My first half marathon experience

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

My First Half Marathon

2:38:25.

These might be my lottery numbers from now on.

I consider myself a “newbie” when it comes to running and wondered at the end of my first half marathon if I qualified for calling myself a runner yet. The verdict is still out, as I have had varying responses to that question.

The Spartan Sprint preceded my first half marathon, which is 3+ miles of trail running and obstacles courses. For each obstacle you fail, you are to complete 30 burpees. While training for the Spartan race, I found myself running between 6-8 miles. After the Spartan I was so pumped up and I thought, “Why not move on to the next challenge?” which led me to sign up for the half marathon. I felt that I was in the best shape that I had been in for a while, so this would be the best time to do it. Ironically, when I say “the best shape” I don’t mean the thinnest I have ever been. Instead, I feel the strongest and with the most stamina. The stamina must come from my belly, ‘cause my belly is as big as it’s ever been (I plan to focus on that next!).

1. The Playlist: I didn’t utilize a playlist in my training program. I usually run to Pandora radio, which I almost always have on the same station. For my half marathon, I decided to take the time to make my own “set list” and even spend money on iTunes, downloading music to make sure I had exactly what I wanted. This felt like a luxury to me, but a necessary one.

I feel having a playlist helped me through the race. Particular songs seemed to come on at just the right time to get me through difficult aspects of the race. At mile 9, I was approaching one of the most heinous hills of our course. I had ran hills in the area of the race as part of my training, and told myself that on hills I would look down at the ground in front of me and not up above at the hill ahead. By mile 9, most of the runners around me were walking this hill, but I had planned to not stop running. With most everyone around me walking this hill, I was tempted to walk it myself, but right at this time a fun, inspiring song came up on my playlist that gave me the energy to run up the hill. That may have been a rookie mistake. Maybe I should have just walked that hill like I had walked a few others, but DJ Kaled “I’m Always Winning” got me through the hill of mile 9 without stopping.

The aspect of my playlist that I fell short on was not having enough music to last through the whole half marathon. I only allowed myself 2 hours and 30 minutes of music. I felt that allowing myself more minutes of music just seemed like I was giving myself permission to take longer. Even though my goal was to just finish this race with no particular time, I was shooting for 2:30 to 3:00 hours. Anyway, right at mile 12 my music just stopped, period. The sudden cease of the music just about stopped me dead in my tracks right as I was facing the last mile AND a final hill which ended at the finish line! I floundered a bit, when a man across the street yelled across four lines of road, “YOU’VE GOT THIS!” Blinded by the sun, I muddled with my phone to get Pandora turned on and took off running up that last hill.

2. The Clothes: This topic includes shoes as well; so let me cover that aspect first. I had some new shoes from Christmas that had not even been broken in yet. I got them out and started running with them when the weather had finally gotten a bit sunny. Fresh new tennies! I read that switching off between two pairs of shoes was a good idea. I had one pair that I had been running with most of the time, and then I started breaking in the new ones. I also read that many people get black toes from running. I hadn’t had that experience until recently and read that it could be due to shoes being too small. I think my left big toe was rubbing the top of the new running shoes and it was bruised like a stubbed toe. The shoes were the right size, but they were a gift so I had not tried them on and probably could have gone up a size for running. I took off from running the week before the half marathon and decided to go back to my former shoes for the race because they didn’t seem to rub my toe. Shortly into the race, my toe was hurting. I was like, “Yikes, oh no!” Then, after about a mile, the toe stopped hurting. I thought, “Well that toe nail came off, that’s why it’s not hurting anymore. It just rubbed right off!” I kept thinking that I was going to feel it moving around in my shoe! Much to my surprise, when I went home after the race and took off my shoes, my big toe nail was still there, although it is raised a bit and looks bruised underneath.

The weather presented a dilemma because it kept changing so much here in lovely Indiana. My potential attire went from shorts and a tank top to full winter gear! This was actually a bit stressful because I knew that I needed to have trained in gear quite regularly prior to the race. I ended up wearing a Nike tank that I purchased the week before the race, and therefore not trained in, along with capri pants and a jacket that had been through a trial period. I ended up having no problem with any of my clothing and I had utilized some chafing lotion for the first time. Hats off to Nike for that great running tank, however, quite honestly, I find that Under Armour is truly the best running gear, and naturally Brooks’ shoes.

3. The Training- This being my first half marathon, I had a lot of questions about training. I really don’t know if you can have too much training and I also wasn’t sure if I had enough. A few weeks prior to the run, the furthest I ran was 8 miles. I advanced from being a 5k person to 6 and 8 miles fairly easily and quickly. One week prior to the race I set out to do my farthest run. This run was going along quite well and my plan was to stop and walk after an hour, take in some water and then continue on to my second half. I did all of this and had been making pretty good time, but my legs and knees began to complain and they really did not want to get going again! I tried to run a bit, but I was concerned about injuring myself one week prior to the race. I ended up running 7 miles and walking 3 for a total of 10. This is where I came to the conclusion that on race day, I just needed to keep going. If I stopped, my fear was that my legs would not want to keep going. Early in the race I was feeling pain in my knees and I just kept telling myself, “Ignore the pain in your legs, it’s just your body changing. They are getting stronger. It will be fine tomorrow. Keep moving.” I was telling myself to ignore them like OZ, the man behind the curtain. This seemed to work for me, but the last 3 miles were the most difficult. I really had to push, just telling myself, “It’s just going to take that much longer if you walk and your knees and legs are not going to hurt any less. They hurt just as much walking!”

I had a deep tissue massage the day before the race to handle some pre race jitters. After the massage was scheduled I read that if you were going to do this, you should schedule it a week before the race, and NOT the week of. I decided to go ahead with it since it was already scheduled. I have these routinely so I thought it probably wouldn’t make much difference since my body should be used to it. I’m not really sure what the impact was from the massage and whether it helped or hindered my process. But my intent was to rest and regroup during the week prior to the race so in addition to the massage, I did one night of yoga at home with my husband, and some mild bike riding the day after my last long run.

4. The Weather: The weather was predicted to be 40 degrees that morning and not really expected to change much between 7 and 9 am. The horrible weather this year has truly impeded my training and running outside. I ran a 5k on Thanksgiving and it was 23 degrees, the St. Patrick’s 5k I ran was about 32 degrees. I’ve decided that cooler is better, but I like the sun out. The day of the half marathon was so overcast that I almost didn’t even take my sunglasses, which are a staple for me when running. I ended up taking them because I knew I would be upset without them. I’m glad I did because the sun did come out, but I started off the run with gloves on!

5. The Recovery: I had spent many evenings reading about how to prepare and train for a half marathon but none on how to recover. I had to walk some distance after the race to get to our vehicle to drive home. Turns out, this is actually recommended to wind down. Instinctively, when I got home I knew that my body needed a nutrition replacement so I blended up a smoothie with yogurt, milk, protein, banana and peanut butter. I started a hot bath with Epsom salt while I was fixing up my protein shake, and also popped two Aleve gel caps. I later read that cold baths are recommended. After my bath and laid down for a little bit, unable to actually even nap during this time, so I got some social media support and accolades for my accomplishment. Then I enjoyed a nice, no frills lunch prepared by my husband, which consisted of a grilled cheese sandwich, some green beans, olives, beets and water. We went to some ballgames for some children in our family and enjoyed a nice dinner out that night at Red Lobster with our parents. I still haven’t had that hot fudge Sundae that I promised myself after this half marathon!

So you got it, my lottery numbers, and my finish time. I will take it for my first half. It was within my estimated time although I told myself my goal was just to finish. I knew negative splits were recommended, but felt I was not experienced enough to do this on my first run. There were pace runners on our race, which I felt was helpful. I stayed with my pace group over half of the race, until about mile 8 where I fell behind the 2:30 pace setter. Crossing the finish line was a personal victory!  What is your next personal victory?