My First Half Marathon

27 Oct

Sometime last winter, I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m doing all this running, why don’t I sign up for a half marathon? I bet that would be fun!” And so in March 2012, I signed up for the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon (October 7, 2012). In the months that followed, I trained casually by increasing my mileage at a comfortable rate. Some weeks I ran more than others and some weeks not at all (hey, wedding planning is time consuming!). After a beautiful wedding and an incredible honeymoon, I kicked things back into gear in early June and began following Hal Higdon’s Novice2 Half Marathon Training Program in July using the iPhone app.

Here’s a small preview of what some of the features look like:

Having a training program was really helpful for me for several reasons: I previously had no idea how much to run or what to do to prepare. It helped me hold myself accountable for getting the miles in. It kept track of distance, pace, calories, mile splits, cross training, and how I was feeling. There were tips each day about nutrition, pacing, gear, etc. I loved being able to go back through the training journal to see my progress. This app was great, though I would have liked it better if you were able to adjust the days of the workouts manually. Many of the tips were geared toward full marathoners, which was kind of lame.

I ran the majority of the 200+ training miles solo, except for a couple of times when the husband or a friend biked alongside (love you!) or I ran a 5K. Let me tell you, running solo gets rather lonely after a while. I made sure to say hi and wave to every runner I saw on my way and at times thought about stalking asking some of them if they would like a partner. I thought that might be awkward, so I decided against that. I tried begging friends to join me, but most looked at me like I was crazy. Then there was the time I kind of blew it when my brother-in-law agreed to run with me. I misjudged the route and we ended up going almost 2 miles farther than he wanted to. Whoops….

So on the longest runs, I pumped up the music on my iPhone and repeated my mantra of “Just keep going!” when it got tough to push on alone. I learned a lot about myself as the miles ticked by. I think I may have also come up with a solution for reversing global warming, but I didn’t have a pen handy so I couldn’t write it down.

I also tested out a nutrition and hydration strategy. I carried a hand held water bottle filled with water enhanced with nuun. This worked well for me, as I like to hydrate as I go when my body tells me it needs it (strawberry lemonade is my favorite). Before a run, I either ate a little protein and carbs or something like a Luna bar. For mid-run energy, I found the GU was the easiest to eat and gave me a nice boost (LOVE mint chocolate!). Chews and beans were too hard to get down without stopping or…choking.

I used the training runs to test out my race day gear as well. This mainly consisted of figuring out what kind of underwear (or not) to wear under my compression tights. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about that process. Moving on….

Before I knew it, race weekend had arrived! There was a running expo at packet pick-up the day prior to the race, so my friend Jaimie and I took advantage of a free yoga session to stretch our bodies out. Felt so good. I set my alarm for 5:00 AM the next morning to start fueling and preparing. I could barely get my wheat bagel and peanut butter down, I was so flippin’ nervous! We set off for the starting line and watched the sun rise on our way. It was a cold, clear morning, perfect for a Fall race. After some warming up and last minute preparations, the bagpipes played and the starting gun went off.

Since I don’t own a GPS watch (yet) and I didn’t want to run with my iPhone armband, I had to try and pace myself intuitively and by paying attention to what other nearby runners were doing. Conclusion: I’m pretty bad at judging my pace on my own.

My 4.3 mile split was 38:07 or 8:48 avg pace according to the official results. I was totally off in my head. Anyway, shortly after hitting that split, a previously unknown runner came up on my right and matched my pace. After a couple of miles, he was still right there. So I asked, “How are we doing?” And he said, “Great! 53:xx!” Since I wasn’t exactly sure what our accurate distance was, I just said, “Awesome!”

I figured this friendly man would just pass me eventually, but he didn’t. So I thought to myself, “OK, let’s do this!” We ran side by side the rest of the race. He helped me push the pace and whenever I seemed like I was struggling, he said something encouraging. The course was awesome. It was primarily on the bike path along the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, so it was pretty flat, quiet, and scenic. It was easy to settle into a pace and gradually increase speed as the miles went by. By the time we hit the final 5K, we were hitting sub-8:00 miles. As we were closing in to the homestretch, I started making some pretty strange and whiny noises. I’m surprised he didn’t ditch me then. Somehow he had become like my own personal pacer and he was invested. And when we reached the final hundred yards, he cheered me on and told me, “You’ve got this!” and so I gave what I had left and crossed the finish line at 1:48:21. After the finish line, he gave me a hug and we exchanged first names. He asked me if that was a PR for me. I just said….”Yes, but only because it was my first.” (He seemed impressed.) Hopefully I run into him at another event, I would really like to thank him and maybe make him ask him to run with me again sometime. I found out after the results were posted that I placed 4th in my age group. Sweet!

This is what 13.099 miles looks like on my face:

(Note to self for next time: SMILE!)

As soon as they wrapped the foil blanket around me, I was bursting with pride. I had just run farther than I EVER had before! And it sure felt like it… Thankfully, there were free massages at the finish party.

There was also a lot of love at the finish line. Mark was there with his camera, a big smile, and a huge hug and kiss. My mom and stepdad were also there showing their support. They brought chairs and camped out at the finish line at 8:00 AM and waited that whole time just to see me finish!

If you remember from a few paragraphs ago, I mentioned my friend, Jaimie. We had originally planned to sign up and train together for the half, but she had a lot of recurring injuries throughout the year and wasn’t able to properly train. Instead of just skipping it though, she did a walk/jog combination and is also a proud finisher of her first half marathon! Yay!

To celebrate, we all went out for brunch and I stuffed my face full of waffles and homefries. Mmmm. Waffles.

Check out the race swag:

Overall, I really enjoyed this experience and I am glad I chose the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon to be my first. The race directors really put a lot of thought into taking care of the runners. It was well organized, the water stops and signs were fun, there were people cheering us on all along the way, the course was flat and fast and clearly marked, the bag bus was convenient, and the post-race refreshments were great. I will definitely make it a habit to race in this event!

Race stats: 10/7/12 date13.1 miles | 1:48:21 total time | 8:16 avg pace


4 Responses to “My First Half Marathon”


  1. That Time I Volunteered at a Race « run+breathe+be - November 11, 2012

    […] was the 37th running of the Stockade-Athon 15K, a race I was hoping to run in as a follow up to my first half-marathon. Thanks to the Mysterious Foot Injury, I had to pass. I volunteered instead so that I didn’t […]

  2. Monday Meditation: Beyond the Comfort Zone « run+breathe+be - February 4, 2013

    […] up for an obstacle course or triathlon…and so on, and so on. During the final miles of my first half marathon, I had several moments where I just wanted to slow down or stop. But I didn’t, and I crossed […]

  3. Re-stocking, Sunday stuff, and core training | run+breathe+be - February 24, 2013

    […] They of course did not have my favorite mint chocolate Gu flavor or pink lemonade nuun, so I grabbed a few different flavors to try. Peanut butter, jet blackberry, chocolate outrage, and vanilla bean. I tried the fruit punch nuun today and it’s no pink lemonade, but it’s pretty good. I also decided it was finally time to purchase that 13.1 car magnet now that it’s been over 5 months since my first half. […]

  4. Races and gear and food, oh my! | run+breathe+be - March 1, 2013

    […] soon as I woke up, I registered to run the Mohawk Hudson River Half Marathon in October! This was my first half this past Fall and I’m excited to run it again. Of course, I’d like to see if I can […]

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