Category Archives: Races

The Half-Marathon Adventure

Coming across the finish line

Coming across the finish line

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be sitting down to write about running a half-marathon, I’d think you were crazy. Yet it’s happening. I really did run a half-marathon and I have the body aches and a finisher’s medal to prove it.

Last year at this time, I was in the midst of a grand attempt to change my lifestyle and finally get in shape. I plotted a 1.25-mile loop around my neighborhood and, for a couple afternoons per week, spent an hour alternating between walking and jogging around it. This hurt. I could hardly sustain the jog, especially while going uphill. Sometimes Xavier joined me and, when we had the breath to do so, we marveled at the poor shape we were in. One winter evening we managed to walk/jog for a total of three miles, and afterwards we almost collapsed from exhaustion. I was so proud. “Three miles!” I cheered. “I can’t believe we ran three miles!”

As someone who has spent the majority of 26 years avoiding running at all costs, I can honestly say if I can run a half-marathon, anyone can do it. Furthermore, in a twisted way, I almost enjoyed the experience. Except for miles 8-11. Those were not fun miles.

To be completely honest, I didn’t decide to run a half-marathon for fitness reasons. I did it because I wanted to be skinny, and it seemed that people who run these long-distance things are usually pretty thin. After my first few races went pretty well, I decided that a half-marathon and all of the accompanying training would help me get in great shape. When I found out that there was a half-marathon in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, it was a no-brainer to register. A beautiful flat course overlooking the bay and skyline? Yes, please. I’ll take it. Maybe it will be fun… and hopefully those long training runs will put me in good shape.

I wish the training had gone so smoothy. I’ve reached a point where running anywhere from four to six miles is pretty easy. But increase that distance to eight, nine, ten miles and I hit a mental roadblock. For this reason, the race made me nervous. I didn’t know if I could handle a full 13.1.

We arrived at the start by the blissful hour of 5:45 am. Marie and I were nervous and definitely feeling an overwhelming sense of dread. We bid a sad farewell to our spectators and joined the mass working its way to the start line. “This is not going to be fun,” we said. “Why are we doing this again?” The first heat went off promptly at six and we waited another ten minutes to begin.

Marie and I getting ready to start

Marie and I getting ready to start

A view of the starting corral

A view of the starting corral

The chute was packed so even after the gun went off, we couldn’t do much more than awkwardly walk-jog. When we crossed the bridge over the bay, heading towards Davis Island, we came to a complete standstill. People shouted and voiced their dismay, and we eventually moved forward. Since the course was so packed, the first four miles were slow. I didn’t do much to fight forward – I was happy to save my energy for the end, figuring I’d need it then.

Things went pretty smoothly until the eighth mile, at which point I was experiencing physical pain in my knees, ankles, and hips. From mile eight to eleven, it seemed unbearable and we took short breaks to walk. Every time we accelerated back into the jog, which we were maintaining at around 10:15 min/mile, every joint, bone, and muscle screamed in agony. It was a preview into what it must like to be elderly, when you rise grimacing from your armchair and hobble for a solid ten minutes until you regain control of your faculties. By this point, I was feeling the effects of dehydration and sucked down water and Gatorade whenever possible.

The last two miles hurt like hell but went by shockingly fast. I remember feeling furious when an announcer cheered that there was just a mile to go – “We have a half-mile, tops!” I grumbled through gasping breaths. And finally, we were through the finish line, where I grabbed a handful of Marie’s- no, just kidding, it’s only the angle.

So happy to be done

So happy to be done

Nobody photographed the awkward moment when I puked, Exorcist-style, and hugged the trash bin for 20 minutes. Apparently I over-hydrated during the last portion of the race. It’s not recommended because your blood is mostly fueling the extremities, making digestion of water difficult. Hey, you live and you learn.

I’d like to extend a special “thank you” to our spectators, who awoke at four in the morning and patiently waited almost three hours for us to finish the silly run. Although Riley makes it look easy.

gasparilla_spectators

Would I run another half-marathon? Man, I don’t know. It hurt badly and immediately afterwards, I said “never again!” But there are so many cool opportunities for runs that I think I’ll be tempted into another one at some point. It was great to run next to Marie for the entire time, since I had a lot of mental support and cheerleading when I was miserable. Perhaps I can rope her into another event.

Oh, and my main goal of doing all of this? To get skinny? Want to know if that happened?

It didn’t. Sure, I trimmed up and added muscle, but I didn’t get the lean runner’s body I was hoping for. And towards the end of training, I read a study claiming that interval training is the best way to burn fat and lose weight. So look for me at Piedmont Park, sprinting and walking for hours on end.

Nashville Country Music Marathon, anyone?

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And then I ran a 10K.

Legs running a 5K

Running

I can’t believe I forgot to write about my greatest athletic accomplishment to date. At this point, it was almost three months ago! No photos exist to capture the event, fortunately – by the time I crossed the finish line, I felt like I was dying in a very real way. Despite the relative warmth of the day, I was shivering and chilled – after running six miles. It was weird.

Anyway, I ran a 10K and I almost still can’t believe it.

I don’t really know what possessed me to do such a thing. I guess it started because I had fun doing a couple of 5K races and wanted to push my limits a bit. It ended because I was caught up in a steady rush of people and couldn’t just stop running. No matter how bad I wanted to, I had to keep going. And you better believe I wanted to stop.

It was kind of awful because the first mile of the race went so well. I felt like I was too slow. There was a lot of adrenaline and I was literally stuck in the middle of a huge group of people that seemed to be jogging well below my average pace. When my Nike Running app chimed into my headphones to let me know that my average pace was a full minute below what I’d intended it to be, I freaked out and tried to slow down. My fear was tiring early. Unfortunately, that fear came true. By the fourth mile, I was ready to cry. The last couple of miles were pretty painful, but I did finish and was proud to have completed the race running throughout. I wish I had been just a couple of minutes faster – then I would have broken the hour mark – but considering the course was hilly and off-road, I am trying not to be too hard on myself.

Up next? A half-marathon this weekend. I’m terrified. The bright side? The course is nice and flat, and it’s going around the bay in Tampa. During the summer that I lived in Tampa, Xavier and I loved to bike and rollerblade down that road, so it holds lots of warm and fuzzy memories for me. Hopefully those fond memories won’t be trampled by the pain of the half-marathon I will complete there. I have no delusions about a time goal. Hopefully I’ll just finish and get the T-shirt! And on the bright side, my friend and running buddy Marie will be there with me. We plan to run together, and hopefully that will make the event much more pleasant.

Wish me luck… I’ll let you know how it goes.

My Second 5K: The Monster Dash

The run is over, folks, and this Monster Dash 5K was even more fun than expected.

If you remember, I ran my first 5K just a couple of weeks ago. I registered on a whim, despite the fact that I’d already signed up for the Monster Dash as my goal event. That decision turned out to be a good move. Unfortunately, the day before the Monster Dash, I found out that they weren’t timing the 5K event! Since I had been training to break a time goal, this was disappointing. I had perused the entire website before registering for the 5K, and somehow neglected to realize that was the case. On the bright side, this took off the pressure to perform, which was a good thing – because Xavier had registered to run with me, and we wanted it to be fun!

Please indulge me while I brag about the man I love for a minute. He absolutely hates running, despite spending lots of time as a successful track and field competitor in high school. But he’s sweet enough to jog with me at least once a week, and determined enough to complete a five-miler out of the blue. (That is completely beyond my capacity as a human being and an athlete). I was so excited for him to join me in a race, but a little nervous. I had been training more than him – I didn’t want to hold back just for the sake of staying together on the course. So the lack of timing was a relief. It meant we could stick together and just enjoy the experience of running through the streets of downtown Atlanta, surrounded by people in costume.

(Of course, I used my Nike running app to time us anyway).

It was definitely fun to arrive to a race and find yourself surrounded by Halloween festivities. There were some really creative costumes out there. A few couples, especially, had really gone all-out with their ideas. One of my favorites was a pair that included a convict and a policeman. There were pirates, three blind mice, superheroes, and a whole lot more. Although I might be biased, my opinion is that our Greek Olympian costumes were the coolest of all – even if strangers approached my boyfriend to ask him what was under his skirt.

We aren’t hardcore runners, so when it came time to arrange ourselves in the chute, we debated for a minute. Should we line up at the 10:00/mile pace? What about the 11:00? In the end, we stuck to 9:30.

The gun went off and we took off, weaving in and around other runners for a couple of minutes until the pack settled into their paces. The course began right next to Phillips Arena and took us through the city streets. It was very exciting to be running through downtown Atlanta. Fortunately, we found ourselves towards in a clear zone relatively quickly. That was when the unexpected occurred. Barely a quarter-mile into the race and crossing a bridge, I tripped on a metal strut. I don’t know how it even happened. One second I was happily trotting along. The next, I looked down and tried to skip the metal thing. Then I was on my hands and knees on the asphalt.

The other runners were very concerned, but I bounced up immediately and was lucky to have just a couple of scrapes on my palms and knees. There was no blood whatsoever. The experience was a little startling. At least now I can say I’ve survived falling during a race!

Even considering that little mishap, the rest of the race was a great time. I loved running through all of Atlanta’s buildings, on quieted streets that are usually choked with traffic. Maybe because we were towards the front of the pack, we had mostly ample space to keep our pace, with minimal bobbing and weaving around other runners.

And somehow, we managed to beat my goal! I’d originally just hoped to break 29:00, knocking 30 seconds off my first 5K time two weeks prior. Imagine my shock when my Nike Running app clocked our 5K at 28:41. Although the race wasn’t officially timed, it was reassuring to have evidence of awesomeness on my trusty running app.

Tune in to find out what’s next…

Coming through the finish line