“AND I CAME IN LIKE A WREEEECKING BAAALLL…”
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.
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!