But let’s back it up a little bit because the entire experience of running the half-marathon can’t just be summed up as smiles at the end because that is just one emotion of many I experienced this past weekend.
On Saturday (day before the race) I was a nervous wreck. I kept thinking what a crazy and stupid idea it was to decide to run a half marathon in the first place. We drove the two and half hours down to Bluffton SC, which is very near to Hilton Head, early enough on Saturday morning after leaving Boomer with some friends. First things first we picked up our race packets with our bibs and T-shirts. I was delighted with my race number because for some reason I felt like #333 was a good number and I love the race T-shirt. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a little bit of sightseeing – Bluffton is a beautiful spot and I’ll share some of the pretty photos I took there tomorrow – and eating like monsters and then crashed in the hotel to watch a bit of TV and get an early night.
Oh course we talked constantly about the race and I’m pretty sure I drove Kathy crazy with my constant questions like “what if I feel sick?” “what if I cry again?” “what if I can’t finish the race?” I guess you can tell that my horrific 12 mile run was really making me doubt my abilities to even finish the race. But Kathy reassured me that all would be fine (over and over again – thanks Kathy!) but even still my heart was pounding when I was trying to go to sleep that night. My attempts to sleep were further thwarted by some idiots (which is the politest word I can use) who decided that it would be fun to practice their putting skills in the hotel corridor outside our door at 11pm….seriously wtf?? Who plays golf inside a hotel?
Anyway after a call to reception to complain (yes I’m officially a grown up because I complained about noisy young people!) I guess I managed to sleep for a while before waking up with the alarm at 6.15 to get breakfast (a burger bun with peanut butter and banana and some coffee), get dressed, get more nervous, and pack up everything ready to go. It was a 25 min drive to the parking spot at the race start and part of the drive was along the course (miles 5-8). Just getting that little pre-view of the actual course I’d be running along an hour later was enough to almost bring back my breakfast.
The waiting time before the race went by in a bit of blur, I spent it simultaneously wishing for the time to speed up so we could get the race started and wishing for it to slow down so that I could put off that moment for as long as possible. There were 600-odd runners there so the field wasn’t too big or too small and we had plenty of space as we lined up at the start. The announcer said the magic words "On your marks….get set…" my teeth started chattering, I waved good good bye and good luck to Kathy….."GO!!!" I started running!
The first mile was a little difficult mostly because I was fighting the adrenaline and nervousness energy that was flowing through me that told me to RUN. I knew that if I wanted to stand any chance of finishing the race running then I needed to keep my pace within the 10 to 10.30 min/mile pace, but it was so hard to keep running at that pace while so many other runners were overtaking me. If I had run any faster than that at the start I would have been completely burnt out by mile 3 so as hard as it was I knew that I was running smart rather than fast.
After that first mile I kinda settled into the run and ran the next few miles at a 10 min/mile pace. We had water and Gatorade stations every second mile and I decided early on that rather than follow my original plan which was to walk through each station, I decided that it would be better for me psychologically if I didn’t stop running at all. Honestly, I was worried that if I stopped that I wouldn't be able to start again or to run at the same pace. So I did the pinched-cup-sip-on-the-run thing complete with dramatically tossing the cup to the side of the road when I was done which I’ll admit was pretty fun to do!
I ran a fantastic (for me) first 10 miles, it was hard but I was actually almost enjoying it which sounds a bit strange but I felt strong and I felt like I was pushing myself and that I was running better than I could have hoped for. I even smiled/grimaced at the race photographers throughout the course in the hopes of getting a some-what decent photo but sure we’ll have to wait and see if the smile/grimace comes off as nice or creepy!
The course was beautiful, blissfully flat and so scenic. Some points of the route had huge trees full of Spanish moss lining both sides of the road, other parts had lake views and we even ran around the delightful little village resort of Palmetto Bluff. It was right after exiting that little village area at mile marker 10 that I started to struggle.
I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was my body telling my brain to stop or my brain telling my body to stop but oh man the desire to stop was so strong. At many points between miles 10 and 13 I wished I’d chosen a 10k race instead of a half-marathon! I didn’t stop running though, even though I was jealous of the other runners around me who were starting to alternative between running and walking, I knew that I wanted to run the whole half-marathon. I didn’t want to run-walk it I wanted to finish it running. So I struggled through and my pace dropped from a 10 min/mile to about an 11 min/mile, although parts of mile 12 were 11.30 min/mile.
Then I saw that beautiful mile marker 13 that I’d taken a photo with before the race and knew that I was only 0.1 miles away from the finish. I turned the corner, saw the finish line and saw a girl running about 30 yards ahead of me so I just gave it everything I had left and ran as hard as I could. I passed her out, which sounds mean but made me feel fan-freaking-tastic! Then I spotted Kathy waiting for me in the crowd and I started waving crazily at her as I crossed the finish line.
I crossed the line in a time of 2.14.22 which I was shocked at. That is so much better than I even hoped for while I was training. But best of all I ran the entire over 2 hour long race without stopping (or getting sick or crying!) and I was so proud of myself. All the weeks of hard work and the times I struggled and wanted to quit during training were worth it for the feeling of pride I had in myself both during and at the end of the race. I was so happy to be finished that I almost forgot to get my medal! Isn’t it fantastic looking and huge!
I did it! I ran a half-marathon :)
PS: It would be outrageous if I didn't give a massive shout out to Kathy who was not only my coach throughout training, my training buddy and race photographer but she also ran a pretty fantastic race herself and blogged about it - I'm in awe!