Saturday was an awesome day. Stephen and I woke up around 5:45 that morning because I planned to leave the house around 6:40 so I could get to Union University, the race site, around 6:50 (start time was 7:30). I had been bummed the night before that Stephen and Charlotte wouldn’t be going with me because I didn’t want to wake up Charlotte to go to the race (she usually sleeps until 7 or 7:15). However, Saturday morning she woke up at 6 a.m., so the whole family was off to the race site after much scrambling. I checked in, got my free shirt, attached my bib to my shirt, and got all my gear. I was ready!
I was super nervous before the race, but fortunately I timed my arrival to the race site well because I didn’t have much time to stand around and over-think everything. Before I knew it, someone was calling for all the half marathoners to assemble at the start line. I gave Stephen and Charlotte a kiss and headed toward the back of the pack, since I knew I wasn’t going to be among the fastest runners. I let out an audible sigh of anxiety, and the woman next to me smiled and asked me if this was my first. I told her it was, and she said, “It’s not that bad. You can do it!” Even though I didn’t know this woman, I really took comfort in her words. I could do it! I made sure to get the playlist cued up on my mp3 player and got my Garmin ready to push start the minute my feet crossed the starting line. The siren went off, and we were off!
I waited for the first surge of runners to take off before I started running. There were some people around me, but not too many, and I focused on finding my pace and enjoying myself. The first mile flew by, but I was a little dismayed to see that I finished it in 11:27, which was way too fast for me to maintain. I tried to go much slower my second mile and succeeded. It didn’t take long for the faster runners to disappear from my sight, and soon I found myself running alone, with 2-3 runners about 100 feet in front of me and several behind me. I picked two runners in front of me to act as my own personal pacers since they seemed to be running a fairly consistent pace. I ended up following one of those runners the entire race, and it was really helpful to have someone to keep in my sights and help me stay focused on a steady pace. When I hit mile 3 I said loudly to a woman who happened to be right behind me, “Only 10 miles to go!” She wasn’t amused and didn’t even respond. I didn’t care though because I was having a blast and was practically giddy about the fact that I was out there running in a race I once thought was impossible to complete.
The first 6 miles went by in a very pleasant fashion. My times were still a bit all over the place, but weren’t nearly as fast as that first mile, and I felt good and strong. The course was through neighborhoods and rural areas, and the first half was mainly flat, with lots of shade. Given the fact that it was already 62 degrees when I had left my house at 6:40 that morning, I knew it was going to be warm by the time I finished, so I was glad for any shade and any hint of a breeze. I took my first Gu at mile 4 and planned to take the others at miles 7 and 10. I ended up running miles 3-7 right next to another woman, which was nice. She wasn’t terribly chatty, but we exchanged a few words of encouragement, and I liked having someone else near me to break up the feeling of isolation.
At mile 7 I started to struggle. The sun was out in full force, and I was starting to get hot. I also felt like the road we were running on at that point was far too long, and there started to be more rolling hills. Mile 7 ended up being the slowest mile yet, but I told myself to just keep running. I rejoiced in the fact that I was over halfway there. The woman who had been keeping up with me must have been struggling as well because she soon fell behind, and I didn’t see her the rest of the race.
Miles 8 and 9 were hot and brutal. I struggled mentally through them but got a boost right when I hit mile 9. My boss and his family came out to cheer for me! The course ran right by the front of his subdivision, so he and his wife and 2 daughters were all there cheering for me when I ran by, and it gave me such a shot of motivation! It was around that point that I thought to myself, “Okay, I’ve got this. I can do this.”
Mile 10, however, was even longer than mile 7, and mile 11 wasn’t much better. I struggled to keep running and ended up taking a walking break somewhere in mile 11. Even though my legs felt fine, I was SO HOT. I filled my handheld bottle at each water stop the last 4 miles. I was grateful for the fact that I had worn a sleeveless tech shirt and pitied the people I saw who had worn long sleeves (what were they thinking?!). Still, when I passed the mile 11 marker, I tried to put the thoughts of how hot I was out of my head and focused on the fact that only TWO MILES were left! When I saw that I finished mile 11 in 12:10, I knew I had to finish stronger than that. I tried to push myself and was aided by the course, which had a nice downhill towards the end of the race. I smiled the entire time I ran down that hill, knowing I was so close to the finish and so close to achieving my dream. I never saw the mile 12 marker, but my Garmin said 11:57 for that mile, which was better, but I knew I could do more.
Just in time, the song “God Is Enough” came on, and I focused on nothing but those words and the feel of my feet hitting the pavement. By the time the song was over, I had the mental boost I needed to give it my all at the end. When I rounded the final corner and saw the finish up ahead and saw my parents and Stephen and Charlotte, I kicked it up a notch. I sped across that finish, giving a yell of victory and throwing up my arms in triumph. I finished my first half marathon in 2:36!
Crossing that finish line was amazing. I couldn’t believe I had done it! My legs were fatigued, I was dripping sweat, and I smelled rotten, but I had finished, and I had the medal to prove it (though I’m showing everyone the back of it and not the front–oops):
I ended up running that last mile in 11:27, the same exact pace as mile 1! I placed 18/22 in my age group, which is obviously not great, but I didn’t run the race to place first.
Running the half marathon was a wonderful experience. I actually had fun, and it wound up not being as hard as I thought it would be. Yes, it was challenging, but it wasn’t impossible. I reached my goal.
If I can run 13.1 miles, I can reach my goal weight!
My splits, for those interested:
Mile 1: 11:27
Mile 2: 11:55
Mile 3: 11:41
Mile 4: 11:53
Mile 5: 11:54
Mile 6: 11:43
Mile 7: 12:07
Mile 8: 12:01
Mile 9: 12:02
Mile 10: 12:09
Mile 11: 12:11
Mile 12: 11:57
Mile 13: 11:27