Last month, I ran my first half marathon.
To many conditioned runners, the half is merely a stepping stone on the way to full or ultra races. For me, it was a unicorn of sorts… a fabled, unattainable thing that others could achieve but was just out of my reach.
Well, not anymore. I did it.
As a writer, I’m used to finding the right words to describe situations, events and places. But honestly, there aren’t enough words in the English language to describe how crossing that finish line felt. Amazing is close. Elated is up there too. It was just the most… energizing, empowering and exhilarating… experience of my life.
I trained my ass off. A lot of people are modest about their preparation, and I can understand that. You don’t want to look like a show off, and non-runners really don’t care that you got up at 7 a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning to “sneak in” your long run for the week (yes, I did this). I can’t downplay how hard I worked, though, so really… I trained my ass off.
The best part of race day was waking up and knowing I’d be running all 13.1 miles with my friend Leigh. She’s been my inspiration for years, and one of the reasons I started running in the first place. Leigh has crushed the Manitoba Half Marathon numerous times, so she was already familiar with the route and knew what to expect along the way.
Running with a friend also meant that we’d have two hours to talk, distract each other from fatigue and discuss the interesting – and often hilarious – race day wardrobe choices of others.
I was tired by the end, and at the mile 12 marker I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. But then we entered the stadium, and I heard the announcer saying my name and bib number over the loudspeaker. Adrenaline kicked in and Leigh and I sprinted, hand-in-hand, to the finish. We crossed together, received our medals and gave each other a well-deserved high five.
That was truly the best high five I’ve ever received.
I did learn a few important things from this experience. So, if there are any half marathon hopefuls reading this, here’s what you need to know…
- Run with a friend, if you can. Especially as a newbie. It helps.
- Strategically place family and friends along the route. Figure out ahead of time where they are going to be, so you know to look for them.
- Don’t change anything the day of the race. Eat what you usually eat before a long training run, and stick to whatever you’ve been using to fuel yourself as you’re running.
- DO NOT hit up the beer station if you haven’t tried drinking alcohol while running before. I’m not going to lie… my arm was reaching toward the most beautiful, cold, refreshing cup of beer I’ve ever seen as we ran by. It was a reflex. I couldn’t control it. I wanted it, but I resisted because I had no idea how that would impact the rest of my race. Next time, though…
- Train. This goes without saying, but training makes a huge difference. Train hard, train long and don’t skip those long runs.
- Don’t be a hero. If you’re tired, walk for a bit. If something hurts, stop and figure out what it is. No one wants to crawl to the finish line, so listen to your body.
So, what’s next? Another one, of course. On October 18 I’ll be running the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Half Marathon. I’ve already started training, and I can’t wait.