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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.