I did it! I ran my first half-marathon last Saturday, and I’m walking and talking today.
Standing at the starting line, I was pretty sure that I was going to foul the whole thing up. My team didn’t do much work on pacing. After fourteen weeks of training, I still can’t run at a steady pace on my own. I run too fast, I hurt myself, I slow to a crawl for a bit, then start running too fast again. Half of the Walnut Creek coaches, including the pacer that I run with on weeknights, decided not to run at all during the race. “Allen? Why are you in jeans?!? ALLEN!!!”
Worried, but determined to run a good race for my sponsors and for myself, I ran along on my own for the first quarter of a mile. Then, my friend Nicole pulled up beside me. She and I have done long practice miles together, and, more important, she has one of those fancy watches that tells her if she’s running at the right pace. I was elated to see her. “I’m going to try to run without stopping for at least five miles, then switch to intervals. Is that cool?”
“Nicole, I’m so happy to see you that I’m cool with however you want to run this thing. Let’s do it!”
At mile marker 5, we agreed that we both felt good enough to keep going without switching to intervals. Nicole’s foot started to hurt, but we pushed on through. At mile 6, we saw the first of the half-marathoners coming back toward us.
“Have you seen any other AHA runners yet? I’ve been keeping an eye out for our team jerseys.”
“A couple of guys, but no women. I think we’re the top two AHA women running the half right now. Sweet!”
We ended up running all the way to the turnaround, stopping for a brief comfort break at the halfway point. A gel shot and some water, then we were on our way again. “How’s your foot, Nicole?”
“It’s…numb? Is that good?”
“Well, I’m no doctor, so I’m going to say that it IS good.” The big muscles in my legs had started to fatigue, but I didn’t want to say that out loud. If she was still going strong on one good foot, I didn’t want to do anything encourage her to slow down. The gel shot kicked in just as I thought I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, providing me with a critical boost of energy.
A few minutes later, we started crossing paths with our AHA Start Training teammates. “You’re really close to the turn! Keep at it! Good job!” It felt amazing to be running out there while cheering on the rest of our team. We kept at it, jogging and cheering and clapping, until we passed the last outbound racers coming toward us on the trail. Our teammate Sally can only walk, and not very quickly, but she was determined to try for the whole thirteen miles. Prior to the start of our training, she hadn’t walked more than half a mile at a time in thirty years. We came across her at our mile 8.5, which would have been her 5.5. “Incredible job, Sally! Wow!” I don’t know if she finished. I hope she’s proud of however far she made it.
We slowed at an aid station to pick up some gummy bears, a surprisingly effective source of mid-race glucose, and happily gnawed on them as we trotted along under the trees for a few more minutes. Finally, we agreed to drop back to a fast walk for a hundred yards or so. We checked her watch and saw that we’d jogged straight through for almost ten miles, farther than either of us had ever gone at that pace.
At about 10.5 miles, picking up the pace again, she pointed off to our left. “Hey, who’s that guy waving at us? Is that your boyfriend?”
“Yes! Unless we’re hallucinating. Are we hallucinating? How did he get out here? I need more gummy bears. Wait…yep, that’s him. Ten second hug break!” I skipped off course and threw my arms around him. “C’mon, Nicole, you hug him, too. He’s really good at it!” Hugs all around and a laughing “keep running, sweetie, this isn’t the end of the race”, then we were back on the trail. She said that I should have kissed him some more, but I replied that it would have added too much to our chip time. “Plenty of chances to kiss him after we cross the line. Finish strong, girl!”
We walked a good bit of the last two miles, but sprinted when we saw the cameras and heard the announcer calling out the names of the racers as they came in. (If any of you have ever run in an event organized by Brazen Racing, you know how great they are about personally welcoming you across the finish line.)
We ran under the arch at 2:44:46. I know that it’s not supposed to be about the finish time or where I placed in the results, but I’m still proud to say that I was near the middle of the pack overall, and finished faster than half the women in my age group. Not bad for my first long race.
48 hours post-race, I’m happy to report that I’m not in any danger of losing any toenails, and my legs feel good enough for me to consider running again within a couple of days. I’m running another half-marathon in less than a month. I feel fantastic.
And, yes, there was plenty of post-race kissing.