On Running My First Half Marathon

Bib Number for Coeur D'Alene Half MarathonAfter going on and on about Project Half Marathon for half a year, the goal has finally been met. Yesterday I ran my first half marathon in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho! Nearly six months of training went into my 13.1 miles, and my unofficial time was 2 hours and 10 minutes.

I’m absolutely thrilled with that time, by the way. Elite runners can sweep through a half marathon in a little over an hour. But in my training, my long runs were never under 10:45 per mile pace so to average 10 minute miles was my dream goal. If my legs and stomach hadn’t revolted after the race, I probably would have reveled in reaching that dream goal a little more. As it was, I nibbled on a half a banana and sipped water while trying not to topple over.

Half Marathon Race Day

We went up the day before to register and bee-bop around Coeur D’Alene. Beautiful city. Race day was calm, cloudy and about 40 degrees when the half marathon started at 7:30. It warmed to maybe 50 or 60 late morning, but the course was flat and shaded most of the way. I had been training on gravel roads in the foothills, so this course was far easier than what I had been running on.

I was nervous/excited. Other than an ALS/Lou Gehrig’s benefit 5k I ran in college, my last racing experience was in high school where I ran sprint relays – 100, 200 and 400 meters. If you can’t imagine how challenging 13.1 miles seems to a girl who ran the majority of her races in 13 seconds, let’s get coffee and I’ll tell you all about it.

As we were getting ready for the race to start, all I could think about was how my dad would look at that mess of people and make some comment about how it looked like a herd of cattle pointed down the loading alley. And we did.

I don’t know how many people were running this half marathon, but one of the race volunteers said there were 2,500 people signed up for the marathon, half marathon and 5k. All pointed the same direction. All funneled through the archway with the big START sign on it. All geared up for a half marathon whether it was our first (me!) or 80th (someone else who will never be me). Thank goodness there wasn’t a cliff 20 feet past the starting point or I would have tumbled over the edge of it before I realized it was there.

The race itself wasn’t bad. I got worried when my calves got tight around mile three or four. That’s never happened that early in a run before, and I’m sure it was a result of adrenaline, a faster pace and a new running surface. They stayed tight the entire race, feeling like they might cramp on the next stride. I just kept moving forward, determined to get as far as I could before they did cramp and hoping I could make it to the finish line if they did.

Thankfully they didn’t cramp, but the fear of it kept me from walking. I was afraid if I stopped to walk, my muscles would cool just enough to start acting up and I’d not be able to get running again.

About mile 10 (I think? The miles started blurring together.) my legs started to tire. My cardio was strong due to my Insanity training, I think, but my legs were getting heavy and wimping out on me. Competitive Erica kicked in, and after a water station, another girl and I fell into stride. She got me through the next couple of miles at a better pace than I could have managed on my own. I wish I could find her again and thank her.

The last mile or two were awful. I was dead. My legs were angry, and my pace had slowed. Somehow I made it to that last tenth of a mile and did the dead man sprint to the finish. Thankfully without tripping in front of the hundreds surrounding the finish line. Embarrassing moment #73,284 I didn’t need happening to me.

Half Marathon Training

North Idaho roads aren’t good for winter running, and I fell in my first experience with a treadmill a few years ago so it takes a good bit of coaxing for me to agree to run indoors. I started my training in January with the Insanity workout program. Tough program. Hard on joints. Whipped me into shape.

About mid-March I started running outside, and I based my half marathon training on Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 half marathon program. I was about 10 weeks out from my race date, so I jumped in on the third week.

It prepared me for my half marathon pretty well. I can’t compare to any other training programs, but I would give this training program a thumbs up. If I run another one, I will incorporate more cross training and more speed work.

The Future of Running

I think if I really dedicated myself to running, I could race a half marathon in under two hours. Do I want to really dedicate myself to running? No. Not at this point.

My goal was this half marathon I ran yesterday. I’ve done it. I’m ready for a new challenge, a new focus, a new push towards something great. I hope to continue incorporating running into my life, and I know Doc certainly does. But to train for a distance race like I have been? I’ll leave that to the people who run 13 miles in an hour.

What Single-Minded Focus Can Accomplish

Eyeglasses focused on running shoesAs I hit the last month on the Project Half Marathon trail, I’ve looked back at what I’ve already accomplished. Premature, I know, but I needed some encouragement this weekend, and it is amazing what single-minded focus can accomplish.

It all started with two crazy-induced months of Insanity in January of this year. Then I switched over to running. Jogging slowly for a really long ways? Entirely different way of fitness than the high intensity interval training of Insanity.

Yesterday I ran nine miles. Nine miles!! In an hour and 37 minutes!! Exclamation points for everyone!!

You all? I’m doing this. I’m actually doing this. And it feels good.

It also feels like a very large reminder that is burned into my brain each long-run Sunday. When you knuckle down and really go after something, you will accomplish it.

I haven’t gotten a lot else done outside of work besides run and train for Project Half Marathon. My house is a mess, my bed is never made, my laundry is never caught up – but that’s okay with me. I want this under my belt, and I want to run this half marathon on Memorial weekend to the best of my ability.

And now I’m thinking, what do I want to turn this magical single-minded focus on when June hits? I think I already know.

P.S. – it isn’t magic. It’s hard work, determination and never giving up.

I’ve got a long ways to run.

You might be thinking I dropped that whole Project Half Marathon thing like it was a sack of rotten eggs since I haven’t mentioned it in about, oh, three months. Falsehood. Project Half Marathon is in giddy-up, full-charge ahead mode.

It has been a difficult transition from Insanity into running slowly for a very long ways. I still can’t say that I enjoy it, but I am focused on my goal of completing a half marathon to the very best of my ability. High intensity interval training (i.e. Insanity) will be my reward for 13.1 miles of jogging.

I’m not a long distance runner so I’ve been hitting “oh wow this is the longest I’ve ever run at one time” moments on a regular basis. My scheduled 7-mile long run this past weekend didn’t happen due to unwellness. I felt guilty so I ate a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Don’t do that. It didn’t help.

This week I’m running 4.5 miles twice (last night and tomorrow night) with some shorter runs and cross training. I’ve been incorporating Yoga with Jillian and some hill work. Sundays are my long run days. I am tentatively planning eight this weekend. Cue the “I’m scared!” music.

How am I feeling? My body is sad. A blister and a strained calf muscle made last night’s 4.5 miles a tad painful. Mentally, I’m focused on my goal, but I really wish I was enjoying the journey more. I keep hoping a tidal wave of joy is about to sweep over me, and I’ll never want to unlace my shoes again.

I get through my runs with music and the champion of long distance running, my border collie Doc. He doesn’t quit. He doesn’t whine. He doesn’t get tired. Music wise I am stuck on stuff from my college days – which is both good and bad. Hinder, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Coldplay. It never fails to amuse me when Collective Soul’s song Run shuffles through.

Seriously. How can you not appreciate the irony of Collective Soul singing “I’ve got a long ways to run.”?

All I can say to that is, “Why, yes, yes I do indeed.”