Running a half marathon was never on my bucket list. I've never really even considered myself a runner, per se, since my routes don't typically exceed 2-3 miles. I simply never pushed myself beyond that distance--maybe because deep down I didn't really believe I could do it. Now I know it's not that I couldn't run long distances, it's that I wanted to avoid the discomfort of running long distances. I also now know running is never without discomfort. It doesn't matter if it's a 15 minute run or a two hour run, at some point you will probably want to stop. But when you don't stop, you will feel like a champion.
Shortly after moving to San Diego, I decided to train for this race, mostly so I would have something to do. Running helped get me out of the house after work each day and into the wonderful sun. Every time I achieved a new high distance, it felt like a miracle. "Did I really just run 6 miles? 7 miles? Seriously, 12 miles?!?" It definitely wasn't without pain, and I let my training go for a couple weeks and worried myself towards the end, but I had committed to running 13.1 on August 18th. So, just a week before it sold out, I finally registered to run America's Finest City Half Marathon along with 8,000 other runners!
Although the race consumed most of my thoughts on Friday and Saturday, by that time I wasn't nervous. I've been training since April! I felt ready and even excited to finally do it. I read articles online about what to do and what to eat the days leading up to a race. Hydrating was a no brainer, but I found good information like this about eating lots of carbohydrates so my muscles would store up extra glycogen as an energy source during the race (this is obvious to many of you athletes, but it was all new to me). Then I enjoyed every second of getting to eat extra bread, muffins, pancakes and pasta starting two days before my race (okay, maybe I took proper carbo-loading a TINY bit too far). On Saturday I went for a 15 minute run that felt like 45. It didn't do a lot to boost my confidence, but still I held out hope that I could conquer my race the next day.
On Sunday I woke up at 4am to eat breakfast: dry granola, a cup of blueberries and lots of water (I took two mini LARA bars for later on). I put on my running clothes and made sure my hair was in a bun that wouldn't fall out while running (the worst). I have a tiny pocket in my running shorts where I kept a small bag of sport beans, which I was told help give you energy during a race. I also put two dollars in my pocket in case I needed to buy a water bottle before the race. It felt cool to pin on my bib and attach a cool contraption onto my shoe that would keep my official race time.
One of my favorite parts of the experience was, interestingly, the playing of the national anthem just before the race began. It still surprises me to feel the sense of reverence as hats are removed and hands are placed over hearts in a huge crowd like that as our country's anthem plays. We were at a national monument site that sits basically on a military base, so I was feeling very patriotic and truly grateful for the opportunity to do what I was about to do. After that, we all lined up for the start. I heard the gun go off, and slowly people began walking, then trotting, then we all settled into our individual paces.
To be honest, the race as a whole is kind of a blur in my memory. I don't wear headphones while I run and often my mind wanders, but I don't remember a single thing except for little moments and decisions I was making throughout. The first 4 miles were basically all downhill so I had to be very intentional about running at a pace that felt natural and not faster than normal. I was feeling really good. Then, at mile 4, I realized I was going to have to stop at the next port-o-potty. Stupid! I had drank a final cup of water about an hour before the start, and looking back, I really should have skipped it. Now I was uncomfortable and knew I couldn't run 9 more miles feeling like I had to pee! So I made a quick stop and was back at it in no time (feeling much better). :)
I started looking for Luke around mile 7.5 since he had given me a general idea of where he would wait to see me mid-race. I was still feeling strong at this point, and I decided to get my first drink of water at an aid station. At about mile 8, I began to have some pain in my right knee. This knee has given me trouble for awhile now and is the reason I took a little time off from my training program, but I thought that rest and foam rolling had really helped it, so the amount of pain I was suddenly in really took me off guard. I decided to eat my sport beans to take my mind off of it. When I retrieved them from my pocket, my two dollars fell out! Looking back, I feel like I was a little delirious at this point because it seemed totally not worth it to stop and pick up my two dollars, so I let them fall to the ground and kept running! What?! So, two dollars in the hole, I ate a few sport beans and tried to focus on the sight of Luke from the side cheering me on. Finally I spotted him at mile 9, and I was in so much pain I was almost limping. My pace had drastically slowed down--from 8:36 in mile 5 to to 9:47 in mile 9. I ran over to Luke and asked him to pray for me because I didn't know if I could finish. He did. He cheered as I ran off again, and I really think he prayed and cheered me right to the finish line. After that, there are stretches of the route that I honestly have zero recollection of. I was focused so hard on getting to the end. I yelled out "YES!" when my RunKeeper app talked to me to say I'd run 10 miles. Only 3 to go.
By now we had run from the tip of Point Loma (a peninsula) all the way into downtown San Diego. At mile 11, the course began a steady uphill that would continue nearly to the end. SO. CRUEL. I had to keep reminding myself that I was fine, I could still go faster, I could push myself harder. When someone would pass me, I tried to match their pace for as long as I could. The crowd support was unbelievable--spectators lined the sides of the road holding signs and yelling encouragement. At mile 12, I was saying weird things out loud to myself. I tried to share my excitement with the girl next to me when I exceeded my longest distance ever. She didn't seem impressed. Oh well. I had to do everything possible to keep going! It felt like we climbed that hill FOREVER. My body was so tired.
Finally, the road leveled out and someone yelled to us "The finish is right around the corner! For real this time." He was right, people had been telling us that for the last mile! Not helpful. We entered the final stretch and I scanned the crowd for Luke. I spotted him along with our friends Emilee, Kyle, Olivia and Cathi. They were cheering like crazy and I especially remember Cathi jumping up and down with the hugest smile on her face! I ran across the finish line with a final time of 2:03:22.
I know you've heard this a million times before, but if you think you can't run a half marathon, YOU CAN. Your mind is your only obstacle. When I started training, I couldn't wrap my brain around the possibility of running 13.1 miles. I honestly don't even really enjoy running! But it's incredible to set a goal and watch yourself achieve it--just give yourself lots of time and patience, and don't give up. I was lucky to have a lot of support from family and friends, too. Thanks especially to this awesome crew (& Cathi who took the pic) for being there for me at the end of the race!