I’ve never been much of a runner.
I mean I’ve played sports growing up but the most ‘straight running’ I ever did was cross-country at some point in elementary school and I think that lasted about a week…not exactly a memorable experience.
But when a buddy of mine said that he was signing up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on January 15, 2017, I agreed because I’m competitive and didn’t want him getting into better shape than I did.
That was in the middle of September, and four months later, after weeks upon weeks of training, I completed my first half marathon with the time of 1:49:50; an 8:23 pace over 13.1 miles. My estimated time (one they ask for when you sign up) was 1:50:00. Apparently, I have a good guessing ability.
The journey, though, was tough.
As I mentioned above, I’m not really a runner (maybe I am now, I don’t know…) and had a few ailments to deal with. (Not as bad as what Frodo and Sam had to deal with, but I wasn’t running with the fate of the world on my shoulders so probably okay with me.)
Anywho, I had plantar fasciitis and shin splints, which required physical therapy twice a week for a few months. (Big shoutout to Camelview Physical Therapy for getting me pain-free for the race.) Due to this, my running schedule was slightly altered but still held for the most part.
Now the actual journey, miles wise, was an eye opening experience. My longest run prior to embarking on this goal was 4.5-5.0 miles while at a summer camp. So the idea of reaching 13.1 was pretty much looking a dementor in the face — not fun at all. However, as the weeks went by and my runs increased in distance, that 13.1 didn’t look too bad anymore.
My unofficial running schedule was to run twice during the week (usually Tuesday/Thursday beginning at 3 miles each and then moving up to four and five as the race approached) and then my long run on the weekend (usually Saturday, increasing one mile each week, though I was off by one week so I doubled up doing nine miles). Now, this was by no means a couch to half marathon thing as I regularly play basketball two-three times a week and then lift the other 4-5 days. If you were planning a couch to half marathon, I would advise another day of running or cycling (but you can find those schedules online.)
While running in Arizona throughout “winter” was pretty easy considering the propensity for 65-70 degree days every day, I did get to experience some unfamiliar terrain. This included running on Christmas Eve in Illinois (mid 30’s temperature) and throughout San Francisco (partially in Golden Gate Park) on New Year’s Eve (mid 50’s weather…but the hills, uggh). This was a much-needed change from my usual running route which couldn’t have been more blah.
After navigating the holidays without much of an issue – somehow kept the candy away- race day was upon us.
I woke up at 5:30am after going to bed just before 1:00am (I wouldn’t advise this but I had a work event that went late so whatcha gonna do?). I had read leading up to race day to wake up early to get your body’s circadian rhythm jump-started before the gun goes off.
For breakfast, I had some oatmeal, eggs, and a protein bar, plus water and a little bit of coffee- I stopped drinking 40 minutes before the race started – another tip I read.
Once we found a place to park which wasn’t too bad thanks to my friend having access to a parking garage, we walked over to the race corrals (based on your estimated finish time, you were put into corrals/waves to break up the participants). I was in three while everyone else was behind me. However, a late dash to the bathroom pushed me back a wave, though it hardly mattered at all.
Once my corral was ‘released’ the challenge began. No, not the running part per say but the fact I had to run while also not running into or in front of other runners around me. This meant I was hugging the side of the road, going up on the sidewalk, doing quick zigs and zags to get in front of slower joggers. In all, I probably didn’t feel comfortable for the first three to four miles.
However, once I got to a point where people were separated out enough, I was able to find a nice rhythm and even a silent running buddy for four miles or so.
As we made our way back west and south towards Tempe, we had an estimated 3/4 of a mile to a mile uphill and then an immediate downhill. While it was painful, I’m also not against uphills as it woke me up from my running flow and forced me to push harder to keep my pace. I’d assume most people usually slow down going uphill, but I made myself keep the same pace – something I probably regretted during mile 12. The downhill was a nice temporary relief and then the final 5K was all that was left between me and the finish line.
However, with the sun now beating down on me and 10 miles in the bag, it was not an easy final push.
I remember hitting the 11-mile marker and thinking to myself about how it’s just down Sweetwater and back (one of my common running routes). It, though, did not seem like it at all.
I knew that at 11.7 there was a water station – the final one – but it seemed to be a mirage that never appeared. Along I trudged, my pace most assuredly slowing until FINALLY that damn water station appeared.
After swishing and then spitting the water (I wasn’t really drinking much at this point as to not cramp up) I knew I had what it took for the last 1.4 miles.
So on I went, slightly speeding up my pace and stride length as I began to make the final push towards home. Or so I thought. By then, with about 3/4 of a mile left I hit an even bigger wall and I was doing everything I could to keep my pace – which definitely wasn’t happening.
At this time, I was taking a real interest in figuring out where the finish line was in order to time my final burst accordingly.
When I began running over the Mill bridge (about a quarter mile from the finish), I finally saw the end zone. Down and to the right. Down and to the right.
With the literal turn into the finish coming, I turned it on, knowing just what I’d need to finish the last 100m. However, knowing what I needed and having my body respond are two completely different things when you’re 13 miles into a race.
Of those 100 meters, I made it about half way until my calf called it quits and cramped up – leaving me cursing and hobbling towards the finish line.
But I finished! 1:49:50.
13.1 miles in the books and after all the pain I had felt in training, I had zero of it during the race.
And unbeknownst to me, they give you all sorts of goodies at the end…more than I could even carry which helped me nutrient-up, though I’m fairly certain nothing at that point could have helped the exhaustion I would soon feel.
After finding my parents and stretching – yes make sure to spend some good amount of time stretching – we waited for the rest of our gang before heading out and grabbing some much needed zzz’s.
With the Phoenix Rock ‘n’ Roll behind me, I’ve now set my sights on the Seattle (really Mercer Island) Half Marathon on March 19. I’m crossing my fingers it’s a normal spring, weather-wise and I don’t find myself running in a blizzard.
Stay fit my friends and keep running wild!