Yes, I showed up and did it, folks – contrary to what my anxious dreams the night before predicted. And although the race was a bit more painful than I expected it to be, that little crazy part of my brain might actually be ready to think about doing another one.
Without further ado, here are some quick reflections on the good, the bad, and the ugly of running a half marathon for the first time. Okay, there wasn’t much “ugly” so, instead, I’ll go for bad news first, good news second.
- It’s hard to run in the heat. Defying all expectations, New Hampshire produced 80-degree, muggy weather for its September 25th race. Which made for some nice suntanning opportunities for spectators, but caught me off-guard more than I expected. As in, I felt pretty light-headed the second half of the race. What to do? Hydrate more beforehand, and take not one but two cups of water when they offer it, and Gatorade every chance you get. Maybe even stash an extra packet of Gu (and be sure to “eat”/consume that with water, folks).
- Back pain can pop up even at the most inopportune times. Like mile 4, and then miles 8-12. Right to the good news: the mind is a powerful weapon, and can really help get past it. What to do? Core work more than once every two weeks. Bah!
- Hills. I am a minor idiot and hardly read the website ahead of time. Turns out, this course is known for hills, including one with an 11% grade. Whoops. At least I still have some of my SF hill climbing muscles intact. What to do? Add in hill training along the way, of course. But be mindful of doing this too swiftly (which is why I didn’t do more of this in the first place) – hills = overtraining really quickly, so just aim for once a week, at least for a while. Other advice: read the race website. Ahead of time.
- The mind is a powerful weapon. (Yes, I’m saying it again, verbatim.) It can help talk you out of side cramps, back pain, and can repeat “Eye of the Tiger” as many times as you need.
- Running alongside others makes you faster than you might even expect. As much as the run was a bit harder than I anticipated, particularly with the heat and my back twangs, I still kept up 9-minute miles somehow, and did the first half even faster than that.
- Fall leaves don’t hurt. Beautiful run much?
- The goodwill of others. I was just charmed by the number of locals who lived along the route, or who came in from elsewhere, who not only cheered us on, but in many cases blasted songs for us and/or set up hoses or sprinklers for us to run through. It takes a very kind person to listen to “Eye of the Tiger” on repeat for two hours, and it really meant a lot, at least to me.
- Accomplishment. I really did feel pretty great about getting through it.
- They sure treat you well. At least the Applefest folks do, oh my! Not only did they greet us in the morning with some nice, long-sleeved, wicking shirts (no men’s XL t-shirt for me), but they ended the day with more food than I could fathom. Not just the advertised apple crisp, but bagels, brownies, cookies, local cheese, yogurt, apples, bananas, bottles of Powerade, and gallons of water. Oh and they fed and gave prizes to our trusty spectators while we were all out running for a couple of hours. They even gave away extra apple pies once the winners took theirs. I hardly knew what to do with myself.
So, while at about mile 8.5 and probably around 11.5, I was truly ready to be done, and thought “No way is there a chance I’m doing a marathon,” those endorphins have been buzzing in my brain for a couple of days, and I’m ready to look up another half marathon for spring. Sure, it was kind of painful, but that makes me all the more eager to see how it goes when I can spend more than a couple of months training (and not go on vacation for two weeks of that, right before the race). Try out some cross training, some core work, invest in more Gu than I could ever imagine consuming. All of those handy tricks.
In the meantime, I’ll use the bottle opener that came on my medal (I kid you not) to pop open a beer and celebrate. Wahoo!