How I Conquered My First Half Marathon

Half Marathon

This was probably at about Mile 4 hence forth the Smiles :)

Prepping for the Race

On October 13th 2019 at 9 am, I lined up to run my first ever half marathon. I had a long sleeve pullover to ward off the cold, my flip belt, my buff, my hydration pack, electrolyte chews and of course my Bluetooth headphones. A moment of panic surged through me, when my headphones refused to connect to my phone. I fiddled with the button, while waiting for my friends to arrive at the start. I shook out my arms and legs, and I rocked from one foot to the other trying to stay warm. Eventually, all four of us arrived, and the speakers announced that we would be starting in fifteen minutes. I started my spotify playlist, and popped my headphones into my ears. My running buddy and I exchanged a look of “Oh my God. Here we go,” and we were off. 

My Must-Have Supplies for Races:

  • Flip Belt. This amazing device holds everything, phones, keys water bottles it is prime!
  • Buff. Keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 
  • Hydration Pack. I have an osprey and love it. It's only 1.5L, but that is perfect for my needs.
  • Electrolyte Chews. I bought the chews from amazon on a whim. They taste great and definitely help.
  • Jam Earbuds. These work great for me. They lasted all during the race and some after as well. I've also heard great things about the Jabra earbuds. I actually couldn't find the model I have since they are older, and have worked flawlessly through all of my sweaty workouts.       

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

We fell in line following the crowd. We’d placed ourselves in front of the 2:15 pacer, which was a little slower than I wanted, but since it was my first half, I had no real clue how I would feel at mile eight. We figured we’d be better off running slower, than rushing out the gate and killing ourselves. For those of you following my path to the half, you’ll know that my running buddy had an Achilles injury, and wasn’t sure he’d make it to the half. But! He totally rallied and signed up for the half the week before! (If you have an athletic injury, check out my last post on recovery for tips to streamline your healing!) We started out strong. I kept glancing at my watch to ensure my pace wasn’t faster than I could reasonably maintain.

The cold had caused my nose to drain more, and I kept sipping water from my pack in an attempt to keep my airways clear. It worked pretty well, but that brought on my side stitches. We lucked out on weather. The week before had been hanging close to freezing, but the morning of the half was already 45 degrees. The sun was hiding behind a layer of clouds, but still bright enough to be motivating. Shout out to my running buddy here. He rolled his ankle at mile 5…badly…walked for a bit and went right back to running. Two miles past that was the turn around point. We ran along the greenbelt, which meant we were running along an uneven path shaded with trees.

The Importance of a Great Running Playlist!

When we rounded the halfway mark Spotify gifted me with “God’s Not Dead” by the Newsboys. Running has always been a very meditative prayerful thing for me. In high school, when I swam, swimming was that time for me. Something about the repetition of my feet pounding on the ground allows my mind to wander, and for me to enter into a prayerful state. A combination of being halfway done, the song, and the exhaustion sent me into a runner’s high. I don’t get them very often, but for the next three miles the world faded away. My body’s protests faded away, and I was just running.
At mile 9.5 that euphoria faded fast. My running buddy and I both felt it. We reached an aid station, downed some Gatorade and kept going. I had been keeping up with my water and electrolyte chews. I had one chew at 5 miles, one at 8, but I felt the need for some Gatorade. The next few miles we spent reminiscing about our journey to this point. In April, we were struggling to finish one mile. We were running two times a week maybe and dying every time we went out. Now, we were rounding mile 11 and headed towards the finish line.

My Top 5 Running Pump-Up Songs:

  • I Love It, Icona Pop
  • Defying Gravity, Wicked Soundtrack
  • Hunger, Florence and the Machine (Really, anything by Florence and the Machine tho)
  • Bulletproof, La Roux
  • Like Whoa, Aly & AJ

The Finish Line

At mile 12.6, Spotify gifted me once again with the song “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. I told my running buddy it was playing and he encouraged me to “go kill it.” So! I did. Half a mile–ish to the finish line with Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel singing about breaking free from expectations and the “gravity” that we so often place on ourselves. I started to sprint. Well “sprint” as much as I could at that point. 😊 Finally my feet crossed that finish line. 13.1 miles. Done. Ran. Completed.
I stumbled over to the humans cutting off wrist bands, and handing out medals and water bottles. My brain was so fuzzy from exhaustion, I barely was able to grab my water bottle. I scanned the crowd for my boyfriend, and he came up to me holding the sign he drew for the race. It said “Italian Stallion” on it. I was relieved to see him and be at the end. I wanted him to be proud of me, but I also did this to be proud of myself. I glanced at my watch, my time was 2:10. Exactly where I wanted to be. For a while now, I’ve been searching for my thing. In high school, I was defined by swimming, lifting weights, being Catholic, the Doe Herd (My high school's name for my group of all-female friends) and Harry Potter. As an adult, I have jumped from fancy to fancy trying to find the thing that will define me. I tried going back to swimming but didn’t find that it fit as easily with my work schedule. But now, I have found it. I am a runner. I run half marathons. I’m training for a full marathon. This is who I am. This is what I do, and I’m excited to continue down this road.

Crossing the Finish Line. I wish I was smiling more, but the exhaustion looks real :) 

For those of you ready to start your own half journey, here are my tips:

  1. Pick a running schedule you can stick to. You don't have to run 5 times a week, and if you don't want to, you won't. Commit to a plan that works for you!
  2. Find an accountability buddy to train with. This helped me so much. Having someone counting on me, made me run faster and harder.
  3. Invest in good gear. A good pair of shoes can be the difference from running being fun to absolutely miserable. Be sure to get sized by a professional.
  4. Find a race near you to get you started. We started in May by completing a 5k, and then moved up from there. It helps to have something fun that you are training for.
  5. Rest when you need it. If you are injured take the time to completely heal and get back on your feet. It will help you stay motivated in the long run. 
    1. Take this opportunity as a time to cross-train. Cross-training will help you be faster and injury free.
    2. FOAM ROLL AND STRETCH. I put this in all caps, mostly for myself. It's so easy to just forget and forgo this step. It is important. Stay consistent with it. 
For even more tips on starting you own path to a half, check out this post

Comment below the longest distance you have run! What was your journey like? What are your ride-or-die running tools, tips, and tricks? 

Share this post with anyone in training for their own race!