So remember when I said I was going to run a half marathon? The race was over a month ago and I still haven't shared my thoughts on the experience. It's a good thing I don't have a lot of people reading my blog! First, my excuse: When I finish one thing, I immediately move on to the next thing - 29 Random Acts of Kindness on Jan 29 for my 29th birthday - that's just how I roll; it's what I do. Now, my lecture to myself: Finish what you start; You created all of this build-up and then didn't post about the actual run!
Joe and I arrived at the pre-race prep area at 2:00 p.m. on December 2nd. Joe started the full marathon at 3:00 p.m. I "started" the half marathon at 4:30 p.m. I say "started" because by the time my corral (#31) made it to the start line, it was 5:30 p.m. The waiting to start was one of the worst parts. After sitting in the prep area for 2.5 hours, I just wanted to GO!
I started the race officially at 5:30 p.m. What a rush! I was pumped, amped, a true adrenalin junky, jogging past the slow pokes and loving it! The stomach cramps kicked in after about 30 minutes (first-timer mistake #1: taking an Imodium before the run). I grabbed a drink at the first water station (first-timer mistake #2: not running with my CamelBak), stopped to pee at the first rest station, and then went back to it. I'd estimate that I kept up the jog for the next hour or so and then the stomach cramps got the best of me. I slowed to a walk, did some intense breathing exercises, drank more water, ate some energy snacks, and watched some of those slow pokes jog past me...sigh. The race was really poorly marked in terms of how far we'd run so most of the time, I had no clue how far I was the finish (first-timer mistake #3: not bringing my own pedometer). At this point my foot (remember, I had, and still do have, tendinitis in my left foot) really started to bother me.
I started running again, enjoyed the rush that comes along with passing other people (it's incredible, really), and pushed myself until I just couldn't push anymore. I'd say I "walked" the last 3 miles or so. I say "walked" because I walked the 3rd last mile, hobbled, the 2nd last mile, and tried my absolute darndest not to pass out for the last mile. As I dragged myself passed the medical trucks, the thought crossed my mind, on more than one occasion, to just stop and get them to drive me to finish. By the end of the race, I was exhausted, sure I was going to vomit, and could hardly feel my left foot because of the pain. I was in rough shape...BUT...as I neared the finish line, the truly incredible experience of the half marathon really set in.
A small boy, maybe about 5, was standing off to the side of the course with his arm stretched out to give the runners a high-five. Most of the people had one-track minds, "I can see the finish; I'm almost there," and weren't paying any attention to him. While I was thinking the same things as the others, I was also looking for anything and everything to distract me from the fact that I was near unconsciousness. I went up to him and upon seeing that someone was actually paying attention to him, he braced himself and gave me a huge spin around high-five! At that moment, and even now, I love that kid! A little bit further on, a grown man who was clearly waiting for someone he knew to come along (which means I wasn't the last person to finish) gave me a high five and said, "You're almost there; you're doing awesome; keep it up!" I loved that man too.
At some point in there, I realised that I was actually going to finish. "Thanks, medics, but I don't need you!" With the last ounce of strength I could muster, I ran (or jogged...sort of) across the finish line. Congratulations all around, photo op, and then the struggle to figure out how to get out of the post-race area and back to my hotel so I could pass out!
I found an equally exhausted Joe already in the hotel room. We got pizza, did a bathtub soak, and fell asleep with the hopes that we'd be able to move the next morning. We could, move I mean, but barely. All day we hobbled around, braced ourselves for the immense pain every time we had to go down stairs (up wasn't really a problem), and laughed a little every time someone recognised us as runners because we were struggling so much to move.
"So how was the race?" That's all I heard (obviously) from everyone who knew I was doing it. My answer: "It was brutal, but I finished and the experience was amazing!" Would I do it again? (I was asked that quite often as well) and the answer is yes, definitely, but never with an injury again.
My official race time was 3:27:09 and I am happy with that. Ya, I wish I could have run the whole thing. Ya, I really wanted to finish in 3 hours. Ya, most average racers finish in 2.5 hours. The main point for me is that I finished. I am a FINISHER! I set a goal; I trained my ass off; and I completed what I set out to do; finish a half marathon and raise a bunch of money for the people and program that have changed my life.
21K for Change, indeed!