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My First Half

[Insert mental image here; digital rights of race photos cost $40, and I haven’t decided if I care enough yet. I looked FABULOUS in my purple chevron striped jersey and steel gray capris, I assure you, and ran with the grace and speed of a gazelle.]

Almost exactly eight months to the day after my first no boundaries workout, which included walking and running for a total of 12 minutes, I finished my first ever half marathon on Saturday the 12th. It was an absolute blast! The thing I didn’t understand during my 18 weeks of training is that a race is not just a work-out where you push yourself harder; it’s a workout where you celebrate as you go.

As I think back on this experience, I have a few takeaways:

  1. The taper is more nerve-wracking than the race. As mileage drops in the final two weeks pre-race to give your body a rest, your mind starts to worry that endurance is being lost and at the same time you begin to fidget from a surplus of unspent energy. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard the signal to start.
  2. You have to run your race, not anyone else’s. During those first few miles, when everyone was passing me, it was very tempting to speed up. But my pace is 11-minute miles for the first few miles, and I need that slow warm-up to feel good. I was totally vindicated by mile 8, when I sped up a full minute and began to pass folks left and right. In fact, my last two miles were my fastest.
  3. No matter how much you read, you still don’t know what the race will be like until you run it. When I crossed the finish line I had NO IDEA why someone wrapped me in what looked like a large sheet of aluminum foil. It was a space blanket designed to help me hold in heat once the race finished, and it felt great. I had just never heard of it.
  4. You need a posse, or at least a buddy. I was a bit distraught when I couldn’t nag my marathon running brother into entering this race, as I wanted an on-site coach to help me or at least a buddy to keep my company. Once I got to the race, I immediately ran into many friends from Fleet Feet, the store my training is based out of. I chatted with many before the race, ran miles 6-8 with friend Lauren, and had friend Gwen join me as an unofficial runner at mile 8 and push me to speed up for the final 5 miles. Gwen made the end a heck of a lot more fun for me, and I know she shaved a good 3-5 minutes off my time. I have made a lot of new friends in the last 8 months, and I value that as much as getting into shape.
  5. It’s all relative. My chip time 2:20:25 was a bit of a let-down, as I thought I had come in at more like 2:19 and really wanted to beat the 2:20 marker. But then I checked out my division results, and among women my age I placed dead center: 75 of 150 entrants. For a first timer, that seemed pretty cool. What strikes me as strange is that  my results would have put me in the top third of women aged 24-29. I guess those of us raging against middle age stick to our training schedule better than naturally fit twenty-somethings. That or many of the youngins arrive hung-over!

Three hours after my race finished, I headed off to a board meeting for the Sudanese Refugee Education Fund. That night, Matt, Simon and I had dinner with friends. And the next day, Simon had a play-date and I got to meet his best friend Baron’s new baby sister. I did all of this with minimally sore/stiff hips and everything else feeling normal, which pretty much seals what my next goal is. I’m being pushed by some to train for a full marathon, but I think I prefer a race that I enjoy start to finish and that leaves me feeling great.

So my next goal is another half in the spring. More of the same, but faster. And this Wednesday I look forward to re-joining my Fleet Feet friends for an off-season training run. Time to give all my brand new, expensive gear a work-out.


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