Lessons learned from first ½ marathon and will I do another?
I did it. I completed my first ½ marathon this past Sunday. Will there be another? YES! Why? I don’t like failure and this ½ was a failure in my opinion.
I am proud of myself, don’t get me wrong. I am definitely proud of not only deciding on doing a ½ marathon, not only for actually signing up for the ½ marathon, but for showing up! The raging war inside my head especially since I already had the T-shirt in hand was something out of a fiction novel. I went back and forth about not showing up. I didn’t train as hard as I should have, I will not make it, I’ll take my ‘swag’ and try harder next time. Then, I wouldn’t feel right prancing around in my ½ marathon swag knowing I didn’t actually do anything to deserve it. The left won the argument and I was doing my shake out run at 6 am Sunday morning.
Sunday morning started out with trepidation. I spent most of Saturday evening googling stretches pre marathon, meals pre marathon, and what to do the morning of the marathon. I got up and made myself a bowl of oatmeal and ate ½ of a banana. I’m not a breakfast portion and my stomach was already in knots so I didn’t really enjoy the meal I was forcing down my throat.
I poured myself into my car, it was raining but it was warm. This may seem like another downer to my mood, but I am a rain running lover. LOVE it! The fact that it was warm rain made me feel even more empowered to get to the starting line and get started. Things were looking up.
I pulled into the parking lot, and started off on my ‘shake out run’. I googled this Saturday night and it seemed like a good idea. I started off on a very slow jog. I think I went for maybe 15 minutes? It wasn’t long. I arrived back at the race venue and continued on with warm up drills. Squats, lunges, grapevines… that kind of stuff. Ran into some other racers I knew, hugged it out and wished each other well. Then headed over to the starting line.
I settled in behind the 2:40 pace bunny. My plan was to do a 4 and 1 routine and if my calculations were correct, that would put me in at around 2:30 but I didn’t want to force it so I was happy with where I settled in. The conversations around me were of nervous small talk. The ladies were excited but nervous, I could hear a lot of “you’ll do great” and “what was I thinking” and “oh dear”’s. This was going to be fun.
The first 3 miles were slow and steady then I found my groove. I was in my zone. The rain was falling, my music was perfect. It was a perfect day for a great run. Lately those ‘great running days’ were very few and far between for me so when this started to take on the form of a great run I went for it. I knew my abilities and I was ready to let them shine.
I blew past my pace bunny. I blew past the next pace bunny and settled in between the last and the next. This was my zone. I was going to make great time. I was so pleased with myself. The 4 and 1 plan abandoned long ago. The slow and steady abandoned when I hit my zone. I was hitting the runners high and loving it.
I managed to get up the first hill (which is the same as the second hill as it was a loop course) and still felt amazing. This race was billed as a fast flat course, but on the day of, the advised us that there actually was a hill. A hill we’d have to conquer not once, but twice. They had volunteers stations at the bottom of the hill holding a sign “YES, THIS IS A HILL. NOW GET OVER IT”… I blew past the water stop, nope, don’t need any refreshment just yet. I blew past the next water stop and as I was nearing the next water stop I grabbed a cup and drank on the run. A skill I never attempted before. It was ok, I poured most of it in my eye but I did get a couple gulps. I just kept running.
When I approached the hill for the second time I had a conversation with myself. I decided I would stop and walk the hill because a seasoned runner once told me that hills zap so much energy from you that you never fully recover. Even though I ran it the first time, this was closer to the finish and I was so afraid of the dreaded wall that I decided to stop and walk it. MISTAKE #1. Well, this was really the only mistake I made to be honest. In my opinion, if I had have just kept my stride, completed the hill I would have completed the ½ marathon and still had something to be proud of.
I crested the hill and began my decent down. I couldn’t get back in my stride. I couldn’t find it. Running again after a long walk was awkward. It kinda even hurt a bit. I grabbed the water and tried the drink and run thing again, failed miserably. I didn’t pour it in my eye this time, but I choked on it and continued to choke for the next few strides. The lady in front of me turned around to coach me on. You’re doing great. Keep going, slow your stride. I wanted to tell her I was fine, but I couldn’t stop choking. That was it. The wall. I hit the wall so hard it actually threw me back a few steps.
The closest pace bunny and her crew passed me when I was walking up the hill and I was sure I was going to pass them on the way back, when I found my stride again, but I didn’t. I was alone. Not last, but alone. I tried to keep my pace up but I couldn’t find it again. Doubt started to creep in. Then the pain started to creep in then the fatigue. The next water stop I thought if I could just get a glass of that liquid nitrogen (Gatorade) I’d be fine… no Gatorade, just water, gah, no thanks… the last one didn’t help much. I was defeated. I stopped and walked. I thought I’ll just walk until the next song. The next pace bunny and her crew passed me. When I started running again, I could barely put one foot in front of the other. The runners passing me on the way back out were cheering me, telling me they were all in pain too. This made me feel better but also proved to me that my pain was showing. Literally. The next water stop didn’t have any Gatorade either. I was defeated again and walked the next song again. I started running again. The end was literally in sight. Just past the last water stop. I just needed something more than water. All they had was water. I resigned. I walked for a good minute or two then the last pace bunny passed me. I could see the finish line in sight. I mustered up enough gumption to start running to the finish. I began to cry. I began to cry at my failure. I began to cry and my accomplishment. I began to cry because even though I knew I was running the finish gantry wasn’t getting any closer. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. In my earphones a song began to play:
We may faint and we may sink
Feel the pain and near the brink
But the dark begins to shrink
When you find the one who knows
The chains of doubt that held you in between
One by one are starting to break free
Every hurt and every sting
He has walked the suffering
Let your burdens come undone
Lift your eyes up to the one
And then I bawled. I began to bawl like a new born enfant. Through my bawling tears I kept running. I crossed the finish line and I couldn’t stop bawling. This ½ marathon was not just a goal of mine, there are many reasons behind why I do what I do and many more behind why I started and just as I began to cry at my failure then at my accomplishment for this song to start playing in my ears at this exact time, I can’t articulate what it did to me. I crossed that finish line and if I could have fell to my knees at that time I would have. I thank God and I praise God for every sting and every burden and doubt and yes failure I have ever had. He knows. He knows it all.
What did I learn from this? I learned that I can do anything I want to. I learned that if all my training indicates I should run a certain pace, I should keep that pace. I shouldn’t have run ahead then I wouldn’t have hit the wall. I learned that if things are going good, don’t throw a wrench in the gears. I learned to keep my own replenishments and not count on race route replenishments. I learned to hill train even if the race is being billed as a flat course. Most of all I learned to keep God in my head at all times <3
I began my running journey in March of 2009. I began my journey of faith in September of 2012. Running releases stress from my body while my new found faith releases stress from my mind.