Race Report: Andrew Jackson Half Marathon

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

A Reason to Run

It’s half marathon week! I vacillate between being incredibly nervous and incredibly excited about Saturday’s race. Mostly I am just ready to cross that finish line! While I have some lingering doubts about whether or not I can actually finish the half marathon, for the most part I feel like I’ve done what I could to prepare. I didn’t always meet my goals for my runs during the week, but I faithfully completed all of my long runs, including two 9 milers and a 10 miler this past weekend. Of course, that means that come Saturday I’ll still be running 3.1 miles longer than I have in training, but I’m trusting the training and adrenaline to carry me through. I know one thing: I WILL cross that finish line, no matter what! I may have to walk, hobble, or slowly jog across the finish, but I will finish.

Just a little less than 2 years ago, I decided not to run the half marathon I’d been training for. Honestly, I’ve regretted it ever since. I can’t believe I put in all that work, all that time, and didn’t run the race! But I can’t change the past, and I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed the whole process a lot more this time around.  What’s interesting to me is that last time I was training I did walk/run intervals, but this time I’m running without planned walking breaks, and I would think that I would enjoy the walk/run method more. I’m not really sure why running has been more enjoyable this time, but maybe it’s because I don’t feel any pressure to finish this half marathon.  I did feel pressure last time, as imaginary as it may have been. I am doing this for ME and only me, so I don’t have anything to prove to anyone else.

I am running because I love to run. I am running because it makes me feel strong and happy and free. I am running because I am grateful for these legs that God has given me,  and I want to keep them healthy. I am running because I am not the same girl who used to sit on the couch and stuff her face with junk while watching The Biggest Loser. I’m not the same girl who used to go shopping for clothes and come home crying because once again the number on the jeans was bigger than it had ever been before. That girl didn’t dream of running a half marathon; she couldn’t even imagine running half a mile.

When Saturday comes, I’ll cross that finish line with a smile on my face and perhaps tears in my eyes, and I’ll know that I had it in me to become THIS girl all along.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can…

Saturday I thought I was scheduled to run 9 miles. However, I discovered earlier in the week that I had in fact jumped ahead of my training plan, but I decided to try the 9 miles anyway because I relished the thought of spending over an hour and a half running wanted to see if I could do it. I was more than a little apprehensive since my longest run before that was the 7 miles I ran 2 weeks prior, but I really wanted to try. All week long I kept looking at the forecast because I was worried it would rain, but Saturday morning ended up being a runner’s delight: low-50s and partly cloudy. I dressed in long pants, a t-shirt, a light hooded jacket, and a visor and headed for the park nearest our apartment, the one with a 1.3 mile loop. I knew the biggest obstacle to completing this run wouldn’t be physical pain but mental weakness, so I was determined not to let boredom or frustration or fear get the best of me. I started off with a slow warm-up jog, and after feeling a little too warm for the first 1.3 miles, I shed my jacket and was very comfortable for the rest of the run. When I had completed 2 laps, I veered out of the park and into a nearby neighborhood, where I completely another 1.2 miles and then stopped to drink some Gatorade G2 (grape flavor-yum!). At this point I was feeling good, and I was enjoying listening to my Little Women audiobook, but I knew I still had over half of my run to finish.  I steeled myself and just stuck to my run/walk intervals of 5:1.

I didn’t hit a wall until after I had finished 7 miles. Then I started to feel like I had been running forever and would never finish. Many of the runners I had seen when I arrived at the park were gone, and I wanted to leave, too. I started repeating to myself, “I can do all things through Christ” over and over, and I thought of myself at the finish line of the half marathon, finishing strong. I couldn’t give up. I had to keep going, but those last 25 minutes seemed to last twice that long.

But finally, after 1 hour and 43 minutes, I made it. 9 miles. It was TOUGH, but it wasn’t impossible. My hips and my left knee bothered me quite a bit on Sunday, but today I feel great, so I’m very happy.

Ever since I decided to try and run a half marathon I have had this doubt in the back of my mind that this goal was too big for me. That doubt was part of the reason I was reluctant to blog about it at all. After all, I’m an overweight, non-athletic woman who just two years ago would have laughed at the thought of running one mile, much less 13.1. So when I ran 7 miles two weeks ago, I was excited, but I also thought, “Erin, that’s only a little over half of the distance you’ll have to run for the half marathon. Are you sure you can do this? Are you sure you WANT to do this?” But after Saturday’s run, I know that not only do I want to do this, but I CAN do it, and I will do it.

April 17, here I come! And you better believe you’ll read all about it. 🙂

Going for It

I think I’ve made a decision about what to do concerning my conflicting goals of weight loss and half marathon: I’m going for the half marathon. Here’s why:

1.  I am halfway through my training right now, and the thought of having to start all over with that does not excite me.

2.  The half marathon I am wanting to run is on April 17, so I really only have two months of training left, and then I can focus solely on weight loss.

3.  In those two months, it’s possible that I could still manage to lose a few pounds, so it’s not like I’m completely “giving up” on weight loss. I’m just shifting my focus a bit.

4.  I’ve already taken two years to lose weight, so what’s a little more time, right? 🙂

5.  If I didn’t reach my goal weight until summer and then started training for a half, then that would mean I’d have to train in the heat, and I do NOT want to do that. I can do treadmill runs of about 5 miles, but twice that? Not gonna happen.

6.  As a friend on SparkPeople said, I can always lose weight, but will I always be capable of running a half marathon? Maybe, maybe not.

So I’m going for it. While losing weight and running a half may be at odds, I know that being healthy and running the half DEFINITELY are not at odds.  I am hoping to cross that finish line in the best shape of my life, even if I still have 15 pounds to lose!