Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers! I wasn’t lying to you in my What It Means To: Take a Break From Blogging post when I said I had a busy few months ahead! The most recent of my endeavors: The Hershey Half Marathon! It was fun and exciting. It was nerve-racking. It was painful. It was anything and everything described below.
Dear Diary: My First Half Marathon
Sunday, October 14
(One week until race time)
Emotionally, my nerves are rattling, and I can’t stop the ruminating thoughts. “Next week at this time, you’ll be over halfway through the race.” “Wait, what if you don’t make it past Mile 10?” “What if your injury-prone self decides to get hurt this week?” Today, I took a 4-mile run with Alex to try and capture my best PR (personal record). I know that this is the last these legs will run until next Sunday which is both a relief and anxiety-producing. In between submitting papers for my graduate program and completing work assignments for my job, I know I’ll fit in some walks with Pinella this week to keep my muscles loose and limber. While I truly know very little about how to treat your body when preparing for a half marathon, I know that during this week leading up to the race, I don’t want to push it and certainly don’t want to get injured!
Monday, October 15
Hello, Monday! Less than one week to go! My mind is so preoccupied on the papers I have due, my state licensure exam happening at the end of the month, and preparing for my upcoming midterm exam. Surprisingly, I have not thought about the half marathon much today. This ironically makes me feel more anxious than when I thought about it all day yesterday!
Tuesday, October 16
Bring it on! I’m still not having many thoughts or experiencing any pre-race jitters. I am beginning to question my commitment to the race. What is wrong with me? Am I losing focus?
Wednesday, October 17
Halfway through the week! Today, a thought or two snuck into my mind. I’m starting to get that nervous feeling in my stomach and wondering what this experience will be like. Will there be great crowd support? Will the hilly course be manageable? Will the weather be ideal?
Thursday, October 18
Yikes, it’s getting closer to the weekend which means one step closer to race day! The jitters are building up. As I sat through my evening classes tonight, I could not focus on anything other than the race. I think to myself, “The next time I’m in this classroom, I will have (hopefully) completed my first half marathon.” The thought scares me as much as it excites me. I’ve read about people who DNF (did not finish) a race, and I DO NOT want to be that person. I have set two goals: 1. Finish the race. 2. Maintain at least a 14-minute mile.
Friday, October 19
Mentally, I need at least two more full days before the half marathon. This morning I wake up praying it’s not Saturday. Phew, it’s only Friday! Breathe. I start preparing myself mentally and physically. Aside from reading others’ blog posts about the Hershey Half Marathon, I’m also looking up the best foods and drinks to load into my body.
Saturday, October 20
(It’s the final countdown)
Holy moly! I barely slept last night. I had race-related “nightmares” throughout the night. In the first nightmare, I missed my alarm and didn’t make it to the half marathon on time! Secondly, I forgot my shoes! Who forgets their running shoes? It’s the one thing you need to run a race! The rest of the day, I’m nervous, and my stomach is aching. Alex must have sensed my pre-race jitters because he came back from the store with some of my favorite snacks! My race day bag is packed and ready to go for my early morning journey. The only thing left to do is wait for Sunday to arrive!
Sunday, October 21
I didn’t sleep a wink, but am I surprised? I tossed and turned all night wondering if I would make it on time, if I would hit traffic, or if I actually would forget my shoes. You name it, I worried about it. I get out of bed at 3:30 a.m., put on my race gear, brush my teeth, and head out the door. Before I leave, Alex says, “You won’t fall asleep while driving, will you?” My reply: “I haven’t slept all night. Why start now!?” When I left for the race, the weather was a mild 42 degrees. As I approached the venue, it grew cold, windy, and rainy. RAIN? For my first half marathon? You have got to be kidding me.
A Glance Into The Hershey Half Marathon
As the race began, the skies cleared up, and the weather (thankfully) became quite optimal for a brisk morning run. As we began running, two participants were having a conversation behind me about a race they recently ran and how they “hit the wall” at 10 miles. For the record, I have trained for and now successfully completed a half marathon, but I really don’t have much insight into the running world lingo. I wasn’t quite sure what it meant to “hit the wall,” but I figured it out around Mile 11 1/2.
The first half of the course included a beautiful run around Hersheypark Drive, through Hersheypark, past Zoo America, and through the town of Hershey. Miles 8 to 10 had great crowd support from the students at the Milton Hershey School. The course itself was very hilly. Whereas I usually abide by the rule of “what comes up, must come down,” I quickly learned that in the Hershey Half Marathon, “what comes up, just keeps going up.” The wind picked up around Mile 9 which served as an added obstacle to make it up the hills.
Mile 11 1/2: Cue what it means to “hit the wall.” I passed the chocolate aid station but was so determined to get through the race, I grabbed the chocolate and threw it in my waist pack. At this point, the wind was strong, clouds were overpowering the warmth of the sun, and I was getting low on energy. I had read about the “Miracle Mile” occurring at Mile 12 wherein kids from the Children’s Hospital line the final mile to cheer on runners. I knew if I could make it through this next 1/2 mile, I would reach the “Miracle Mile” and get the encouragement needed to finish. To my dismay, however, I made it to Mile 12, and a mere five or so people lined the street. I was so discouraged and frustrated, but I knew that the real reason for running this race was to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. I thought of those children with chronic illness who are forced to face repeated and/or long-term hospitalizations and created my own newfound sense of encouragement.
As I neared the end of the race, I was undoubtedly exhausted and my knees were getting sore, but I was blessed with the greatest sight imaginable: my family just before the finish line! My kind little brother left me with a sweet comment to finish up the race: “Thanks for being selfish and taking so long.” Seriously, how encouraging is he? 🙂
I made it to the remaining tenth of a mile. I was so excited to cross the finish line but was incredibly disappointed that the finish line was nothing more than a timing mat. No crowd support. No big finish line banner. Nothing to say, “Hey, look at me! I just finished a half marathon!” I anticipate that the finish line crowd support was much greater for the faster runners, but for slow-mo runners like me, it was anti-climactic. However, these details are simply logistics. I made it, I survived, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my experiences in finally achieving my goals of not only completing the Hershey Half Marathon but also maintaining an under 14-minute/mile pace!
Life is truly what you make it. If you’re nervous about running/walking in a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or any other race, just go for it! Seriously! I ran my first 5K in June 2017 and pushed myself to complete a half marathon in 2018. You can do it too!
When you are a faster, more well-trained runner stuck behind a slower runner, keep in mind that this may be their first race, they may have a disability inhibiting their ability to run a stellar six-minute mile, or they may just be pacing themselves to truly enjoy their experience. My personal philosophy when it comes to running is that you are your best competition. If you ran a 15-minute mile last year, aim for a 14-minute mile this year. If you’re satisfied at a 12-minute mile, embrace it, enjoy your experiences, and be thankful for your healthy body that enables you to get out and run! Lastly, when half marathons give you a less than stellar finish line experience, you smile big, throw your hands in the air and say, “HEY, LOOK AT ME! I JUST FINISHED A HALF MARATHON!”
Thank you for your support as I worked toward achieving this goal and in celebrating my accomplishment by reading this blog post! Stay up-to-date with upcoming posts by “Liking” and “Following” Sit, Stay, & Blog on Facebook and Twitter! 🙂
Until next time,