Mohawk Hudson Hannaford Half Marathon – Race Report

I suppose writing up my experience at my first half marathon comes better late than never! Before too much time has passed, I wanted to capture my recollections of my experience.

Time leading up to the race absolutely flew, and it was here before I knew it!  As I recounted in my post the night before the race, I was feeling pretty prepared, and the feeling was the same race-day morning.  I felt excited and ready, and a bit too sure of myself, as it turned out.

Race Start

After parking my car in downtown Albany, and busing to the race start in Cohoes, I was able to meet up with some friends who were also running the race.  We took selfies, talked last minute strategy, and got pumped up to complete 13.1 miles along with the loads of other people there.  I forgot my running watch, and was intent to keep my phone tucked in my running belt, so I decided to keep pace with a friend who had a similar pace than me (in all honesty, she’s faster) and was run/walking a 2:2 interval, as I was.

We lined up, and then it started raining. A miserable, wet, misty rain.

The national anthem was sung, and then we were off, to the sound of bag pipes and falling rain.  My running shoes were sloshy in no time.

Miles 1-6

I kept even pace with my friend, mostly trailing behind her but was able to keep here in my line of sight. Occasionally we were side by side and would chat and encourage one another, but for the most part other than signaling when an interval started or stopped, we stayed in our own little bubbles.

I felt really good for the most part, the rain had mostly stopped, but I was wet and getting tired.

The best part in the first half was seeing two of my friends cheering me on as I came down the hill over the railway crossing in Cohoes. They even followed along a bit playing, “Eye of the Tiger.”

Mile 6-7

Things began to fall apart a bit for me here. I was getting fatigued, so I made sure to take some fuel and focus a bit on hydration, but I ended up losing sight of my pace friend.

Oh and I haven’t mentioned that we had the pace car following along, so I had a personal escort basically from about Mile 1 through to Mile 9.

Mile 7-8

Somewhere along here is when the Marathoners behind me caught up, and started to pass me.  I’m always so impressed when I see the super fast runners go by!  It defies my experience with running to see human bodies go so fast!

A course marshall on a bike asked me to move over to the left for the duration of my run along Broadway, and shortly after, my left foot found a pot-hole hidden in a puddle and I went down. I scraped my hand as I caught myself from completely wiping out, but found myself covered in muddy water and thought perhaps I might have tweaked my ankle.  It was here that I wanted to quit. My wound was full of gravel, I was drenched and muddy, tired, and not surprisingly began to cry from both the pain and the frustration.  I was sure it was going to be the end of my race.  I looked longingly at the grass and wanted to sit, but something in my switched, my tears stopped, and I hobbled over to my personal escort for some preliminary first aid. We washed out my wound with a water bottle and I clutched a was of paper towel in my fist, and kept on walking until I reached the next first aid and water station.  I had decided then that unless my legs gave out, I was finishing the race.

Mile 8-9

I made it to the next water and aid station, and paramedics cleaned out my wound with antiseptic.  I rehydrated, was asked if I wanted to quit, declined, and made my way down the tunnel to the bike path to the sound of a marching band playing, “Smoke on the Water.” Even if I had to walk, I was going to finish.

Mile 9-13

So this is where things got tricky.  The bike path is familiar territory for me, because it’s one of my favorite places in the capital region to go bike.  I love whizzing along the trail with the river alongside me, seeing the wildlife that dares to get to close, and I’ve been there often enough that the terrain is known to me.  But walking this part of the race was grueling. By knowing the terrain and having run out of the energy to run, I walked the whole rest of the race knowing that I was still so far from the finish.  This part of the race was very mentally challenging, and there was a lot of internal dialogue that worked very hard to keep me going.

Amazingly, as marathoners passed me, I found so much encouragement from them. So many of them gave me head nods, and good jobs and atta-girls of all kinds, and it helped.  I thought about quitting so many times, but I’d leverage that against the distance I already traveled, and there was just no way I was going to give up.

Also, when you know the path as well as I do, and everyone who is coming up the path in the opposite direction tells you that you’re almost there, you know full-well that they’re well-meaning liars, because there were a lot of points where I was NOT almost there.  But its a nice thing for them to say. And I made it there eventually.

Mile 13-13.1

This part is a jumble.  I don’t know exactly where I saw my friends, I don’t remember what song played.  I remember my work-bestie/running buddy extraordinare/bff coming into the chute and running with me. I think I tried to run. I remember recalling that the man who put my medal on me looked familiar to me, but couldn’t place him.  And I remember the announcer calling my name and announcing to the crowd that I finished my first half marathon. And just like that, in that flurry of excitement, and after roughly 4.5 hours of continuous forward progress, I was done.

Post-Race

The best feeling was laying on the grass, and stripping off my wet socks and feeling the cool earth under my very tired and beaten feet.  My friends crowded around and admired my medal, and congratulated me on my accomplishment.  They retrieved refreshments for me, and stayed with me while I gathered myself back up.  And it’s a fond memory.  I feel immensely grateful to have supportive people in my life who show up for me.  I felt immensely grateful that when asked to traverse 13.1 miles (in training I had only gone up to 9, and let me tell you, those last 4 miles make a difference!), my body showed up and did the thing!

I was convinced that my feet had blistered, that the grit in my hand would be forever there, and that the next day I would be incapable of walking.  It turned out that none of those things happen!  After adequate self-care and rehydrating and refueling, a long nap, and a good night’s sleep, I woke up the next day very sore, but feeling pretty good.  I didn’t have a single blister.  Continued cleaning and tending to my hand led to no stuck gravel, no infection, and being almost fully healed a week later. By two days after, my soreness had dissipated, and by one week later, despite declaring on the grass after the finish line that I would never run again, I was already thinking about what race goals I wanted to set in 2018.

Now, nearly a month later, I think I’m still sorting out the magnitude of what I accomplished.  A half marathon had been a reach goal for me, something I thought I would someday do, but didn’t necessarily have the confidence I would accomplish.  And it turns out, I did.  And not only that, but I did it pretty well for me, and the non-ideal circumstances of the race.  I’m in no rush to do this distance again, I much prefer shorter races and triathlon, but I’ve committed to completing another with the aforementioned work-bestie/running buddy/bff in 2019.  Until then, I’m thinking about some race goals for next year, and I’m going to keep moving forward and trying with whatever life brings me.

#whatifirunwithyou

This morning I was introduced to an article about the promotion of mental health and wellness through running.  Specifically the article reference a movement called #whatifirunwithyou that originated in the UK. In this movement runners support those struggling with mental health issues by running alongside them, starting with someone doing so literally, and extending to the online running community by dedicating a run or portion of their run to someone who is struggling. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have running buddies who have run alongside me through tough runs as well as through difficulties in self-confidence, body image, and anxiety, and I don’t take that for granted, there is power in having someone there alongside you. The camaraderie of the running community is such that we support one another, we promote healthy habits and attitudes; we lace up for a multitude of reasons, but we are out there striving for something positive, for something good. Running (and other movement) has a multitude of benefits for mental and physical health, and the power of community has so much potential for good. 

In that spirit, I vote that we take this beautiful idea stateside. This is an open invitation to anyone who faces struggles with their mental health or who might just want support through a tough time or in building up some positivity in their life: know that if you walk, run, or aren’t at a point in your life where physical movement is part of your routine, I will run with you. Feel free to reach out to me if you want me to dedicate some miles to you, or if you’d like me to join alongside you the next time you walk or run (or bike or swim or lift or …) or if you want some extra support in knowing how you can get started. I’ve been there myself, and I’ll be there for you. 

And I invite all my runner friends/friends who move, to do the same. Buddy up, be an ally, dedicate some of your miles to someone who needs the extra support, or offer someone in need the power of your presence alongside them. We all have the capacity to do good and help others, and maybe with a hashtag and some laced up sneakers, you can do a bit more. 

 

The Night Before

Thirteen point one miles. It’s what’s on the top of my to do list tomorrow morning.

There was a pre-race to-do list to tend to too. I picked up my race bib today. My clothes and running shoes are laid out. My race day nutrition and hydration strategy is set. A delightful pre-race dinner was prepared and eaten. And over the past few months I logged training miles, cross trained in the pool, lifted weights, spent a lot of time on my yoga mat.

My training wasn’t perfect, with a lot of missed runs and skipped workouts. Sometimes that’s life, and things happen, and your preparation for something isn’t perfect.  I think that’s part of the process, and something I’ve learned to be okay with. And though I wasn’t perfectly trained, I feel a sense of ease and preparedness. I am ready. I have faith that I will cross the finish line tomorrow, and am joyful that I even get to try.

I attempted this distance once before, last year, but due to an unseasonable heat wave, the race was cut to a 12k.  But then, I can’t say I was ready, I was super under-trained, and having the distance cut, especially in 90 degree may heat, was a relief. Over the last few months as I trained, and today as I crossed things off my checklist, the thought that I was even attempting this distance then, or now, seems unfathomable. The fact that I am someone who chooses to run, is a little mind-boggling, and yet, feels like a reflection of who I am. I am someone who runs.

The journey to this place started with the creation of a fitness bucket list, written in a place of frustration.  I wrote out all of the things I had wanted to do that I had told myself I couldn’t because I was fat.  I had spent so much of my life to that point telling myself that my life would start once I lost the weight.  I would be happier, I would be able to be active, life would be easier, perfect even.  This is a lie often told to, and repeated by, people in bigger bodies.  People say these things to themselves in other situations too, postponing living our lives until certain conditions are met.

The creation of that list was the beginning of a paradigm shift in my life where I was no longer content to delay living the life I was given.  I wanted to be someone who did cool things like kayak on weekends, put in training for a race, and master a challenging yoga pose.  And tonight, the night before my longest distance run, I can say that I have.  With half a dozen multi-sport events under my belt, and handfuls of shorter distance runs collected through the years, it feels like an authentic part of me to be lacing up tomorrow morning for a half marathon.

Those miles that lay ahead of me tomorrow represent honoring the body I live in and the life I have been given.  They are a test of my will, my faith, my ability, and my strength.  They are a way for me to challenge myself and push myself. They will become part of my narrative and my life. When I look back over the last eight years, since the creation of that list, and the multitude of ways I have worked, grown and celebrated this life of mine, I feel blessed and awed at where my own two feet have taken me, and the distances they’ve traveled, both literally and metaphorically.

So now, I will cross one last thing on my night before to-do list, and get a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow morning I’m going to ask my two feet to travel 13.1 miles more, and I couldn’t be more ready and happy to do it.