super challenging courses, and I’m usually well prepared for them. I knew that this race was not the case.
In those three weeks prior to race day, I started a more structured running schedule, running three to four days per week. I also came to terms that this race would be more of a training run for my marathon that was five weeks later. Accepting the fact that I didn’t need to race the clock took some stress off and alleviated a lot of the pressure I’d put on myself. I dropped my expectations and just acknowledged that I probably wasn’t going to run a sub 1:40 half. And that was okay (or so I kept telling myself).
The week before the race, I adhered perfectly to my running calendar and felt pretty good. The night before races, I tend to have a very structured diet intake, but sometimes life gets the best of us. After teaching my nightly fitness class, I headed straight to a work party (okay fine…it was fantasy football draft night), and the dinner that was provided: wings. Now, wings aren’t exactly the pre-race cuisine I’m accustomed to, but I was hungry, so wings were what I ate. Plus, who says no to free food? I consumed some good carbohydrates before bed as a last ditch effort to aid in my nutrition, and tried to ignore the pre-race nerves as I settled into bed early on Friday night.
“Bzzzzz, bzzzzz, bzzzzz.”
4:00 a.m. always comes too early. Always.
I scrambled to put on my race day outfit I’d laid out the night before, complete with my pre-pinned-on bib number, and sweats to keep me from freezing at the start of the race. I headed downstairs to whip up some oatmeal, then grabbed my drop bag for my extra clothing and headed to catch the buses.
The bus ride is always a bit unnerving since it seems to take an eternity to get from the finish line to the start, and all I could think was, “I have to run all the way back to my car.” Eventually I made it to the start, listened to the volunteer explain where the aid stations would be, and how to find our drop bags at the finish line. Then, the waiting began. To this day, I still don’t understand why they bus people to the starting line just so they can wait for 90 minutes trying to not become human icicles. I call it cruel and unusual punishment, they call it race logistics.
About 10 minutes prior to the start, I scarfed down my habitual rice crispy treat (I think they’re good luck before a race, not to mention delicious), stripped down to my singlet and shorts, and lined up according to my anticipated finish time. The gun went off and I started my watch as I crossed the starting line. I had 13.1 miles to go.
The first half of the race was a gradual descent down a canyon road. The views were incredible and I felt like I was flying once I found my rhythm. For me, the first mile or so tends to be the hardest part of the race as I try to find my groove, but once I’m there, it’s smooth sailing. The first seven miles passed by without a hitch, and as the course leveled out, I knew I just had to maintain my pace. I kept thinking, “Open up on the downhills and push through the uphills.” I couldn’t settle into a comfortable pace, I just had to keep pushing myself. There were a few short climbs around mile 10, and then again from mile 11–12, but I knew I just had to keep moving. If I wanted to finish under my “modified” goal time of 1:50, I had to run my last two miles on pace. I persisted and ended up completing the race 25 seconds ahead of my adapted goal time.
All things considered, it was a great race. Not my fastest, but a PR for that course, and I felt great the whole time. No aches, pains, or nausea, so I call it a success. I guess eating wings might just be the secret to a great race.
WARNING: This post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. iFit assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.
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