Running My First Half Marathon

SD Half CongratsI have a great many thoughts. Especially about (and while) running. Of course, a lot of these thoughts are utterly brilliant and blog-worthy (or at the very least tweet-worthy). On Sunday, March 10, I had roughly eight hours to think (and think and think and think) while prepping for and running the San Diego Half Marathon. I’ll do my best to share them in a semi-cohesive manner (beware, it’s a long post).

Waking Up That Morning

  • “I need coffee.”
  • “Soooo how’s about I just walk the whole way? That’ll still be under three and a half hours, which is when they close the course.”
  • “I still need coffee.”
  • “Get it together, Rachel. You’ve trained nine weeks for this. There’s no way you’re backing out now.”

Traveling to the Course

  • The nerves are starting to kick in (or was it the coffee?). I feel like I’m either going to throw up or pass out. Or both.
  • “It is sooooo early. The sun isn’t even up yet. This is why I’m not a morning person.”
  • At this point, I start to worry if my tendancy to train in the evenings is going to throw off a morning race. Turns out, not so much. Training is training. (Though a good night sleep the night before helps.)

In the Starting Wave Corrals

  •  “WTH is a corral?! Are we horses or runners? Also, is it a wave or a corral? Am I at a beach or a ranch? Get your metaphors straight, SD Half.” (Yes, this is honestly a thought I had.)
  • Looking around I start to realize I should have entered a faster goal time. In an attempt to be conservative, I made my personal goal 2 hours 30 minutes but entered my time as 2 hours 45 minutes just in case. As such, I was placed in wave 14–second to last. Now I’m not Kenyan marathoner, but I’m definitely not second to last.
  • We have a trainer leading us through hip mobility exercises, which look a bit like invisible hula hooping. I’m thankful for this, as I tend to neglect stretching my hips until they’re sore.
  • There’s also an emcee who must still be on whatever he was on the night before, because there is no way anyone is naturally that perky at 7 am. At least there’s music, so my sister and I have an impromptu dance party. People were jealous, I’m sure.
  • We slowly make our way to the starting line, allowing each corral ahead of us to get a few minutes head start so we don’t clog up the race course. But as we lumber forward, I can’t help but feel like nine-year-old me in the Encinitas Holiday Parade with my Brownie Troop.
  • “Can’t we just go already?”

At the Starting Line

  •  “Oh. I guess I’m really doing this. It’s really starting. I’m so pumped. But I’m so nervous.”
  • My heart is starting to pound, so I take some deep breaths and hope it’ll slow down once I get going.
  • Ready, set, go!

During the Race

  • 50 feet in: “This was a big mistake. There’s no way I’ll ever finish. God, what was I thinking?!” Fortunately, I come across my friend, Allie, and her two friends also running the race. Seeing them gives me a boost of energy, and I’m off.
  • Mile 1: I start repeating my mantra to myself, “Settle down, settle in.” It’s something I started telling myself during training when I would psych myself out before a long run. “You’re gonna be at this for a while, Rach. Just take it one mile at a time.” It helps me breathe, focus, and pace, so that I don’t burn myself out halfway through.
  • Mile 2: “Ok! I think I got this!” I pass on the water station (wish I hadn’t), but it was just too crowded. I’d wait until the crowd thinned out. At this point, I also have the beginnings of a suspicion that my Nike+ trainer is not tracking my mileage correctly, but I shrug it off.
  • Mile 3.1: Woohoo! Finished a 5k! Though I didn’t know it at the time, my 5k time was 29 minutes exactly, meaning I was running a 9:20 mile pace. Not too shabby!
  • Mile 4: “WATER! Oh thank God!” Although drinking out of a paper cup while running is not as easy as it sounds, I manage to get more in me than on me and still throw away the cup in a trash can. +1 for me!
  • Mile 5: My Nike+ trainer is definitely off. By a little more than a half mile it seems. “Sonofagun! You mean I’ve been training this whole time running more than I thought I was?!” It’s not the end of the world, though, and I’d rather have it underestimate how far I’ve run than overestimate.
  • Mile 6.2: Aaaaaaannd here’s the 10k mark. Finished in an hour and 42 seconds (9:46 pace). I start to get lightheaded and have a bit of an out-of-body experience, so I slow my pace a little. Granted, there are medical stations along the course, but I’d rather not have to use them. Not to mention it would really throw off my time.
  • Mile 7: I continue to remind myself to really enjoy the experience and the scenery. “Look around, Rachel! You’re in San Diego, and everything here is gorgeous. The weather is perfect (if getting a bit wamer), the bay is right there… Enjoy this moment instead of worrying about the finish line.”
  • Mile 8: Honestly, I’m impressed that I’m still running. And that I’m still passing people. As much as I hated starting in one of the last corrals, it motivated me so much to be able to pass slower runners (no judgement, though).
  • Mile 8.5: “Look! It’s the water and gel station.” I had never tried gels before, but I know distance runner that absolutely love them. So I grab one of the non-caffeinated ones (no heart palpitations for me today, thank you very much), and hold on to it for the big hill I know is coming in 3, 2, 1…
  • Mile 9: This hill is monstrous! It felt like a mile straight up hill, so I slow it down to a brisk walk, though I’m still passing people so the competitive beast in me is satiated. I open my gel and squeeze some out. Yuck! Maybe it was the flavor (vanilla) or that fact that it was a bit warm after holding it in my hand, but I am not a fan of gels.
  • Mile 10: At the top of the hill, I start running again, and it feels so good to be on flat ground. I hit the 10-mile marker in 1:45:24 (10:33 pace).
  • Mile 11: I regret having to walk. Not because I thought I could have taken that hill (I couldn’t have), but because it makes it that much more tempting to walk more the rest of the way. I fight the urge (sometimes not well) and battle my way to the finish line. At this point, I just keep reminding myself how close the end is and how far I’ve come and how I can’t stop now.
  • Mile 12: The realization that I’m not only going to beat my time but smash it hits me, and I kid you not, I almost start to cry. I’m no stranger to sudden bouts of emotion while running (sad, nostalgic, frisky, exuberant, euphoric), but I promised myself I wouldn’t cry until the end. Classic Rachel.
  • Mile 13: As soon as I see the finish line, I pick up my pace. When I get a hundred meters out, I step it up again. And by the time I’m crossing the finish line, I’m in an full-speed sprint. For me, there’s no other way to finish a race than to go all out.

At the Finish Line

  • ” I DID IT! I finished! Oh, they’re calling my name as I finish. So cool!”
  • Somewhere along the last stretch, I had passed my sister (talk about last-minute motivation!), so I circled back around to try to find her. Haha. Right. In a crowd that size? Good luck.
  • “I guess I should get my finisher’s medal, huh?” In my rush to find my sister, I had stopped short of the medal and water station, so I walk over, collect my medal from a good-looking serviceman (no, thank YOU, sir), grab a water bottle, and resume my hunt for my sister.

Immediately After the Race

  •  Though I expected to feel completely exhausted after the race, I’m strangely refreshed and energized. I go to check my time and discover I finished in 2:18:56 (10:36 pace). Boo-freaking-yah, baby! It’s only an average time, but for my first time, I’ll take it. And as the over-enthusiastic emcee reminded us that morning, every time is a PR for a first timer. #truth
  • I eventually found my sister, and I’ve never been so thankful for her love and support. After flying in from Texas the night before, she barely got any sleep and yet she still woke up early to come cheer me on. Sister of the year? I think yes!

A Few Hours After the Race

  • The adrenaline and excitement have worn off and I’m about to fall asleep on the trolley back to the car, but some dude’s rap music keeps me awake and annoyed.
  • When I got home, as much as I wanted to share everything about the race with my parents, I immediately hopped in the shower (Victory Shower) and put myself to bed, promising I’d fill the fam in on the details at dinner.
  • After my glorious nap, we went to my favorite restaurant, Fidel’s. Carby, greasy Mexican food? Yes please. I earned it.

The Day After the Race

  •  I’m still riding high on the thrill of my first half marathon. They say racing is addicting and they are 100% right (stay tuned for the announcement of my next half). It’s such an accomplishment, and I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of myself.
My split and final times (with pace) from the San Diego Half Marathon.

My split and final times (with pace) from the San Diego Half Marathon.


9 thoughts on “Running My First Half Marathon

  1. I absolutely loved the way you related your experience through internal dialogue. You crack me up, and I’m sure I would have been having very similar thoughts. 🙂 You should be incredibly proud!! And besting your goal time?! Heck yah! I personally credit you as an inspiration on doing my little “Baby Race” in May. I’ll definitely be saying “look around, it’s Santa Monica, the scenery is beautiful!” I just did my first training run today. EEE! So nervous! But it’s motivation knowing I have a few boys whose butts need kicking 😉

    Congratulations again Rachel! And thanks for sharing all of this with us!

  2. Great account. Sums it up well really, as you rarely have anyone else to talk to on these things other than yourself. Well done for remembering it all though, and well done on completing your first half!

  3. Pingback: Where Are They Now? 2013 Resolutions | the sole of a runner

  4. BY FAR one of the most helpful first marathon blog posts I have read. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and congrats (all be it a bit late) on your accomplishment!!

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