Leading up to my first ever half marathon in October of 2016 – the New England Half Marathon, I spent the summer following a training plan of just a little over 4 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a long run on Saturdays which would alternate between 8 to 13.5 miles. For my longs runs I would increase the distance every two weeks. Once I started running above 10 miles, new challenges were to be met. As you know from my prior blog entries, I use NipEAZE on every run, so nipple chafing was no longer an issue. The new challenge was how to find a way to make sure I had enough water on my runs and what energy fuel to bring. So, I tried energy chews, gel, and bars. I couldn’t find anything I really enjoyed. For instance, the energy gels always seemed to make a mess and my hands would be sticky for the rest of the run. For hydration, I tried bringing bottled water and soon discovered I was not one to enjoy carrying something while I run. So, then I brought half pint bottles and would put one in my pocket and drop another along my run to pickup once I circled back around. That worked well enough, but today I use a water bottle that straps to my hand and that does not seem to bother me.
With the half marathon being less than 2 months away, I had finally reached 13.1 miles for my long Saturday runs and continued to hit that mileage every other week. When I decided to race, it was never my mindset to race for time, just for fun. My only expectation for this first race was to just finish and not be last. Nonetheless, my time for these practice runs averaged around 2 hours 30 minutes.
The day of the race I arrived early and it was cold. Good thing I brought my running jacket. Though my plan was to take it off before the race, the windy and cold 42F prompted me to wear it for the entire race. I checked in and put on my bib. Then it was a lot of waiting around till I got in the starting line around 10 minutes before the start. As the race began, I was off to a good pace and felt really comfortable. I wear ear buds while running and racing, but during races I do not listen to music, just the stats of my current pace and time. I know some races do not like you to wear ear buds while racing. Since I do not have music on, I can pay attention to course instruction or people around me, but I do like to know my stats so I can see if I need to go faster. For this race I had a pack of energy chews and ate one of the four before the race and then one every 30 minutes. After a few miles it seemed the race had settled down and I was running in a pack of equal runners. I would focus on one person in front of me as a guide so that if they were pulling away, I’d better speed up. I seemed to be doing pretty good up until about mile 6 to 7 when my pace slowed by about 1 minute per mile. Looking back, I seem to remember a hill. I did take water from every stop along the way and never felt like I needed more.
This course went from highway to dirt back roads to city streets. Entering the city I could feel the energy of more people cheering us on. My pace began to pick up and I then realized my finish time was going to be better than any of my practice times. I finished my first half marathon with a time of 2 hours 10 minutes! I did not win the race or my age division, but it sure felt like I did. I had just run my first half marathon which was something I never thought I could do!
My next half marathon was 6 months away. I now knew I could do it. I was no longer worried about whether or not I could run the distance. So, I continued with that same training plan.