Today I ran my first half marathon.
This race has been a few years in the making. I was signed up for a half marathon in November 2014, but due to personal reasons I wasn’t able to run. I signed up for the same half a year later, but ended up with a nasty cough after my trip to Virginia Beach and didn’t feel ready for the race, so I dropped down to the 10k. I remember when I reached the 10k turn around wanting to keep going with everyone else… and so I vowed that this year, come heck or high water, I was running a freakin’ half marathon!
My training for this race officially began in February. I used the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training with a few tweaks here and there to fit my schedule and racing. I ran two 8k races during the training schedule. Toward the end of the training I was getting a little nervous. I missed a couple of long runs, but last weekend I did a 12 mile run, and thought… I got this. If I can run 12 miles, I can definitely run 13.1.
A week before the race, my friend that I had met at a club run a few weeks previously asked if I wanted to run with her. She also does run/walk intervals and is a “slow runner” like me. I said absolutely I would run with her. We could both use the motivation!
I arrived at the Go the Extra Miles for Covenant Kids race about 45 minutes before race start and picked up my bib. I ran into a few friends, including the overall winner of the race! He cheered me on at the finish… One thing I have to say about the sport of running – everyone is so encouraging. Even the most elite runners will run past someone going at my pace and tell them great job. It is the most motivational community I have ever been a part of. But let me save the mushy stuff for later…
I finally met up with my friend just before the start of the race. My parents were able to come and I am so glad that they were there! We set ourselves up just behind the pacer for a 2:45:00 half marathon finish time. We figured that if we kept him in our sights, we would be good to go. I had a goal to finish in under 3 hours.
As we approached the first aid station, I told my friend I had to make a pit-stop. Another first for me – using a porta-potty during a race! Normally I try as much as I can to get all of that done before the run… but I made a cardinal mistake by drinking about 20oz of water between the time I arrived at the race and just before the start. So there was no way I could pee that all out before the race start – LOL! Anyway… we made a quick pit-stop and were on our way again.
The weather could not have been better. I was nervous because the start was pretty cold, so I didn’t want to freeze, but I also knew I was going to heat up and the temp was going to rise. I dressed just right, plus we had a little breeze and some intermittent clouds.
When we hit five miles, I was so excited. My friend and I exchanged high fives. We were feeling really good the whole time. At mile 7, we stopped for a quick water from these adorable little girls in tutus. One of the girls said, “Don’t walk now! You only have 6 miles to go!” and we both laughed. She then said, “You’ve already run 7!” And we were like YEAH! We sure have!
The running club that I had met my friend from was hosting the aid station at mile 10, and it was a total party. They had an 80s theme going and were super encouraging as we passed through. At this point, we were both feeling it. My legs were definitely tired, and I was starting to get sore in my ankle and my toes. But we just kept telling each other… it’s only 2 minutes at a time (running intervals). Those two minutes seemed to get longer and that one minute seemed to get shorter as we continued on…
Somewhere between mile 11 and 12 I think we picked up another runner. At first we both were like, wow, we are going to get our butts kicked by this older guy. He then slowed down and let us catch up to him. Turns out, this guy is a total rock star. I asked him how long he had been running. He said 38 years. Pretty awesome right?? He started running when he was 50. Yes, you did the math right – this guy is 88 years old! I had seen him before at The Crim – he always wears a “Run With Jesus” tank top. So he was telling us some of his running stories. Like how he ran his first 8 mile race with his 11 year old son, and when they were done his son asked when he was going to do the Boston Marathon. His response was he’d never run that far. My follow up question was “How many Boston Marathons have you run?” and he responded with “9”. He has run 116 marathons and plans to run a marathon when he is 100 years old. This guy… is awesome.
Finally, the finish was in sight. Jerry Johncock, the 88 year old rock star, said “You know what you do now, right? You sprint in the finish!” We were like oh boy. You go right ahead! But he stayed with us and he was pushing us through the end, yelling “Go! Go! Go!” I ran hard through that finish and was just beaming. The crowd love was incredible. Although I know they were cheering on Jerry, it still pushed me through and I felt so honored to be a part of his big finish!
I ended up finishing with an official time of 2:52:20, a pace of 13:10 per mile. Well under my goal of 3 hours. I saw my friends at the finish and my parents were there to cheer me on. I got to talk to Jerry again and even got a picture with him.
So the big question – was the half marathon something I just wanted to do to say I did it and now it is checked off my bucket list? The answer is NO. I want to run another half. Not sure when, maybe not this year, maybe I’ll do the Capital City River Run this fall. And the other question – after running a half, do I want to do a full? At this moment, no. Not really. I still can’t wrap my head around running for 6 hours. But… this race definitely made me go from “I’ll never run a full marathon” to “I might run a full marathon”.
I have to give a huge shout out to the runners group that I am a part of on Facebook. I have recently been able to meet a few of the members in person, which has been so awesome. This group has been a HUGE motivation for me. So thanks, Michigan Runners, for all of your support over the last 8 months. You guys have pushed me to be the best I can be, and have helped me to stop being so worried about being a “slow runner” and instead made me realize that all runners are RUNNERS despite their pace.