So I did it. I ran my first Half Marathon on Saturday, March 15th and I lived to tell about it. Actually, it was easier than I thought it would be. I have to say training really does pay off. I have run lots of 5Ks and two 10Ks but I never followed a training plan for those runs. This was the first race I ever trained for and I was skeptical if training really worked. It does.
I followed proper race protocol the night before and ate a nice big bowl of pasta. I sat out everything I would need for race morning so I could just get up, get ready, and go. For a Chicago race this one started later at 9am. This made race morning a lot less hectic and crazy. I woke up at 5:30am and left my house at 7am. Traffic into Chicago was non existent so I got there pretty early. Parking was amazingly convenient and easy. They had an option to pay $15 ahead of time to guarantee you a spot. I did that and the spot happened to be a surface lot literally right next to the start and finish line. Perfection. It was about 34 degrees so it was nice to be able to stay in the car until it was time to stretch and line up at the starting line.
The race started promptly at 9am which I always like. Nothing is worse than waiting around ready to run and have the race start late. I was surprised how early in the race there were water stations. The first two miles seemed like they had 3 water stations. Then there was a long lull before the next one. I thought it would have made more sense to only have 1 the first 3 miles then more frequent ones after the 3 mile mark. My goal was to run the first 6 miles without stopping for water which was no problem. Everything was going pretty smoothly for the first 6 miles. There were a few spots of the route that were icy due to melting snow that then froze again, some puddles here and there, and an area where we had to divert into the muddy grass, but all in all for a March race in Chicago you can’t complain.
The mile 7 marker was at the top of a hill. No not a crazy hill, but to Chicago area runners that are used to flatness any hill is a “HILL” if you know what I mean. Mile 7-8 I started feeling not that great. I was breaking out in a cold sweat and I just felt off. I had been planning on taking my GU at mile 9 but I decided to take it early. Best decision ever. Within 1 minute of taking it I felt back to normal. I ran passed by sister in law at mile 9 and she was surprised at how upbeat I looked. I was feeling good and I was on pace to reach my goal of a sub 2:00 finish.
The wheels started to fall off around mile 11. The last few miles of the course were not fun. It was made up of a lot of twists and turns in order to get all the mileage in. The paths were narrow and there were runners going in both directions because it was turnaround after turnaround. We were taken through a forest preserve area and that part was just miserable. There was deep mud, the narrowest path yet, and a lot of runners. My knees really started talking back at this point. I ended up walking for about a minute total because I was struggling with running through the mud. This is when I realized my sub 2:00 finish was probably slipping away. Mile 12-13.1 was back on normal pavement and I was able to finish strong. I’m not sure if it was being out of the mud, knowing there was only a mile left, or a combination of both, but I had renewed energy.
I finished with a time of 2:03. Yes, 3 minutes over my goal, but honestly upon further reflection that is perfectly ok with me. A year ago I would have never even attempted to run a half marathon and I just finished one, with relative ease, and it felt freaking great! Never once during the 13.1 miles did I doubt my ability to finish. Never once did I question why I was doing it. I remember several of my first 5Ks when I would ask myself those questions. I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of that time because at the end of the day I know it is a reflection of my very best effort. What more can you ask for?
Here is a picture of me and my good friend Kristine, who ran her first half that day too. This was just after we both finished. Not looking too bad for just running 13.1 huh? 🙂
If you have been contemplating running a half marathon I highly recommend it. This may have been my first, but definitely won’t be my last.
What are your favorite race memories?
What is your favorite distance to run?