This was my second half marathon. I ran my first last June. I could not have had more opposite experiences with the two.
For that first one, I was scared because I didn't know what to expect. I had done relatively well with my training, which meant I had ran 3-4 times a week including one long run - though I never managed to find the motivation to get past 7.75 miles. I figured I could do it if I just kept going. And I did keep going, but the last three miles were borderline unbearable. I had major knee pain and if I had known a car would have come and picked me up, I would have just sat down on the side of the road.
For the second one, I was terrified because I knew exactly what to expect. I knew I was facing a long course with three big hills. I knew I was facing a near death experience on miles 10-13. And I knew my training had been a disaster. With travel and everything else, I didn't get into running the way I should have. I was inconsistent and unprepared. My longest run in the past few months had been only five miles. I was plagued with shin pain for a few weeks pre-race and I spent most of my running time on a treadmill, not outdoors.
I was in San Francisco laughing with veronica about the mess we'd gotten ourselves into the few days leading up to the race. My parents came over Saturday night to hang out and then see the race and drive me back to Sacramento. We talked a lot about my plan to walk when it got hard. I emailed Paul and told him I planned to run until six (the furthest I had ran in months) and then walk/jog as best as I could through the rest of it. I slept terribly the night before and was relieved when the clock turned to 5am so I could get out of bed and act like it was morning.
My parents, veronica, and her sweet family walked in the dark over to the start line in Union Square. We took some photos, said good luck and quickly split up. I got into my corral and waited the 30 or so minutes for things to start moving, all the while listening to hundreds of excited pre-race conversations. Everyone has a story and a strategy. My story (had someone asked), would have been, "This is my second and last half marathon ever. I am hoping to avoid major injury and not pass out."
But somehow, the nerves always bubble into adrenaline the closer you get to the start line. I turned on my playlist as we approached and kicked off the race with The Dog Days are Over. And I ran. And ran and ran and ran. I knew I would get through the first five. When my parents called (as I had told them to do frequently) my music stopped and I took the call through my headphones (a thousand thank yous, Steve Jobs) and told them I was approaching five and was planning to walk at six. "Call me back in a half hour" I asked.
About ten minutes later, my phone rang again. It was Paul. "I can see the Golden Gate!" I told him. "Good, babe." he said. "I am about 5.5 miles in. I think I'll start walking at 7." "Sounds good," he said. I still can't believe I was able to take that call. I can't get over the fact that technology is amazing enough to connect my deployed husband to me while I am running a race in San Francisco.
My parents called again as I was closing in on eight. "Still running!" I said. "Good! We're near mile 9 and will be on the left side. Look for us!" That call was just as motivating. Now I had something else to look forward to other than the finish line. My new mission was just to run to nine and see them on the sidelines. I wanted to look strong and happy as I ran by because my dad had said earlier he'd never seen a runner with a smile on their face. That was enough to power me through eight and the rush after seeing them got me through nine.
And after nine, I was on a different level. The misery that kicked in during the Rock and Roll half in San Diego at mile ten never evolved. It was hard, of course, but I felt good. Stronger than ever. I know I walked for about 50 yards at one point, but I can't remember where? Maybe mile 9? I can't remember why I started running again either.
My parents called one final time after I rounded twelve. "I'm almost done!" I'll see you in fifteen minutes at the most!" And then after 13 it was like a dream. I ran my hardest and finished at what felt like a sprint. Afterwards, I felt a little nauseous, but had no pain other than a few blisters.
The weather / It was perfectly warm, but cloudy. I don't think I saw the sun. People have been saying it was humid, and it probably was, but I thought it was very conducive to running.
The course / Yes, it was uphill at a lot of parts. But I think uphill favors forefoot runners. Downhill was actually much harder on my joints and back. And it was stunningly beautiful. The trees, the houses, the Golden Gate bridge. The San Diego race had a lot of strip malls. It had an unbearable switchback at the end. This had none of that.
My family / I didn't realize how important it was to have cheerleaders that know you on the sideline. I was so happy looking for my personal cheering crew.
My attitude / This was a battle I had to get through. I had nothing to prove, I just wanted to finish. That first race, I had too much pride and refused to walk. This race, I threw my pride away, and as a result, felt so much better. At one point, knowing I was going to see my parents, knowing it was going to be so long until I saw Paul, I became so overwhelmed with emotion I had to fight back tears. "Elise," I thought, "if you have the energy to cry, you have the energy to run."
My body / I am the most fit I have ever been in my life. It's not from running, it's from Bar Method. Apparently, four months of consistent classes were enough to prepare me for this race in spite of the fact that I skipped a running training plan.
Me / I am mentally stronger than I was in June. I understand time better. I get that this too shall pass. And I am more grateful for the ability to get through difficulty. So much of this race was spent in an almost meditative state. I thanked my feet. I thanked my heart. I thanked my lungs. I thanked my body for listening to my brain and getting through this struggle. Thank you was my mantra over and over again for 13.1 miles.
I don't have my official time yet, but I think I came in around 2:25:00. So 10 minutes slower than my first race, but 100 times better. This was exactly the race experience I didn't even know I was looking for and the perfect opportunity to retire from long distances. (Though I wouldn't hesitiate to enter a 10K.)
I think running is fantastic. I think races are both emotionally and physically rewarding. I recommend the experience (and the Nike Womens Half) to anyone. I also recommend following a training plan and listening to your body every step of the way. I still stand by the tips I recommended in this post.
I wore the exact same stuff as my first race (so this tee, this bra, this underwear & this hat) but switched my shorts to a different lululemon pair (I think it's the turbo short which I don't see on the site). I also changed shoes shortly after my first race. I was running in Nike Frees but they gave me major blisters and calluses (I think I was wearing the wrong size). I now wear New Balance minimus (with neon shoelaces from Target) and I love them. My iPhone armband is by Belkin.
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