Yes, I’m so proud to say it – yesterday, I attempted and completed my first half marathon ever! And I love that it was in the city I was born.
You might find it odd that I threw the word “attempted” in there but that indicates the point where I have to admit that I did not properly train for the half, and yesterday was the first time I ever ran 13.1 miles. Or 12, or 11, or 10… See where I’m going with this?
I did not train properly for my first half marathon but luckily for me I did not suffer greatly from it. Most of the exercise that I’ve been putting in the last couple months was to strengthen my lower body with a sprinkle of running here and there. For the last two weeks before my Half however, I did not go to the gym at all and my diet fell off completely. I was stuck with extreme nervousness on what I expected my body to do during a 13.1 mile run – fail on me.
A Morning of Mishaps
I’ll get back to my body – I need to share my story of what happened to me during the entire race from start to finish. I was supposed to wake up at 5:30am but my body was so exhausted from getting only 5 hours sleep two nights before the Half. That was not my fault though, being that I got home at 11pm and had to be up at 5am for an 8-hour shift. So the day of the Half, I woke up at 5:45am – that might not seem like a crucial difference, but it caused a huge problem for me later.
I quickly got showered and got dressed in the outfit I set aside the day before and grabbed my drawstring backpack with all my essentials – phone, iPod, phone charger, wallet, keys and a NYC Half booklet. It escaped me that it was Sunday and at 6:30am, trains would barely be running. I ran over to the Fordham Road D station where I did not board a train until 7:03am.
While sitting on the train, I decided to browse my booklet to look up baggage information. My heart dropped when I realized that bag check for my wave ended at 7:30am. I knew that I was not going to make it in time. Instead, I plotted in my head the quickest way to get to 59th and 5th and calculated I wouldn’t get there until 7:50. Entrance to my corral closed at 8am! And I could forget about getting breakfast.
My heart was beating with nervousness as I thought I wouldn’t make it on time. I tried to breathe and stay positive about the whole situation. I ended up emptying my wallet taking only what I really needed, and stuck my keys, phone charger, and cards into the small back pocket of my running tights. I opted to wear arm sleeves that day instead of a long sleeve shirt which proved useful because I stuck my iPod in my left sleeve and my phone in my right. I chucked the drawstring bag, earphones and empty wallet in the trash. It was a small price to pay for my lateness. I zipped up my hoody and prepared to exit the train station.
The First Two Miles
At about 7:50am, so happy that I made it on time, I entered Central Park and followed the other runners through security. I found Corral 25 and felt anxious about getting started. There were so many people around that had people with them, and I felt a little lonesome but that quickly went away as we all walked toward the Start line.
The announcer over the megaphone instructed us all to start jogging to warm ourselves up. I know my body extremely well and I knew the second I started to warm up, my body was going to heat up to an unbearable temperature so I power walked to the Start. Once they hit the horn for us to take off, it clicked in my head that I was about to run a half marathon and I better get focused!
I took off in a light jog the first half mile and already I felt my body heating up. I was upset with myself for a minute for having missed bag check because I was wearing my favorite hoody that morning. I had to throw my hoody off on the side of Central Park to be donated because I couldn’t bear the heat anymore. Goodbye hoody!
We ran along the roads of Central Park and it seemed very easy to me at first. But by the second mile, I was hit with a massive amount of discouragement when my left knee started hurting me. This is where I wished I had trained properly, because my knees weren’t used to the pounding on concrete over a substantial amount of time. I tried not to focus on the pain and instead on the scattered spectators along the route. I read their motivating and humorous signs and all I could think about was reaching the Fluid Station by 55th and 5th where I knew I would see familiar Nike faces.
Over the Hills and Far Away
Central Park was by far the most difficult part of the course. We hit at least four hills in the first six miles but I prefer to hit hills in the start rather than the finish. I took advantage of every Fluid Station we approached and I slowed down into a light jog at each one because I knew that if I started walking, I would stop running. When we exited the park and approached Time Square, I felt this exhilarating rush come through me. It was a combination of lights, people and music that brought a sense of calm and fun into my soul. And it made me realize, that I wasn’t even tired yet.
As I hit the Nike Gatorade station, I screamed in joy because a few of my coworkers were volunteering. Alexis passed me a small PowerBar gel pack which I decided to save until I desperately needed it. I enjoyed my moment of comfort with my friendly faces and continued to run along to mile 8. The next thing I knew, I heard a man yell “Angela!” I turned to see my coworker Dennis running beside me ready to take me all the way to the end. If I could have stopped to hug and kiss him without losing momentum, I would have! I was truly touched that he came out for my big day especially since he ran his last Half in 1:21! I knew this would be a walk in the park for him and I truly enjoyed his company the rest of the way. Any feeling of lonesome was now long gone.
The Last 4 Miles
As we turned onto the West Side Highway, a brutal cold wind smacked us in the face. I’m glad it only lasted for a minute because my body would have been too cold to continue. Dennis and I talked a little here and there and even in moments of silence, I was still comforted by his presence. I started the music on my iPod to keep me a little energized. I started eating the gel pack around the 10th mile because I started to feel the effects of not eating breakfast. By the 11th mile, my quads started to feel the Half. By the 12th mile, my feet started to feel the Half. I slowed down to about a 12 minute pace but when approached the tunnel, I picked it up just a bit due to the awesomeness of running through a dark tunnel chasing after the reflective apparel elements of the people in front of me. But the last half mile, my body was wore down and I moved down to my slowest pace. Even as I saw the Finish Line, all I could think about was just getting across and that time was not a factor. Thoughts of my grandmother rushed through my head as I got that feeling of just wanting to call home. My final time was 2:23:40, just eight minutes over my projected 2:15. At the end, I enjoyed the banana that Dennis brought for me and picked up my medal which I am so proud to now own. I donned the heat blanket and in a minute I was so cold I had to borrow his half-zip.
I am still surprised at what my body was able to accomplish on inefficient training and diet. I did not push myself to any limit during the run because my goal was simply to finish so I wanted to make sure I paced myself. My goal for the DC half is now to beat this 2:23 by at least 15 minutes.
I did feel a good amount of soreness as Dennis and I took the train up to our store so I could show off my medal to my other coworkers. They greeted me with huge smiles and high-fives as they congratulated me on my first half marathon. I also took this as an opportunity to buy myself a new hoody that I will not ever wear to another Half.
A full day after the Half, I’m here in my bed and I’m actually feeling amazing. Of course my legs and surprisingly my back are sore, but I’m still able to move around and function normally. The stairs were a little bit of a hassle this morning when I had to run to the supermarket, but otherwise I’m doing very well. This is not at all what I expected! I thought I would be bed-ridden for the entire day.
So because this is my first Half experience, I learned quite a few lessons:
1. Don’t wear a favorite apparel piece that you will more than likely have to take off!
2. Properly train and you can push yourself harder.
3. Failure to plan is planning to fail – coordinate your schedule to take advantage of bag check, portable toilets, and stretching beforehand.
4. Eat a light breakfast before the race for some extra energy.
5. If you know other people running, try to make a plan for some post-run fun!