After many weeks of training, I completed my first half marathon on Sunday, April 15 in downtown St. Louis. The Go! St. Louis Marathon was a blast, and I was lucky to have two other friends running and a support crew of 5 friends there to cheer me on at the finish. My sweet husband even brought a bag with extra Gatorade, Gu packets, flip flops for my poor blistered feet and anything else I’d need.
Kristen, Damian and Mandy with our race medals!
So what was it like? What can you expect? First, I can’t encourage you strongly enough to follow a trusted training program for a half marathon. You might be able to skirt by with an untrained 5K or 10K, but running 13.1 miles is a challenge if your body isn’t used to moving for more than 2 hours at a time. Start slow and work up to it. I followed Hal Higdon’s half marathon training schedule and was doing one long run of increasing length every Sunday. By the end of training, I had run 12 miles and knew that I could tackle 1.1 more on race day.
This was by far the toughest challenge I’ve put my body through. There were moments during the race that I just wanted it to be over. My official time was 2:35. Can you imagine running that long? I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could do in 2 hours: watch a movie, drive most of the way back to my hometown, mow our entire yard. It won’t sound tough to you full marathoners, but we all have to start somewhere. This was challenging for me, but I’m so glad that I’m doing it 25 pounds lighter than I was last year. I can’t imagine running that far with all that extra weight.
Hubby and I took the Metrolink down to the race at 5:25 am to avoid parking nightmares. Runners were required to be in their corrals by 6:40 am for the 7 am start. We also took the train back to our car post-race. I heard several people on the train bragging about how they hadn’t trained at all. They probably did more harm than good, and I know that my overall health benefited from all the short and long runs I have put in since Christmas. The folks who didn’t train missed out on all that cardiovascular exercise, and they certainly didn’t condition their bodies for such a workout.
I don’t believe in regrets, but there are a few things I’ll do differently next time. In the days leading up to the race, the St. Louis skies were stormy and there was never a good day to “drive the course” and see what I should expect. Next time, I’ll make sure to take my motorcycle out on a nice day and ride the course so I know where the hill are how
My first race medal is like the one on the right!
steep they will be. The Go! was far more hilly that I had expected, and my pace and time really suffered for it. I hadn’t trained on hills and my hips got so tight that I had no choice but to walk miles 8 and 9. I had just enough adrenaline to finish by running the last miles, but it was agony. If and when I do another half marathon, I’ll know what to expect from the course and train accordingly.
Next time, I’ll be sure to make use of the provided water stops. I ran past the first 3 or 4 water/Gatorade stops because I didn’t want to get tripped up by other runners zig-zagging across the course. I thought it would slow me down to stop for 20 seconds and hydrate. Instead, I drank from the Amphipod fuel belt I wore. The 16 oz. of water I was carrying didn’t last long, and it seemed that the water stops were farther apart toward the last half of the race. I’m not going to make that mistake again. I’m going to save the water I’m carrying for when fluids aren’t readily available elsewhere.
One last note – I wear a Timex heart rate monitor around my chest when I run to keep an eye on my BPM. It has proved invaluable because I can anticipate when I’m going to feel awful from pushing too hard. If I keep my BPM under 190, I can truck along a lot farther without suffering. At the Go! Half (and for the first time) my HRM rubbed my skin raw. I didn’t notice it until my post-race shower when the hot water hit the sore spot. I’m not sure if I need to put a bandage there to prevent this from happening again, but it wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
I’ve been recovering for the last two days and plan to do some light cardio this evening to get my muscles warmed up again. Appropriately, I found a fantastic article from Fleet Feet about the recovery period and it gave me some great ideas for food and things to keep the blood moving. I might even wear my Zensah compression sleeves while I sleep tonight!
Have you run a half marathon? What did you learn about yourself? Did you feel truly challenged? Was it harder or easier than you anticipated? I’d love to hear how you train, and to know your accomplishments!