Canada, Life List, North America

21.1 KM Later…

October 24, 2013


Miley’s whiny voice blasted from my (borrowed) iPod. The song has been a running joke this past few weeks and though it’s not a suitable running song, I still put it in my running playlist as an ode to my crazy friends. I looked up and noticed that I’ve only just passed the 11 KM mark – “Great!”, I thought to myself, “Roughly 10 more kilometers to go before the finish line. @#$%!”.


My alarm rang at 7 that morning – much later than when I would have woken up had I been staying uptown. However, thanks to my generous friend, Ella, I was able to stay with her the night before the race at a highly convenient location, one that is very close to the start line. For the first time in several months, I woke up pumped and ready to go on a Sunday morning. Today would be the day I finally get to fulfill this half-marathon dream of mine. I talked about it in my undergrad days and have kept it in the back of my mind since then. It’s been a long time coming!


Was I nervous? Not exactly. I was more excited than nervous and I was most-definitely naive. I honestly thought 21.1K wasn’t that bad of a distance to cover. I figured it’s only twice that of a 10K race and I had done that a few times before, so it shouldn’t be that difficult, right? Plus, I thought of taking walking breaks every time I’d come across a water station (i.e. every 3K, which seemed to be a manageable distance in the beginning of the race). I also kept telling myself that running this is 90% a mental game, that as long as I can convince my brain I can do it, I’d be able to finish. This was all coming from the girl who was under-trained for this race. Yup, I pretty much over-justified myself and I got my ass kicked. Badly.

Anyone who has done any race before will tell you the adrenaline rush is felt when you’re just about to cross the start line and it’ll come back to carry you across the finish line. The rest of the time? You’re on your own – just your body and your brain waging war at each other. For me, though, the hardest part of a run is always those first 3 KM, when I’m still struggling to find my pace. Once I get over that hill, it’s all smooth sailing from there. The problem is, the longest run I’ve ever done prior to the Half was only about 12 KM, a distance that seems like a joke compared to the long and painful 21.1 KM. I was able to keep 7:15 pace for the first 8K or so, then it just dwindled down to the point where I walked more than I ran.

What went through my mind...

What went through my mind…

Somewhere between 17-18 KM, my legs decided to give up on me and I had the worst cramp going through my right thigh. It was so bad that I couldn’t take a step forward without feeling a sharp pain down my leg. I had to force myself to stop and stretch before continuing on. Rue was right – those last 3 KM felt like the LONGEST 3 KM in my life. Not to mention those last 500 m, when every step I took to move forward sent pain surging through both of my legs. My body was rebelling against my brain, a cry of protest because of what I was putting it through.

None of that mattered as soon as I crossed the finish line though. It didn’t matter that I ran it so slow (official chip time is 3.05, much slower than most). It didn’t matter that my lower body was in pain (I still feel my feet ache even as I write this). Hell, it didn’t even matter that they ran out of bananas for me (they still had bagels and Greek yogurts!). All that mattered was the fact that I did it. Victory is at hand. I ran the half-marathon. Another thing crossed off the list. Done and done.



Now, gimme a HIGH FIVE!



There would be no way I would be able to go through this without the encouragements I get from my friends, notably:

Lisa – for being crazy enough to entertain the idea and to end up doing this with me. Let’s do another one in May, what do you say?

Jeff – for convincing me I should sign up before the price goes up another tier. And for becoming a living proof that runs can be done with little to no training (although not recommended at all!).  

Rue – for the support, tips, and the constant reminders to train (albeit given in a very subtle question: “So did you up your mileage?”). I give you permission to kick my ass next time I slack off in my training. 

Ella – for your room and the chocolate milk and the Vanilla Coke!

A mention of gratitude is not complete without referencing all of you spectators who were out there with your hilarious signs (“Running is a mental sport. You are all insane!”), ringing those cowbells, clapping, cheering, yelling words of inspirations (“YOU CAN DO IT!”), and calling out my name (although it freaked me out at first because I totally forgot that my bib has my name on it). THANK YOU kind and encouraging strangers!


  • Reply Colleen Brynn October 27, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    This was an interesting read for me, someone who has a passionate hatred for running. You will never see me trying to cross off something like this on any bucket list, but I sincerely admire people who can do it. Congrats! Must feel fantastic!

    • Reply Pauline October 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks Colleen!! It felt amazing! My time was ridiculously slow, but that’s okay, I did it! I agree with you on running, though. It’s definitely a sport where you either love it or hate it. There is no in between!

  • Reply Kev Oei November 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

    I have a feeling I’m one of those “crazy friends” to whom you put Miley’s song in your running playlist as an ode. As much as I (really) want to comment about the inescapable song (and also the whole album the song is from since I decided to download it and listen to it after my trip to Toronto – it’s not that bad actually), I have realized this blog post is about running. I myself am not much of a runner. In fact, I dislike it cause oftentimes I feel intense muscle pain around my calves after doing so, although I do once in a while enjoy morning jogging. My friend told me that the first 15 minutes of running is always the hardest because it takes about that much time for our body to release endorphin into our system, and once the hormone starts kicking in, the running should be like a walk in the park. I really admire what you accomplished. I know it wasn’t easy and took some real determination and endurance to complete it. I sure hope one day to try a marathon as well, but I resi

  • Reply Kev Oei November 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

    (I accidentally tapped on the “submit” button with my giant finger on my tiny phone.)
    …but I seriously in need of intense training before deciding to do it as I don’t want to land on newspapers as one of the participants passing out during the event.

    • Reply Pauline November 9, 2013 at 1:23 am

      AH!!! What a long comment! Seriously, Wrecking Ball only made it onto my playlist because of you guys and because of that crazy trip we did to Niagara! Yes, running is exactly as you described, the first 15 minutes (i.e. 2 KM or so) is the hardest, then it just goes downhill from there. And kev, if I can do a half, I’m sure you can too! I’m not the most athletic person here! Thanks for the comment – it’s much appreciated!

  • Reply Ayngelina November 10, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Congrats! Must feel great!

    • Reply Pauline December 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      Thanks, Ayngelina! It felt pretty darn awesome!

  • Reply Lisa December 20, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Just read this :) great post and thanks for the shout out! I wouldn’t be doing races if it weren’t for you asking me too either! But they are totally worth it

    • Reply Pauline December 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      AGREE! We NEED to plan the US one, Lisa!!!

  • Reply Camels & Chocolate January 16, 2014 at 1:39 am

    My husband has been listening to “Wrecking Ball” on repeat for days! It won’t get out of my head!

    Congrats on your victory!

    • Reply Pauline January 21, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Thank you!! Just FYI: I read through your marathon experiences a couple of weeks prior to mine for inspiration and encouragements :)

  • Reply Come Running with Me: Vancouver | Tales of a Pilgrim May 20, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    […] noticed – I love running. I’m not the fastest runner nor could I endure marathons (Half was the most I could mentally prepare myself for), but I love running. It brings me to a peaceful […]

  • Leave a Reply

    CommentLuv badge