This last weekend, May 5 to be exact, I ran my first half-marathon -- the OC Half.
I am a runner; that is for certain. However, before this run, I would typically log an average of about 3-7 miles during a run. Being naturally more of a sprinter, the longer distances were intimidating.
In my training, I ran 10+ miles once, and the last "long run" was around 8 miles. I also “carb loaded” the night before, which I never do regularly. Note to self: eat your typical clean, low sodium foods, and maybe a large baked sweet potato.
Sleep was interesting, as I accidentally brought the air mattress that had a slow leak in it. I hoped this wasn’t an omen.
I started to get pumped when we were finally able to line up in our corral. The minutes started ticking faster and at 6:15 a.m. we were sneakers up, hitting the pavement. I immediately felt heavy and like my body was not working. Not a good sign. I kept pushing forward, though, chalking it up to nerves and anxiety for being in my first marathon race ever. There were a lot of people!
That first mile felt like it took forever. By mile 3, my feet were already on fire, my hands had swelled up and I had to use the bathroom! By mile 4, my feet were on fire and felt like they weighed 20 pounds each. I made the decision to stop again, take off my socks, slather my feet in chafe resistant lube and see if that helped. No socks bring on the blisters.
I did relax a little after removing my socks. I felt lighter. I found a woman who was keeping my same pace, and I used her as an anchor to keep going. I wasn't passing her, and she wasn't getting away from me. Just keep running. I made sure to stop at all the water stations to drink and douse myself in the cold stuff.
By mile 7 I was so hot, but I had a nice rhythm going. Just keep running. Shortly after passing the mile 7 marker, my music was not blaring anymore. I decided to stop and try to figure out what was wrong, and gave up after fidgeting for a couple of minutes. Now I had to endure 6+ miles with no tunes. Yikes.
After trying to get back into the groove, I started to focus on the pain because I didn't have much else to distract me. That definitely slowed me down, and my brain started to try to talk me out of the run, saying things like 'I’m not made for this, I should just give up and forget about distance running,' etc. Well I shut that voice up, and tried to find another runner going my same pace that I could "anchor" on to.
I found that person, and then I passed them. I found another and then I passed her. I kept on pushing myself this way, and it seemed to keep me going and keep my mind off anything but finishing this race.
By the time I hit mile 11, I was on full auto-pilot. I just kept moving my feet, and telling myself, no matter how slow you might be going, just finish this race. I even heard someone say out loud, "The pain is temporary, but regret lasts forever." That definitely stuck with me.
At mile 12, I saw some hilarious signs that kept pushing me along (WTF? Where's the Finish; Tight Butts Drive Me Nuts; It's Long, It's Hard, Do It Faster!). I stopped to walk for a minute to grasp my bearings again, but then started up because I knew my body wasn't dead (yet).
Before I knew it, I was in the 2:10 pace group (much better than I thought I was doing), and I heard someone shout out that we were only 1.5 miles away. Let me tell you, that mile and a half was the longest that I've ever experienced.
The finish line would not come fast enough. I kept trucking along, turn after turn; I could finally see the straightaway. I picked up the pace at this point, hoping to get as close to 2 hours as possible. Sure enough, when I crossed the line, it was 2:13 on the screen. Not bad for my first time! (And come to figure out I actually ran closer to 13.5 miles, so that gave me a better pace too!)
A huge wave of relief fell over me, and it was actually hard to stop my body from moving forward. Once I got my medal, the fatigue really kicked in, and my feet hurt so fiercely from having the wrong shoes.
With a couple of tweaks like MORE TRAINING RUNS, better sneakers, sticking to my usual clean vegan-type foods, and getting more rest, I know I'll be able to PR and show the next race what I'm made of!
That's the cool thing about running in races; you always have the chance to improve and learn something. You learn what works and what doesn't work. I've received SO much priceless advice from the women in my group, and I cannot thank them enough for helping me achieve this amazing feat.
Jane Walker is a Menifee resident, a wife and mother of a 2-year-old girl. Every Thursday, she shares her experiences as a Menifee mom. Jane welcomes your comments here.