Just a few weeks ago, on October 9th, I had the opportunity to run my very first Half Marathon! A goal I had set for myself at the beginning of the summer. For those who have never run a race before or had questions about what it was like – I wanted to take a moment to recap for you my day of the race!
Night before race – Our group of 8 runners and families spent the evening at our rental cabin. We were enjoying the beautiful fall South Dakota evening sitting around a bonfire settling in for an early night of sleep. We had a big spaghetti dinner to help fuel our bodies with carbs for the following morning. Our bags were prepped and clothes set out for the following morning. Most (if not all) of us turned in by about 8-9pm.
5:00 am – Alarm goes off. Time to get up! Our bus leaves in a couple of hours for the starting line. We all take the time to slowly wake up. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a light breakfast. Many of you runners know this coffee is crucial…lets just say, you want to make sure you go to the restroom before you start your long run…(crude, a little…but hey, its the truth!!)
6:15 am – We start rounding up the troops and head to the vehicles. We have a short ride to our bus that will bring us to The Crazy Horse Monument, where the fun begins! I start to double and triple check my bag I’m bringing with. Headphones, phone (for music), belt, goo, gum. Everything is packed. I’m ready to go.
7:00 am – The bus leaves right on time. Off we go. There is a lot of chatter on the bus, but also a slight sense of nervousness all around. We all have our goals that we are out to set. Some it is a certain goal time. Others (like me) are just preparing to finish.
7:10 am – The bus driver just pointed out on the side of the road where a set of port-a-pottys are along our trail we will soon be hitting. You can see it from the bus. Phew – between mile 8-9. That’s good to know, haha. Certainly helped to break some of that nervous tension from the air for everyone!
7:35 am – We make it. We drop our bags that will be picked up at the finish line. Our crew is circled around stretching and chatting. That nervousness is still around – but more and more its also becoming excitement. I keep reminding myself in a few short hours it will be over….so I need to enjoy this moment while I can. What happens, happens. All the training leads up to this moment.
7:50 am – Line up begins. Live music is playing. The weather is cool – about 40 degrees. They have signs up for those that want to follow a “pacer”. I walk myself towards the back end of the crowd. I figure this way less people will pass me in the beginning. Looking ahead I see a huge hill. Looks like are going to start with a doozy….the count down begins…here we go!
8:01 am – We are off. Takes a minute or two for me to pass the starting point. My music isn’t playing. CRAP. I try another playlist on my music app…it plays. THANK GOODNESS! Time to take my first goo.
MILE 1 – A hill. Oh joy…I start by running up the hill when I remind myself I have a long way to go. About half way up the HUGE hill, I decide to walk just a little bit. I remind myself of the saying “this is a marathon, not a sprint”. (Literally). At the top of the hill I start to pick up my pace again.
MILE 2 – Typically my least favorite mile. I try to get my mind in a good place. Here comes a runner going the opposite direction?! I think to myself, What in the world?! Suddenly I realize that mile 3 we go the opposite direction, and pass each other. Soon HUNDREDS of people to started in front of me are passing me going the other way. I’m going to be honest with you…that was a mental brain f*#@!!! I keep my eyes forward and keep pushing on. Occasionally you hear someone who is running the other direction yell “keep it up” or “You got this” to those in the crowd! To those people – THANK YOU….because that excitement meant everything at that moment! Soon enough I reach the turn and I start my way back for Mile 3. Thank goodness that mile is done and thankfully we don’t have another crossing spot like this again!
Mile 5 – I’m feeling pretty good. Each few miles I take a peek at my watch. I’ve been pretty consistent for time each individual mile. Almost time for a second goo – and a water station)…
Mile 8 – The sun is coming out and it feels good. There is still a beautiful breeze. I think about the training runs done in the humidity and in the rain….They make today seem like the easy run! We haven’t had any other hills. Thank goodness for that. I can feel my right foot rubbing slightly against my shoe. Looks like I need to get a new pair. But it isn’t painful. Port-a-potties are coming up. I didn’t feel much like I needed them – but my mama always taught me as a kid, you either go or get ready to hold it…
Mile 10 – Time for the last goo. This was my “benchmark mile”. I knew if I hit mile 10 and I was feeling good that I got this. Excitement ran through me. Oddly enough, the insides of my arms were getting a bit of a burn from rubbing on my side. That hurt more than anything else. (I’ll take it…) The last water station was coming up, too. Those were my favorite…mostly because you had people cheering you on as you would pass.
Mile 12 – I coughed. Just a little one. My head got dizzy. Ohhhhhh crap! No more coughing for me. I grabbed a piece of gum and started chewing to help get rid of the dry mouth feeling. That seemed to help! My hamstring felt a little shaky. I’m ALMOST there – about a mile to go. It was time to dig deep and push.
Mile 12.5 – I see my friend Liss up ahead. She already finished and was waiting for me. She joins me for what is our second and last up hill area. Compared to the first hill, this should be nothing. But we are so close to the end….it feels like a mountain. Liss tells me after this uphill we turn and it’s all downhill to the finish line. I’m almost there. She tells me I’m going to run in and there is no walking allowed.
Mile 12.7 – We take the turn and off we go. I see the finish line up ahead and people lining the streets. Our group of those who already finished and families are standing on the side with signs cheering on. My leg is really starting to shake now. I want to stop. I want to walk. But I’ve worked too hard to stop right now. A man standing in the middle of the road with a bull horn telling me I’m just 100 yards away from the finish line. That distance never seemed so far! Liss joins our group on the side as I finish my way to the end!
Mile 13.1 – I DID IT! The next 2 minutes seem like a blur. I’m handed my medal and a water. Someone asks me a question – I think they asked if I want a banana. I can’t even speak so I shake my head. I DID IT!
I look at my time and I realize I finished less than about 10 minutes than I had expected! Tears start to flow. I walk towards my group as we give hugs and high fives. There is a chair near us so I take a seat for a moment while I try to just gather my thoughts. I start to tear up a bit as I think about what a journey this has been.
We still had our 3 runners who completed the full marathon to cheer on. As I wait, we hoot and holler for the others coming across that finish line and do some stretches. My body is exhausted. I take off my shoes and see a big blister on the side of my foot. I expected it to look worse – so this actually makes me a bit happy!
Once our whole group has finished we make our way back to our bus. Everyone is moving veeeery slowly. We decide to go back to our cabin to all get cleaned up a bit and ready for an early group dinner and drink to celebrate. I can’t begin to explain in words the atmosphere in the crowd! That feeling of nervousness in the morning is completely replaced with a feeling of accomplishment and excitement…and maybe a little bit of exhaustion…
I DID IT! And now I was ready for a nap. 🙂
Make sure to check back next week as I talk a little bit more about what lessons I learned from my race and what I would do different for my next one. I’ll chat about changes I will make to my training as well as for race day!
Until next time – wishing you happy and healthy feet!
Jamie @ Wise Heron