Sunday, August 26, 2012

My First Half Marathon

Yesterday was a day I'd had on my calendar for weeks.  It was a day I'd dreamed of for years.  When the time came to register for this race, I didn't even have to think about it.  Yesterday, I ran my first half marathon...13.1 miles...21 kilometers.

For my first half, I chose to run the Patrick Henry Half Marathon.  This race runs through my home town, and I had dreamed of running it for quite some time.  I wanted to experience the beauty of my home on foot, and I wanted the familiarity of home for this first race.  I chose well.  Most of my fears and anxiety were minimal because I knew exactly where I was the entire time.  Even fears of parking issues were minor because I knew I'd find a place to go...even if that meant parking in a friend's driveway.

One thing I was worried about, though, was heat.  August is traditionally the hottest month of the year in VA, and things could have been rough.  I was pleased to see that the forecast called for clouds and highs in the low 80s.  I was only a little surprised to wake up and find that it was raining!  I guess it just wouldn't be a race if it wasn't raining.  So far, of the 4 races I've run, it's rained during every single one!  I told the other runners they could blame the rain on me.  Personally, I love running in the rain.  It keeps me cool and it's often refreshing.  I was quite thankful for the summer showers.

When I got to the race, I had about 20 minutes to kill, so I decided to use the restroom.  If I'd been thinking, I would have gone to the nearby Hardee's, but instead I decided to wait for a port-o-john.  The wait was long!!  It took much longer for me to get through the line than I'd expected, and at 5 minutes before starting I still wasn't close to my turn.  Unfortunately, by this point I also actually needed to use the restroom, so I didn't want to get out of line.  I came out of the restroom just in time to hear the train whistle start the race (it starts and ends along the train tracks).  I would have been super disappointed, but two things made it better.  1) There were still tons of people waiting, so I wasn't alone.  2) As I came out, I heard someone call my name.  When I turned around, I saw my two running buddies!  I was so relieved!!!  I knew they'd be there, and I'd planned on running with them, but I hadn't even thought about figuring out a way to actually meet up.  Luckily we all have small bladders.  :)

We took off together, and joked about how disheartening it was to start as the very last people in a race.  Seriously, we could see the entire pack ahead of us, and we were so far back.  We knew we'd catch up eventually, though, so we just kept pace together.

The first 3 miles were brutally painful.  I kept looking at my watch, wondering when we'd be done.  I hadn't found my flow yet, and I seriously wondered if I'd be able to finish.  My legs hurt, my back hurt, and my feet hurt.  I was wondering if I'd reach my goal if I walked.  Thank God I'm stubborn.  I wanted to run the whole thing, so I kept plodding along.

Somewhere around mile 4 the rain picked up.  It fluctuated between heavy mist and steady rhythm.  Somehow, this set me at easy.  It gave me something else to think about, and I just tried to keep water out of my eyes.  At the half way mark, I saw my mom waiting to cheer me on.  I stopped for a moment to say, "Hi!" and give her dogs a greeting.  Then I continued on my way.

When the rain stopped, things immediately felt warmer.  Oh, and my feet immediately felt like they were going to blister.  Each step I took was accompanied by a nice "Squish" sound.  It drove me nuts!  The change in temperature through me off, and I had to slow down briefly.  Eventually, though, I fell back into a rhythm. 

At mile 7, I saw Hans waiting with Cody to cheer me on.  He had chocolate-covered blueberries waiting for me, and I appreciated the sugary pick me up.  This, however, also slowed me down, and I had to pick up the pace to catch up with my running buddies.  No worries!  I hadn't paused for too long.

The next 3-4 miles felt great.  I was taking things faster than I had in the first half of the race, and the faster pace felt good.  I was happy to continue on this way.  This, however, is also where my running buddies experienced some of their own troubles.  The rain, the pace, and the excitement had taken its toll, and they each had to slow down a bit.  The nice thing about the hard part being in the beginning is that it's easier to overcome.  At the end, you're too tired!  Since I was doing well, though, I decided keep the faster pace, and I hoped by friends would catch up to me soon.

The last 2.5 miles were run on my own.  As much as I missed my buddies, I very much enjoyed the silent time to focus and think on this accomplishment.  As I ran, I saw other runners in various states.  Some were doing great.  Some where obviously in pain.  Some had nothing left in them.  One runner was even sitting on the side of the road.  Obviously in pain and upset, she was with another runner and an officer, who I'm pretty sure took her to the finish.

At mile 12, I felt the fatigue.  I was tired, and I was ready for the race to be done.  I just wanted to see the finish line, and I would sprint until the end.  Instead I just ran along the streets that I'd biked along, remembering times with Hans and Cody, and even thinking of the house I would have liked to have bought.  Finally, I turned a corner.

At mile 13, the route turned a corner.  There was only .1 mile left and I could see the finish line!  I can't say that what I did could be considered a sprint, but I did pick up the pace.  I was almost done!!

Finally, FINALLY, I crossed the finish line.  I ran through smiling from ear to ear.  Right after the finish, they handed out medals, and I could not have been happier to have received mine.  For the first time ever after a race, I was so tired and so full of emotion I almost cried.  I saw Hans and I rushed over to him so I could cry on his shoulder.

By the time I got to Hans, the tears had passed and I merely embraced Cody in a hug.  I followed this with a hug and kiss from Hans, and then I headed back towards the port-o-johns (again, I have a small bladder).  After that, I reunited with my running buddies, and I got some food (which Cody was more than happy to share).

My goal was to finish in under 2:30:00.  My final time was 2:22:21.  So, I guess I actually achieved two goals.  First, I finished a half marathon (without walking).  Second, I finished it in my desired time.  I could not be happier.

Running past the train depot
Around 7 miles
At the finish

Three lovely ladies...all half-marathoners. 

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