On Sunday November 16th, I ran my first half-marathon. 13.1 miles to be exact.
You might recall from a previous post, that I am NOT a runner. In fact, the week leading up to the race, I had pretty much given up. I literally didn’t go on a single run. Frankly, I was just sick of running, and I had lost all motivation. The only thing I cared about was finishing, and I knew that even if I walked the whole thing, I would cross the finish line in the allotted time. So why continue to bore myself with 8 mile training runs, which by the way, was the longest distance I got up to prior to race day.
As race day approached, I questioned how I could have been so stupid for committing to this thing in the first place. When I signed up, I had just gotten back from my 22 day hike on the John Muir Trail. I was feeling super healthy and awfully trim. I thought that if I wanted to maintain, I needed to do something extreme. Something to push myself. I needed something to hold myself accountable.
When I learned that the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon on the Las Vegas strip was just 6 weeks away, I signed up for it on a whim. I’d never even run a 5k, but since I was busting out 13 mile days on the John Muir Trail with a 40 pound pack, I figured I could jog 13.1 miles.
THE TRAINING BEGINS
The next day, I woke up bright and early feeling great, and I broke out my tennis shoes. Within the first 3 minutes of that run, it was obvious that this was not going to be a walk in the park. Huffing and puffing. Tight calves. What gives? I just hiked 240 miles…this shouldn’t be so hard.
Turns out running is a whole different cardio beast. Why was I not surprised?
Realizing that I was going to need to get serious about my training, I started looking up some training plans online. Then I got really scared. According to most running websites, six weeks is not nearly enough time to train for a half-marathon. Ooops!
Since I already paid for my spot in the race, I committed and (mostly) stuck to my running schedule. I tried to run 6 days a week, alternating between shorter and longer runs. Then each week I would slowly increase my mileage while trying to maintain my speed. Not too scientific I guess, but it seemed to be working.
Having a blast on my training run…can’t you tell?
The other thing that really helped was investing in a few pieces of running gear, including a water belt, a GPS watch, and some totally awesome Jaybird bluetooth earbuds. The music more than anything helped me get in the zone. I was no longer focused on my racing heart or my tense calves. Instead, I was focused on my rhythm and stride and even caught myself groovin’ from time to time.
Then came race week, and I was only up to 8 miles. I really had given it my all, and now I felt defeated. How was I possibly going to run a whole half-marathon?
So…I quit. I mean, I was still going to do the race, but I resorted to the fact that I would have to walk part of the way. My head clearly wasn’t in the game.
To top it off, I really let loose that week. On Thursday, I shook my booty at the Tame Impala concert at the Brooklyn Bowl and probably had a little too much fun. And even worse…the night before the race, I went out to Lake Mead and enjoyed some fireside cocktails. Not the kind of activities most experienced runners would advise the days leading up to a half-marathon.
DUN DUNNN DUNNNN….RACE DAY
The race started at 4:30pm on Sunday. That morning, I slept in, did some stretching, and drank my coffee as usual. Then I went to a nearby Italian restaurant and crushed a bowl of pomodoro pasta. At 3:30 I got dropped off by my parents who came in town to support me in this silly endeavor.
Once I was down there with the crowd, I began to feel energized. Tens of thousands of people. The glitzy lights on the Strip. Something was in the air. Nervousness, excitement, the fall chill. I had my race day playlist, my caffeinated energy goos, and my number, and I was ready to go. I started to feel like maybe I could actually do this.
As the sun set over the Las Vegas strip, we lined up in our corrals…I was in the very back, by the way. We waited and waited and waited, slowly inching our way to the start line. Finally after an hour of standing in the freezing cold (yes, it does get cold in Las Vegas), it was time. Ten. Nine. Eight. And boom, I was off.
Almost immediately I found myself weaving in and out of the crowd. Passing people one by one. I didn’t expect THAT to happen.
Then around mile four, I got a little pick me up as I ran by my folks who were sitting at an outdoor restaurant on the Strip. They managed to get everyone sitting around them, as well as the wait staff, to stand up and cheer in unison.
Before I knew it, I had run ten miles. Only three more to go. I was making awesome time and was taken back by how good I was feeling.
It wasn’t until I had a half a mile left that my right hip started to cramp up. Like bad. I thought about stopping to stretch but I was afraid that if I stopped my leg would be paralyzed. So I pushed through, tumbling through the finish line in 2 hours 8 minutes.
I couldn’t believe that not only did I run the entire race, my time was actually pretty good. I felt like I had truly accomplished something, especially in light of the BADitude I had the week prior.
I might even go as far as to say that I had fun.
I learned that so much of running a race is mental, and you have to remind yourself of the reasons why you signed up in the first place. The fact is you might just surprise yourself with your performance, and no matter how long it takes you to finish, you deserve to be proud that you put yourself up to the challenge.
That said, there are a couple of things I would do differently if I ever decide to run another one, which I just might.
First, I would try to give myself a few more weeks of training than I did this time around, and I would change up my routine. Running six days a week, at least for me, was a complete drag. If I had run 3-4 days a week and mixed it up with some strength training, I’m not sure I would have gotten as burnt out.
Then I would consider joining some sort of running group. Not for the social aspect, but to help push myself. When you are all alone out there on the running trail, it’s all to easy to quit the second your legs begin to ache. Having a few people to run with helps set a pace and encourages you to push through the burn.
If you are thinking about signing up for your first race, whether it be a 5k or a full marathon, I say go for it! Putting that date on the calendar will motivate you to get out there and before you know it, you’ll be setting all kinds of new personal records.