Last weekend I ran my first half marathon. If I were to tell my 1-year-ago self that I would have accomplished such a feat in my entire lifetime, I would have responded by giving you my awkwardly loud sarcastic scoff of a laugh, and then told you to come back with a better joke next time. I remember doing a 4km fun run in 2012, only signing up because all my friends were doing it and I was mainly lured in by the brunch we were planning to have afterwards at a cafe I had been wanting to go to for a long time. A horrible experience. That was probably the longest and last time I had run properly until this year. By ‘properly’, I mean stopping about 5 times along the 4km route and walking for 1/4 of it because it was too hard. Hard, being a relative term. So let’s just clarify and say I’ve never actually run properly until this year.
Taking the above into consideration, one would think that once I committed myself to this half marathon, I would have trained for it – 6 weeks, they say. Of one long run and a couple of short runs weekly to adequately prepare for a half marathon. Well… nope. I was running consistently for a few weeks leading up to my fights 2 months ago, but tapered off after they were done. Running for me is hard, it’s not enjoyable unless it’s social (i.e. doing it with other people) and the hit of endorphins and happy feels once I’ve finished a run is enough to make me say ‘hey, this isn’t too bad’, but not quite enough to make me willingly go ‘I can’t wait to run again!’. I wouldn’t recommend this as a formulated training plan for anyone’s half marathon, but trusting our current general fitness levels and from other sporting activities, we knew we would be ok. Just keep running innit?
We woke at 6:40 on marathon day. 6:40 on a Sunday! Comparing this to the morning of a fight, I wasn’t nervous or anxious at all. But when we arrived at the marathon gathering point, I felt a little silly being there – an imposter of sorts, arriving at the wrong job interview, seeing all these run crews and people obviously dedicated to the sport milling around. They dressed the part, looked the part; real runners. Coffee helped the sleepiness. Pre-run pee helped the slight sense of panic I was starting to feel. Tactful organisation of the event definitely helped keep me calm. The horn signalling the beginning of the event went off at 9am, whilst I was still in queue for my pre-run pee but there was no rush to get to the start line since the timer attached to my bib only started counting once I crossed the beginning point. We started around 15 minutes after the race had officially commenced, at the back of the herd but definitely not the last.
The next 2 hours and 25 minutes went by so slow and fast at the same time, but what I left the event and think fondly about when I do look back wasn’t my running, but the atmosphere created by the spectators and event organisers – residents, families, charities standing alongside the road cheering each individual on throughout the whole 13.1 miles, the hi-5’s that H collected, the live DJs and bands and choirs that were performing to keep the runner’s spirits high, even though we could only experience them for the mere couple of seconds while running past. It was a really good choice for my first half marathon, and I’m really happy that I got to do this one amongst the many there are to choose from in London.
The run itself! I will have to commentate on that, so let me break it down for you:
Mile 1 – ‘Only 12 more of these to go, I got this.’ The one tip I received from seasoned runners was to pace myself, so I did for my first mile. Nice, slow and easy. My breathing was even and I didn’t need to take any deeper breaths than one would during a walk. I lost H somewhere along this first mile.
Mile 2 – ‘These miles are LONG. How am I only up to 2? Oh no, I can feel my ankle. It’s not pain, but I feel it each time I put weight on it like it’s telling me, woman I’m still recovering so take it easy yeah.’
Mile 3 – ‘I need to use a bathroom. But I am kind of 1/4 of the way through, so I’m just going to hold it. Yes, water stop, let me have some of that even though it will not help my toilet situation.’
Mile 4 – ‘Let’s play a game. Chase the pacers. Pass 2:30, pass 2:20 (note we started 15 minutes late), passing a lot of runners here and not even short of breath yet, keep going.’
Mile 5 – ‘My bathroom situation is getting to critical but damn that port-a-loo queue is long.’
Mile 6 – ‘Halfway point and feeling okay. This is long but I am feeling okay so just keep going.’ H caught up to me. I told him I couldn’t hold in my toilet urges any longer.
Mile 7 – ‘Is that gummy bears and sport drinks you’re handing out? Yes please!’
Mile 8 – ‘Woohoo!’ Found a toilet, now relieved and ready to rock and roll comfortably once more. Legs were not prepared for me to suddenly stop the running movement to wait in the toilet queue and the sensation felt odd, but I shaked them out a little bit before I commenced running again and the transition wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
Mile 9 – Legs started to feel heavy and took more effort with each lift off the ground. Lactic acid build up was definitely happening down there.
Mile 10 – ‘We are so close yet so far.’ Crowds and entertainment kept my mind off how much further I still had to go even though I reached 2 digits. I was really proud of myself already, and knew that I would be able to finish the half marathon without needing to walk.
Mile 11 – ‘Everything hurts’. Things started to hurt throughout my lower body. My legs were heavy a few miles back, but now they felt like they were on fire. The pain went from my thighs all the way down to my feet.
Mile 12 – ‘We are not quitting now, only 1 more to go.’ This was a difficult mile both physically and mentally, because it was on hilly terrain on the outskirts of the stadium, and I noticed my ‘running pace’ going up the hill was the same as H’s walking pace. How’s that for motivation. Also, since we were running on the outskirts of the stadium, the crowds were most sparse it had been the whole way since it was on a highway, as opposed to residential streets, parks, and cafes. If there was a time to dig deep, it was here.
Mile 13 – ‘DID IT BABY!’ Knowing this was the last mile made it easy. My legs still didn’t agree with what I was putting them through but they carried on anyway. We sped up in the last 500m, so clearly energy deficiency and cardio wasn’t an issue for us. Stepping over that finishing line was a whole other level accomplishment. Unexplainable.
And there was my experience of my first half marathon! It was so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough. I couldn’t walk for the next 24 hours right after I finished the run, but that’s ok, cause I did it!!