Reflecting On My First Half Marathon

Yes, I said first half marathon. Because I’m pretty sure I’m going to do another one. But more on that at the end of this post.

Surprises From My First Half Marathon

I ran alone most of the time. I know I’m a slow runner. But I assumed that an all-women’s race with an 18:00/mile cutoff time would have more people like me in it. Nope. There were about 25 of us that took over 3 hours to finish. For much of the course, I was completely alone, or could see one or two people far ahead of me. Within minutes of leaving the starting line, it didn’t feel like a race—just a training run with a finish line.

There were virtually no spectators/cheerleaders. This was another symptom of being at the back of the pack. My family was stationed throughout the course, but I only saw a handful of other people. Friends had told me to leave the headphones at home and enjoy the race atmosphere. I’m glad I didn’t, because there really wasn’t any atmosphere to speak of.

I had to watch for traffic. We raced on an open road, running the same direction as traffic. Prior to this race, I’d only done closed-course 5K’s. Just one more reason it felt like a training run and not a race. The race staff were at major intersections to hold traffic for us, but driveways and minor intersections were up to us.

I am stronger than I thought I was

I am stronger than I thought. Although I ended up walking more than I had planned (partly because of the hills, partly because of the heat, I think), I never really felt like I needed to stop. I felt strong. I knew I would finish. My knees didn’t hurt, and I didn’t cramp up. I’m fairly certain I could have pushed the pace a bit more, but I didn’t want to risk an injury.

Recovery was pretty simple. I made sure to keep walking for 20-30 minutes after the race, and periodically throughout the next two days. I’d always be sore/stiff when I got up off the couch, but only for a minute or two.

What Does It All Mean?

I didn’t break down into a sobbing mess at the finish line like I thought I would, but that doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a life-changing experience. I’ve always been pretty good at following through on my goals when they were intellectual or career related (just need to finish my dissertation to complete the last goal on my list), but I’ve never been good at accomplishing physical goals. Whether it’s losing weight or developing an exercise habit, nothing ever really stuck with me until I started running. Running has helped me learn that food is fuel. Sometimes I eat crap anyway, but I’m much more aware of it. And, because I’m running, it doesn’t go straight to my hips.

A year ago, the idea that I would run a half marathon was about as plausible as climbing Mount Everest or hiking to the North Pole. Now, it’s just something I did last weekend. It makes me feel confident, and stand a bit taller, because I finished a half marathon. I now know that I can set progressively more difficult physical goals, and I will meet them—as long as I have a plan.

So, What’s Next?

My next immediate goal is to complete my assigned legs of the Ragnar Relay, without walking, at as close to a 13:00/mile pace as I can muster. I’m runner #1 on So You Think You Can Prance for Ragnar Chicago. I’ll cross the starting line in 3.5 weeks.

After that, I think I’m going to do another half, even though last weekend I said it wasn’t in the cards for 2014. Training for a distance race like this gives me a fitness routine with structure, a concrete goal to accomplish, and a wonderful feeling of accomplishment as I complete each scheduled workout. There are a few things I’ll do differently next time, namely:

  • Follow the training schedule more closely (I’ll stick with Hal Higdon’s Novice 1)
  • Pay more attention to my nutrition—every day of the week
  • Learn more about fueling while running

So, whats the race? I think I’m going to register for the Lake Country Half Marathon. It literally runs through my neighborhood, and I’m familiar with most of the course already. The race website says it has “some hills,” but I’ve run those hill before and they’re no big deal. It’s my version of flat. My only reservation is that the race is in August (Labor Day weekend), so it could be really hot … but in prior years runners have complained that it was cold, so I might roll the dice. The price increases in 8 days, so I’ll probably be pulling the trigger on this soon.

Any other runners out there—how long after your first race did it take you to sign up for another one?

6 thoughts on “Reflecting On My First Half Marathon

  1. Glad that you liked it enough to want to sign up for another race. That’s always a good sign. A race in your neighborhood is fun, too. Might I make a small suggestion? If you’re interested in running a race that has more crowd support I would recommend a large race that also has a marathon. I am also a back of the pack runner and it can be a bit discouraging to have ZERO crowd support. But, if there’s a marathon being run at the same time, there are still TONS of people around if you finish over three hours.
    Good luck with your goals!

    1. Thanks, Meg. Maybe I’ll consider a larger race at some point next year. Right now I just want to improve, and don’t really want to travel to a race.

  2. Way to go, Liz!! I ran my first-half a couple of weeks ago and signed up for the Indianapolis marathon a week later (ha!). I had originally planned to run the Indianapolis half to try and beat my time (I ran this one in 2:13 and wanted a sub 2:00) BUT I got tired of people asking if I was ever going to run a full.

    I agree that training is awesome for structure. I also cross-train 3-4x a week too which really improved my strength and endurance. For the marathon I will probably need to use nutrition. I did not for the half, just drank water. I plan to try out the things you suggested 🙂

    1. Wow….super impressed with your time for your first half!

      I can’t imagine running more than 6-7 miles without nutrition…I really fall flat at that point. Good luck on your marathon! Looking forward to tweets from your training!

  3. Yay, Liz! So proud that you did it and will continue!

    After my first half I said never again. I hated it. My feet were blistered up. All my friends had to wait for me. My hips, knees and feet hurt. I was a grouchy un-fun mess. I ran it again the next year. 🙂

    Then 3 months later, I ran another one at the last minute (a friend dropped out and wanted to give someone her entry). And well, you know the rest.

    Each time I said I’d train harder, watch my food, be better. No matter what something always falls off the rails but no matter what, I completed them each time. Good training or bad. It became a point of pride to say I did it and also kept me focused on a goal, which I needed. It’s def addicting once you know you can do it. (And the variety of medals, time away traveling/training with friends and all the pomp and circumstance do not hurt either!)

    Hope to maybe run with you one day! Keep it up!

  4. Oh Man! See what I miss when I go on a hiatus?! What an awesome race report! Congratulations on finishing your first half! Isn’t it funny how finishing your first one makes you kinda want to do another? I’m really looking forward to reading about your continued training, and reading your race report from the relay!

    It sucks that more people weren’t out cheering you on. I had a similar issue, The weather wasn’t awesome at my race and I was at the back of the pack so I’m sure most of the spectators had packed up by the time I got there.

    It’s awesome that your family got to leapfrog you! Your mom sounds like she really got into it!

Comments are closed.