Good morning, afternoon, or whatever time you may be reading this. I wanted to do a post today about my first half marathon experience. To some it may be a small thing but to me this was a huge hurdle for me to overcome.
I signed up for our local half marathon called The Bill Snyder Highway Half and 5K. I knew for a while that I have been wanting to do this. It kept popping up in my head and I even added it to my list of New Year Resolutions. So in January I took a deep breath and I signed up.
Immediately I began to worry a little bit. I kept asking myself, “Why did I sign up for this? Can I really do this?” The self-doubt kept creeping in but I was determined to do this no matter what.
I started training after my birthday, late March. I didn’t go into training too heavily. Just started to incorporate more running sessions and tried to up my mileage every week or two. I would do some weight sessions or bodyweight exercises. For cardio, typically I would run for 30 minutes on the treadmill or run 5 miles around our neighborhood. For some running sessions I would warm up for 10 minutes then do about 6, 1 minute on 1 minute off sprint intervals to try to improve my endurance. Sometimes I would do these sprint intervals on a really steep incline. Other times I would just run at about the same pace on a small incline for 30-55 minutes.
As much as I love running I tend to get bored of the same thing over and over again. In March and April it was still really cold outside and I am not a fan of running in the combination of cold and windy. The treadmill quickly became my best friend, and only friend. I knew running was a necessity so I didn’t even want to bother with a bike or elliptical. There are training programs that recommend cross training but I never felt that I had really good workouts on a bike or elliptical. I suppose maybe It’s user error however running has always been what makes me sweat the most. I’m the type of person that if I am not drenched in sweat within 10-15 minutes, whatever I’m doing is not working for me.
I love a challenge and I love to push myself. I guess you could say I thrive under pressure. Well I like to think so.
At about a month out, this would be the end of April, I reached a “training block”. I got to the point where I just couldn’t stand the thought of going to the gym. I would still run occasionally outside when it was nice enough but I really cut back in my training, A LOT. Now if you are preparing for your first marathon I DO NOT recommend just throwing your training out the window like I sort of did. Make sure you are as prepared as possible because this could have seriously back fired on me. And it kind of did.
Fast forward to race week. I really did no exercise in the days leading up to the race except the day before the race. The day that I should have been resting, I decided to run 5 and a half miles. It was a decent run, I didn’t feel amazing but I didn’t completely struggle. It took around 55 minutes and I told myself, “it is what it is” and no matter what I would cross that finish line. Now I’ve never really considered myself a long distance runner. The most I had ever run in my life was 6 miles. Never ran longer than that. So to go into race day without ever running more than 6 miles was not very reassuring. However I still felt confident in my ability to adapt and hang in there for the duration of the race.
So the day had come. Race day. May 25th, 2019. A beautiful Saturday morning. The night before the race I had a big bowl of shrimp alfredo from Olive Garden and nothing else. I went to bed as early as I could. Then woke up naturally around 3am and couldn’t go back to sleep. Anticipating the race and what it would feel like to run 13.1 miles. Could I do it? Was this even possible for me? Many things were running through my head. I quickly began to research strategies other runners used to get through a half marathon because if I wasn’t physically ready I at least wanted to be mentally ready for this race.
After reading some scary stories about bleeding nipples, and people who collapsed mid race I tried to focus on the positives instead of freaking myself out. I had a banana and a peanut butter sandwich. Got my race gear on, had a pep talk in the mirror, and headed out around 5am to get to the stadium on time to catch my bus.
Upon arriving there were so many buses lined up ready to take about 400 runners to the start line. The start line was outside of town along the highway. On the ride out there I had a nice conversation with a woman who had run plenty of races. She told me to enjoy myself, enjoy the view and don’t put so much pressure on what time I finish. This helped to ease my mind a little.
Upon arriving at the start line it was relieving to see plenty of bathrooms to use before the race and a tent to keep warm in, it was pretty chilly that early in the morning. I waited in the tent for quite some time until everyone had been dropped off and it was almost time to get lined up for the start of the race. It was about 6:20 in the morning, I saw an opportunity to use the restroom real quick. I have this thing where If I’m nervous about not being able to use the restroom for a while I feel like I have to pee 10 times before I go. It’s so weird. But I made myself wait till right before the race and made sure I fully emptied my bladder so there were no pit stops that needed to be made along the way. Although it was nice that there were bathrooms at a few different stops during the race if needed.
Around 6:45 everyone starts lining up so I go find my spot. Which happened to be in the beginning of the crowd. I thought about looking for a better spot further back but there were so many people. I just decided to stay in the little space I had found for myself and started to stretch. Soon after that the announcer came on and got me really excited. I can’t remember what all he said but I do remember it made me laugh. Mentally I started to become very focused and I was just ready to get it over with. 6:55 I get my playlist ready, headphones on, start my mile tracking app. 3-2-1 the gun goes off and here I go. Immediately my lower legs and ankles are burning which I always call shin splints but I don’t think they are really shin splints. More like muscle pain, It’s annoying and Im still trying to figure out how to not experience this on outdoor runs.
After a mile my app comes on over my music letting me know I’ve completed the first mile and that my mile pace is 8:40. Way too fast for me. I knew if I didn’t slow down I would burn myself out. So I then slowed down to a 9:30 mile pace. Much more comfortable and I was able to maintain this pace for about 9 miles. After mile 3 my leg pain was gone and I was immediately regretting my pullover and t-shirt. I was burning up and so uncomfortable. Somehow mid race I was able to get both my shirt and pullover off and tie it around my waist. Normally I would not care to show myself off in a sports bra in public. However I knew I was in it for the long haul and I just wanted to be comfortable. So at that point I really didn’t care.
People kept passing me for the first 6 miles but I knew to not let this bother me. I needed to keep a pace that I could maintain and still have energy left to finish. At mile 7 there was a man laying down in the grass and people surrounding him. An ambulance could be heard in the distance and it eventually passed me on the opposite side of the road. It was scary to see that and I hoped that he would be ok. I knew that I had to stay focused if I was going to make it to the end and quickly tried to put my mind elsewhere. I focused on my music, crossing the finish line, what it would feel like to get there and see my family.
Around mile 8 a girl was puking over the bridge and I just tried not to focus on that. I definitely wanted to throw up too. After mile 9 my left hamstring started to cramp up. The sides of my knees were very achy and all I wanted was water. At every water station I made sure to drink at least one cup of water. I did try a couple of tiny bites of a gel pack that has amino acids, sodium and caffeine in it. I suppose it helps to give you a little extra energy during your race but both times I tried it, it just didn’t sit well with my stomach. So I eventually pitched that. I got gatorade from one station which I’m sure I probably needed but again my stomach just wasn’t feeling anything but water during the race.
After mile 10 I started to alternate some walking and running. My legs were in so much pain by this point it actually felt better to run than walk. Once we got to Kansas State University campus I was ready to throw in the towel and just get an Uber. I was so done but knew I was so close at the same time. I just kept telling myself, “You are almost done, you are so close.” So I kept pushing on. The amount of people cheering you on along the way helped a lot. People telling you good job and to keep going. When I was less than a mile out I saw a sign that said “Just be done.” I kept running and knew I was just around the corner from the finish. I saw my family and that gave me the last bit of energy in me that I had left. My sons face completely lit up when he saw me and he said “Go mommy go!” Even though it wasn’t a sprint I kept my legs moving and they carried me all the way through the finish line. To run across that finish line, onto the football field was the most satisfying feeling. I was greeted by many people, handed a medal and a nice man with a case of water bottles gave me the most refreshing water I think I’ve ever had.
Notice the painful look on my face.
I was so happy to be on that field. Thinking to myself, I just ran 13.1 miles. It took me 2 hours and 32 minutes from start to finish. It may not be the fastest time but for my first half marathon just finishing at all was enough for me. Given the fact that my training wasn’t the best and I was no where near the shape I could have been in for it. I still did it and I still carried myself to the end. What an accomplishment.
Looking back on it, it helped to break the race into chunks. Mentally I knew that I could run 6 miles. That was easy for me. Then after 6 miles I just had four more miles to go. After the 4 miles I just had a small like 5k run (3 miles) and then I was done. Breaking the race up really helped me to stay focused on the next goal which eventually got me to the end goal.
I think If I would have trained harder and for longer my body would have been better able to adapt to the 13 miles and handle the stress of running for that long. I probably could have hydrated a little more before hand to avoid the cramping that I experienced. I believe what I ate in the days leading up to the race could have been better too. They say to load up on healthy carbs like fruit, quinoa, brown rice etc. Avoid fatty foods and loads of protein like a lot of meat, cheese and dairy.
Immediately following the finish the pain I was feeling made me realize that I had no interest in even thinking about running another half marathon. Now that I’m a few days post race I think I would like to start training for the next race actually. I did enjoy it and think there were a lot of lessons to be learned from it. Not only about what my body needs but what I need mentally to finish. Currently I have no interest in running a full marathon. Basically doing what I did all over again after crossing the finish line. 26 miles I will have to say is something I can comfortably say hard pass for now. However in the future who knows, my mind changes often.
For the first 12 hours I experienced a lot of indegestition and a sensitive stomach. I was able to keep simple foods down and had no issues other than that. I read that due to the trauma of your organs constantly being thrown around during your run sometimes this can happen. I felt very weak, tired, and cold afterwards too. I ended up sleeping almost all afternoon and night but it was much needed.
This story is one I wanted to tell because it means so much to me to have been able to do this and I want to share my experience in hopes of inspiring someone else or maybe if someone was in the same boat as I was to not feel ashamed if you didn’t train enough, or didn’t get the faster times. It is such an amazing feeling to run a half marathon. Although painful we have to remember that if it were that easy, everyone would do it. It takes a lot of mental strength not just physical endurance to be able to complete this task and if you or anyone you know has done this just know that you are awesome and you deserve a huge pat on the back, high five, hug, beer, whatever your fancy. If you are thinking about doing a half marathon or even a 5k and have never done a race like that before you should absolutely do it. It is an exhilarating experience and it is not so much a race against others it is really a race against yourself and your mind.
Please leave a comment and tell me what you think about this post. Did you have a similar experience? I’d love to hear about it.
As always thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a wonderful day!
Shop similar looks below for everything I wore in these pictures and on race day!