On October 9, 2010, after much training and preparation, I finally ran the Run for Life Half Marathon in Madison, MS.
It’s been over a week now since I ran my first half marathon. I decided that I needed to think about things for a bit before I put it all down in writing. It was such a crazy experience. We spent the night at a hotel in Canton, MS, and I didn’t sleep well. I maybe got 5 hours of interrupted sleep even though I laid down about 8 hours before my phone was set to go off. My mom and I got up and got ready. I really had no appetite, but I choked down a half of a blueberry muffin before leaving. I packed a banana and a container of yogurt, hoping my appetite would increase before the race began. It was a cool but comfortable 52 degrees. I don’t know how we managed to get to the race in Madison with only 30 minutes to spare, but I found myself in the line to the port-a-pottie and stood there for 20 minutes. I finally got to use the bathroom about 6 minutes before the start of the race. I ran back to my mom, called my husband who was late himself and still not there, and tried to get my fuel belt adjusted and get into my pacing group. It all happened so quickly, too quickly.
I pulled out a gel to get at least a little nutrition before the shot went off and got most of it down before beginning to run. I had meticulously made my ipod race mix, and barely heard the first song as we all raced forward. The first few miles felt pretty good. I was running at about a 9:00-9:30 min/mile for the first 3 miles. The route with hilly and curvy, which I like because it keeps my mind off the running. My left ankle, which I’ve been struggling with for a while, began to hurt some by then, and I also felt that my toes on my left foot were developing a blister again even though I’d covered them with moleskin. I thought I’d lose too much time by stopping and recovering them, so I just continued on.
I noticed around mile 6 that I was drinking my water much too fast. I felt like I needed to puke I was drinking so much, but around this point, I was getting tired and just wanted some comfort, and water was the only comfort I could find. At this point, I’d slowed to about an 11 min/mile, which was fine. I can usually pick back up near the end and gain a little time lost. I had gotten to the long, flat loop of the race, and the mental part of it began to get to me. It felt like I was going nowhere. Now I completely understand why people say you should try to run the race course before your race. It wasn’t possible for me since the race was about 100 miles away from home, but it really would have helped me to be more mentally prepared for the course. It was getting really hot. I didn’t anticipate how much seeing others stop running and begin walking would mess with my mind and make me want to stop, too. By mile 8, although I wasn’t yet out of water, I stopped for a bit at a water station. By this time, my right calf began tightening up really bad, and I feared I’d cramp up before the end of the race. I stretched a bit and began running again and tried to figure out my pace. This is where I got confused. I knew that at the end of mile 9, I was supposed to be at 99 minutes to stay at the 11 min/mile pace. But you see, when you get really fatigued and kinda dehydrated in a race, you can’t think very straight. When I saw the mile 9 sign (which meant the end of mile 9), I thought I was at the beginning of mile 9, which meant I was about 10 minutes behind in my pace (or so I thought). How had I lost so much time? I’d only stopped for a bit to walk. Well, instead of trying to figure it out, I got really discouraged. I began to stop for walk breaks more and more. My ankle and blistered toes were really hurting. I was so hot. My calf was tight. I wondered if I even should finish. I cursed myself for not bringing my phone in my belt. I just wanted to call my mom. By this point, I had run out of water, so I stopped at every other water station. I tried to run as much as I could, but I felt such a weight of despair. I just didn’t know why I was doing a half marathon anymore. It was not pretty. Yet, I still pushed myself to run as much as I could. I’d walk for 30 seconds or a minute and run some more. I probably walked 5 or 6 times for short moments, so it really wasn’t bad, but it set me back on my time, that’s for sure.
I finally saw the mile 11 flag. What? Just at mile 11? But then I realized that it had to be the end of mile 11 (this is when I realized my earlier confusion and wanted to kick myself). I knew that the race was almost finished, and it gave me some hope. Someone yelled out that just over the hill was the finish. Finally, a hill. Something different than a long stretch of never-ending road. I ran up it at a steady pace, refusing to allow myself to walk anymore. Through an intersection and around a big curve, I saw the finish up ahead. I couldn’t help but smile. I knew that rest was so near. The clock said 2:38 and some odd seconds. It was 10 minutes past the finish time I wanted and knew I was capable of, but I pushed forward as hard as I could anyway. They called out my number and name, which surprised me, and there I was at the finish, someone handing me my finisher’s medal, a bottle of water, and a soaking paper towel to cool off with. My official time was 2:39:12. I was glad I finished but pretty bummed about my time. I’d done 14 miles in 2:42 in training, so I should have been able to make 2:30 in a race, especially running as well as I did in the first half of the race. I know that they say that just finishing your first half marathon should be your goal, but I am who I am, and I know I could have made under 2:30 had I not let the mental part of it overcome me. I did finish, though. I ran a half marathon for my 30th birthday, and whatever the time, that’s still a pretty awesome thing. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and it was no doubt a learning experience that will help me in future races. No 14 mile long run would ever have fully prepared me for racing 13.1 miles. I now show off the 13.1 mile sticker proudly on my Jeep, because only anyone who has ever raced that distance can understand what a true challenge it is on the human body and mind.