I did it. I FREAKING DID IT!

EDITED TO ADD: Good God, I’m an ingrate. I owe gratitude to so many people: everyone who read this and put up with my seemingly incessant blabbering about running (which I promise will abate for at least a week :)), everyone who offered me words of encouragement and support, everyone who listened and offered advice and understood when I had to schedule something around a run, everyone who ran with me, everyone who got up early with me to cheer me on… you are all awesome. I am so very appreciative and lucky to have you in my life!

Ok. conscience clear. Proceed, post!

——

Half-marathon: checked off of list of “awesome things I will do again and again and again”. THAT WAS SO FREAKING AWESOME, YOU GUYS.

Sorry for the yelling, but I have like fourteen thousand things to say about this and I’m not sure how to do it. Maybe I’ll just give a play-by-play and see how it goes?

BEFORE THE RACE

I woke up at 3am because I was so excited I literally had to pee. After that, I dozed on and off until my alarm went off at 4:30, at which point I ambled out of bed and ate my pre-long run breakfast. It was cold outside – about 40 degrees – but it was only about 58 degrees in my house, so going outside into that didn’t feel too bad (I was wearing shorts, which turned out to be the exact right choice. Long-sleeve shirt, too, but that was also okay.) My sometimes-running-buddy arrived at 6am, and at 6:15 we left my house to walk to the 6:30 start – I live about ten minutes from the finish line, so being able to do that was the perfect warm-up. When we arrived, people were just starting to congregate and line up, and we only had to wait about six minutes before it was time to cross the start line. Running buddy and I put ourselves towards the back, because we both wanted to start out slooooowwwww.

MILES 1-3

At the start, the moon was still up and the sun was making its way up, so after we climbed the first hill at mile 0.1 (totally not kidding, but this was the perfect way to ensure an actually slow start!), we got a really great view of the full moon hanging over the backs of the buildings to our left. It was a bit chilly, but not terrible, and moving obviously made it seem less chilly. We set a good 10-11-minute-mile pace during the first two miles, and about a 12-minute mile for the third, at which point I decided to stop checking my watch every mile and just run and enjoy it. As it turns out, that was an absolutely brilliant decision, though it means I have no idea what my mile splits are until the very end.

MILES 4-7

At mile 3 we turned towards the “horse country” part of the course, in which we ran a couple of miles downhill next to a golf course and wended our way past some absolutely beautiful horse farms. Somewhere around mile 4.5 a deer shot across the road in front of us, and gave us all a good scare – no one was hurt, but I think the deer was more frightened than we were! Mile 5.5 was our first water stop (which I skipped), and then the road ended in a T-intersection – at which we turned left into THE MONSTER HILL.

When I drove this part of the course a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t entirely sure where I was supposed to go, so I got to that T-intersection and turned left and thought, Are you kidding? This thing is going to kill all of us. I got home and double-checked to make sure that I’d in fact gone the right way, and was not entirely pleased to learn that I had. At least I knew it was coming, though, unlike some people who made the turn, saw The Monster, and started cursing not quite under their breath. 🙂

Anyway, I did to The Monster what I do to all hills: put my head down, got my weight on the balls of my feet, and pushed. And pushed and pushed – and I tell you, all of that hill training I’ve been doing paid off. Monster was a piece of cake. Getting to the top rewarded us with a wonderful sight of rolling hills and fields and just – wow. It was gorgeous. We chugged along to the turnaround point near mile 6.5 – meeting the Easter Bunny along the way, who dropped a couple of pieces of chocolate here and there – and headed back towards The Monster to take it downhill.

MILES 8-9

Unbeknownst to us, the mile marker for mile 8 was actually at the bottom of The Monster next to a water stop, and I was so focused on getting water that I missed it entirely. I’d told myself I was going to take my snacky-fish snack at mile 8, but when I kept not seeing the sign for mile 8, I decided to just go ahead and eat them anyway, before we got too close to mile 9. They were perfect, and stuck to my teeth just enough to distract me from the nagging little bits of pain: in my hips, in the inside-ankle tendon on my left leg, and the tiny blisters on my right two big toes that hadn’t quite healed from last week. [My knees, bless them, were totally fine throughout. Whew!] I’m not sure if they were the cause of the second wind I picked up at mile 9, but seemingly out of nowhere I settled into this state of zen. I kept thinking, This is where your training kicks in. You’re hurting a little bit, but the worst is mostly over, and all you need to do from here is pick up your pace and trust your training. Trust yourself. About this time I sort of ditched my running buddy – we’ve long had an unspoken agreement that either of us going ahead of the other is always okay – and decided it was time to start passing people.

MILES 10-12

I was so totally in my zone in these miles. We got out of the golf-course horse-country part of the course, and started heading back down some of the hills we’d had to go up in the first few miles. I just kept a steady pace and focused on my stride, and I was surprised at how easily and naturally it seemed to come – even breathing was easy. I kept picking people off, just cruising past them, which I attribute to our seemingly extremely slow start. At mile 11 I realized I still had a lot left in the tank, and started really picking it up. We had one more annoying little hill to get up, and I dropped my face and got on the balls of my feet and pushed and pushed and then, two more turns and it was time to start the descent to the finish. The finish was a gradual downhill over my most favorite downhill in the city; I use it to finish my own long runs as a reward for the nasty hills I tend to encounter earlier in a run, and I was so excited that this race was finishing down that same hill because I knew exactly how to run it. I checked my watch at mile 12, and saw that I was on pace to get 2:15 – if I ran the last mile in about 8 minutes. Oh HELL YES, I thought. Trust your training, lady, LET’S FLY.

THE FINISH

And fly I did. Good God, I feel bad saying this but it was so much fun to pass people. I wasn’t sprinting, but I was going at a very good clip, and finishing as strong as I possibly could. I didn’t even look at my watch because I knew, I just knew, that I was going to make 2:15. About 100 yards from the finish I saw three girls who had been a good distance in front of me for the last mile, and my only thought was catch them. So I turned it up. And I caught them. And then – holy crap, I was in the finishing chute! And I was all alone! And oh my God there was my friend Jill and I was crossing the finish line and my arms went up and I just grinned and hooted and hollered. The clock said 2:20:30, and since I started at least five minutes later than the clock started timing, that was that – I knew I’d done it. 2:15. [The official results show that I did 2:15:38, which so totally still counts.] You could not have taken that smile off of me for anything in the world.

THE AFTER-PARTY

…and then I slowed down to a walk and realized how much everything ached. Eeek! Hips, ankle, blisters, calves, wooo Nelly did I need to stretch. I met Jill and she very kindly took some more pictures of me, and then I grabbed some chocolate milk and a banana and went back towards the finish line to find my running buddy. She came in about five minutes behind me, and we all chatted and stretched and got some water and took some more pictures.

Then, we did something I’ve been looking forward to for weeks: we went to the city farmer’s market a couple of blocks away, which opened today for the season. Four words: hot, fresh cinnamon donuts. I had two. They were amazing. I got some veggies, too, and then running buddy and I got some coffee and headed back to my house to watch the marathoners finish up – their course went up my street, once at mile 19.5 and again at mile 26. We got some beers, grabbed some chairs, and sat outside to enjoy the sunshine and cheer people on.

Here’s me with my well-earned Hopslam:

Yum.

We met some really awesome people, including a guy who was running his 43rd marathon since Labor Day, and we got chocolate from the Easter Bunny and free Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee from the people manning the water stop around the corner. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend the rest of the morning.

Running-buddy left after the last few marathoners went through, and I grabbed myself a shower, went grocery shopping, and am relaxing at home now. I’m heading out to see a movie in a bit, and then I’m going to celebrate later with some beer and good friends at my favorite watering hole.

I feel so freaking awesome right now. All of that hard work paid off in ways I couldn’t even imagine – I couldn’t have asked for my first half marathon to have gone any more smoothly. For now, my closing words will be these – and they pertain to the full marathon I’m doing in November:

Watch out, Richmond. HERE I COME. 😀

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4 Responses to I did it. I FREAKING DID IT!

  1. Cathal Mc Ginley says:

    I found this through /r/running on reddit, and it’s such a great motivation. (And, as Alex said on reddit, very well written too.) I’m very patiently training my way up to 10K at the moment, and hope to run my first half-marathon in half a year. The vision you painted of skimming the last few miles to the finish… awesome! I kept that image in my mind yesterday while slogging through the Irish rain and trying to avoid the temptation to take a shortcut home. Good luck with the marathon training!

    • kmt4n says:

      Thank you! You know, I found training up to 10k to be the hardest part, when I did it a year ago – it seemed like I’d never get up to 5 miles, let alone 6, let alone 6.2. But then you start adding a mile or so at a time and it just magically falls into place. It *does* get easier, I promise – especially if you take it nice and slow like it sounds like you’re doing! The patience really pays off. You will rock your first half later this year! Cheers 🙂

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