The Half-Marathon Adventure

Coming across the finish line

Coming across the finish line

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be sitting down to write about running a half-marathon, I’d think you were crazy. Yet it’s happening. I really did run a half-marathon and I have the body aches and a finisher’s medal to prove it.

Last year at this time, I was in the midst of a grand attempt to change my lifestyle and finally get in shape. I plotted a 1.25-mile loop around my neighborhood and, for a couple afternoons per week, spent an hour alternating between walking and jogging around it. This hurt. I could hardly sustain the jog, especially while going uphill. Sometimes Xavier joined me and, when we had the breath to do so, we marveled at the poor shape we were in. One winter evening we managed to walk/jog for a total of three miles, and afterwards we almost collapsed from exhaustion. I was so proud. “Three miles!” I cheered. “I can’t believe we ran three miles!”

As someone who has spent the majority of 26 years avoiding running at all costs, I can honestly say if I can run a half-marathon, anyone can do it. Furthermore, in a twisted way, I almost enjoyed the experience. Except for miles 8-11. Those were not fun miles.

To be completely honest, I didn’t decide to run a half-marathon for fitness reasons. I did it because I wanted to be skinny, and it seemed that people who run these long-distance things are usually pretty thin. After my first few races went pretty well, I decided that a half-marathon and all of the accompanying training would help me get in great shape. When I found out that there was a half-marathon in the Gasparilla Distance Classic, it was a no-brainer to register. A beautiful flat course overlooking the bay and skyline? Yes, please. I’ll take it. Maybe it will be fun… and hopefully those long training runs will put me in good shape.

I wish the training had gone so smoothy. I’ve reached a point where running anywhere from four to six miles is pretty easy. But increase that distance to eight, nine, ten miles and I hit a mental roadblock. For this reason, the race made me nervous. I didn’t know if I could handle a full 13.1.

We arrived at the start by the blissful hour of 5:45 am. Marie and I were nervous and definitely feeling an overwhelming sense of dread. We bid a sad farewell to our spectators and joined the mass working its way to the start line. “This is not going to be fun,” we said. “Why are we doing this again?” The first heat went off promptly at six and we waited another ten minutes to begin.

Marie and I getting ready to start

Marie and I getting ready to start

A view of the starting corral

A view of the starting corral

The chute was packed so even after the gun went off, we couldn’t do much more than awkwardly walk-jog. When we crossed the bridge over the bay, heading towards Davis Island, we came to a complete standstill. People shouted and voiced their dismay, and we eventually moved forward. Since the course was so packed, the first four miles were slow. I didn’t do much to fight forward – I was happy to save my energy for the end, figuring I’d need it then.

Things went pretty smoothly until the eighth mile, at which point I was experiencing physical pain in my knees, ankles, and hips. From mile eight to eleven, it seemed unbearable and we took short breaks to walk. Every time we accelerated back into the jog, which we were maintaining at around 10:15 min/mile, every joint, bone, and muscle screamed in agony. It was a preview into what it must like to be elderly, when you rise grimacing from your armchair and hobble for a solid ten minutes until you regain control of your faculties. By this point, I was feeling the effects of dehydration and sucked down water and Gatorade whenever possible.

The last two miles hurt like hell but went by shockingly fast. I remember feeling furious when an announcer cheered that there was just a mile to go – “We have a half-mile, tops!” I grumbled through gasping breaths. And finally, we were through the finish line, where I grabbed a handful of Marie’s- no, just kidding, it’s only the angle.

So happy to be done

So happy to be done

Nobody photographed the awkward moment when I puked, Exorcist-style, and hugged the trash bin for 20 minutes. Apparently I over-hydrated during the last portion of the race. It’s not recommended because your blood is mostly fueling the extremities, making digestion of water difficult. Hey, you live and you learn.

I’d like to extend a special “thank you” to our spectators, who awoke at four in the morning and patiently waited almost three hours for us to finish the silly run. Although Riley makes it look easy.

gasparilla_spectators

Would I run another half-marathon? Man, I don’t know. It hurt badly and immediately afterwards, I said “never again!” But there are so many cool opportunities for runs that I think I’ll be tempted into another one at some point. It was great to run next to Marie for the entire time, since I had a lot of mental support and cheerleading when I was miserable. Perhaps I can rope her into another event.

Oh, and my main goal of doing all of this? To get skinny? Want to know if that happened?

It didn’t. Sure, I trimmed up and added muscle, but I didn’t get the lean runner’s body I was hoping for. And towards the end of training, I read a study claiming that interval training is the best way to burn fat and lose weight. So look for me at Piedmont Park, sprinting and walking for hours on end.

Nashville Country Music Marathon, anyone?

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