Five and a half months ago, I struggled to run two miles. You might not have known it from looking at me, but even after getting fit for my wedding, I wasn’t in very good cardio shape. A friend suggested I start running, and although I had watched my dad transform himself from a non-runner into an ultra-marathoner at the age of 47, I wasn’t sure I could do it.
But due to some health stuff and the fact that I wanted to feel my absolute best, I decided to train for a race.
If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I ran a 10k in February, which was a really big deal for me and brought me a lot of satisfaction. By then, I had already discovered that “runner’s high” that everyone talks about (the one that I thought was made up until a life-changing 5 miler in late December.)
After the 10k, I set my sights on a half marathon. I trained and pushed my body beyond what I ever thought I could do, and on Sunday the big race had finally arrived.
I woke up at 4:30 on Sunday morning, full of nerves and excitement and disbelief that I was actually going to run 13.1 miles. I had completed 11 miles in my training, and I was praying that the adrenaline and excitement would take me farther than I had ever gone. My dad was running the race with me, to support and coach me as I ran (which turned out to be infinitely more important than I ever could have anticipated.)
(feeling strong and excited)
My goal was to run the half in 2 hours and 8 minutes (a 9:45 pace), which was an ambitious goal for me, but I knew it was possible. The race started off slow— it’s hard to run with 2,000 other people crowded around you!— and by the second mile when everyone had spread out, I’d already lost a little bit of time.
(mom cheering me on and dad making a ridiculous face… typical)
The course ran through wine country. Translation: it was MUCH hillier than 99% of my training runs through the relatively flat Golden Gate park. Needless to say, I continued to lose little bits of time and then gain them back as I navigated the hills.
When I reached mile ten, my body started to fight me. I was tired in a way that I can’t put into words. I knew I had to stay hydrated, but drinking made me nauseous. I had 3.1 miles left and it felt like an impossible feat. It’s amazing how much mental strength it takes to do long runs. This is where my dad’s support made all the difference.
He encouraged me up every hill, reminded me that it was almost over, and wouldn’t let me slow down because he knew how badly I wanted to hit my goal time. I had nearly a minute to make up in the last mile, and I started to feel the disappointment of not meeting my goal before I had even crossed the finish line.
But somehow, thanks to my dad’s encouragement and the sheer will to finish what I started, I finished the race in 2 hrs. 7 mins. and 06 seconds, narrowly achieving the time I had trained for.
(checking my watch as I crossed the finish line)
(moments after finishing the race)
I should have been happy, but something else happened instead. Almost instantly, my body went into shock. I was dizzy, nauseous, disoriented. I went to the med tent and asked for an IV, thinking I must have been severely dehydrated. But after two IV’s and a few hours of medical attention, it was clear that hydration wasn’t the issue. I was suffering from extreme exhaustion, likely caused by factors outside of the race. Pushing my body for 13.1 miles literally pushed me over the edge, and I spent the rest of the day in a completely altered state.
(congratulations from mom… I was feeling beyond terrible at this point, but I still love this photo :)
Even now, days later, I’m still drained. But I’m still proud to say that I achieved something I never thought I’d be able to do. If I were to do it again, I might have postponed the race until I was able to reduce the level of stress in the rest of my life. But all things considered, I’m happy to say I’m a half marathon survivor!
Sorry for the enormous post (I told you on Monday it was a long story!)
Have you ever run a 10k, half marathon, or marathon? Training for one now? Got your own athletic story to share? Please do in the comments!