Usually when I sit down to write, my body doesn’t ache so much that it hurts to sit. Okay maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not too far from the truth. Yesterday at around 1pm I was running through the finish line of my first half-marathon experience. But let’s back up just a bit.
Three months ago when I was driving back to Vermont from my winter break in Maine, I was also driving a friend from the University of Vermont back to school. Last year she had completed the Paris Marathon after several months of rigorous training. Looking for a less intense running experience, she had the thought of signing up for the Burlington Half-Marathon on April 9th. Hearing this, I wondered if this was something that I should consider as well. I’ve been running fairly seriously since Junior year of high school when I decided to discontinue playing soccer and try out for the cross country team. Since then, I’ve competed in many 5k races, three 7k’s, and about seven 8k’s during this year’s cross country season at Green Mountain. With these races and all the training that I did, I still had never run over 8 miles, so thinking about running 13.1 miles initially had me quite nervous. I decided to disregard those feelings of doubt and just sign up for it before I convinced myself that I wasn’t capable. I sure am glad that I did.
For the next 2 ½ months, for four days a week, whenever the clock hit 4pm, I would stop all that I was doing, throw on my running clothes, tied up my running shoes and go for run. It’s easier said than done though. I often would look outside to see it snowing or raining, and I can’t tell you how many times I thought “maybe today will just be a rest day.” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few rest days here and there, but I tried as much as I could to push those aches and pains, feelings of doubt, and excuses to the side and just get outside to do the run that I scheduled.
I don’t want to bore you with details about the training, but I will say that if there is anybody out there trying to train for any event, it does get easier. The first week went by quickly because I was amped up on the idea of running a half marathon and being a strong runner. But as the second and third weeks rolled around, most days I woke up tired and with a sore body, and when the weather got nasty, the LAST thing I wanted to do was go outside for a run. But as the final 5 weeks of training came about, I realized that I wasn’t viewing my “training” runs as something that I had to force myself to do. It was more about simply having an active lifestyle and getting to spend time outside. Whenever I wouldn’t run for more than three days I would get frustrated with simple tasks much easier than when I was running on a consistent basis.
When the final day came to drive up to Burlington for the race, I wasn’t necessarily nervous about finishing, but more about how my body would cope with running 13 miles, as my longest run during my training only got up to about 8 miles. I was there with my friend, Ramsay, and her two friends, Elijah and Britt. It was definitely nice to have that crew with me, as they certainly kept the spirits high during the long hour of wait at the race start before the gun went off. For me, the first half of the race went well. I was on the 7th mile and I can remember going over one of the many small bridges along the shoreline of Lake Champlain and being so happy to be in that place at that time. The temperature was a cool 35 degrees, but the sun kept the air warm enough to make it an enjoyable experience. But as the 9th, 10th, and 11th miles came about, I really started to struggle. My leg muscles were tense and the only thing I wanted to do was lay down and just sleep for the rest of the day. Luckily the music that was playing on my iPod kept my energy up enough to tackle some of the last little hills that would seem like nothing if you drove over them, but if you were running up them on the 12th mile, they seemed like mountains. The crowd was large towards the end and very supportive in keeping you running strong all the way to finish. Thankfully there was a few food stands at the end that had free food for the runners, and with a bit of stretching, lots of water, and food, I started to exit a weird delirious state of mind that had taken over my body in the last 3 miles.
Through this experience I’ve realized that it’s important to have a goal or something to keep you from making excuses. I wouldn’t have run nearly as much as I did this semester if I didn’t sign up for the half marathon. Even though my body aches and I am currently having trouble walking, I’m starting to look towards the next challenge, which I believe will be a full marathon. I’m sure it will be easier for me to be excited about that idea once my body is healed.
The full results can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1XpGhFX I was 5th for my age group, 181st out of a little over 1,300 runners, and had a time of 1:43:00. With so many great trails here in Vermont, I highly encourage anybody to find a race to work towards. Set your goals high and sign up for a race that might seem impossible at the time, because with a little bit of training and the attitude that you are going to finish your goal no matter what, before you know it, you will be running through the finish line with chills from the cheering crowd and an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.