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Health & Fitness

Completed My First Half Marathon, Ready For My Next

This time last week, well I was asleep, but in just a few hours a week ago, I was up and prepping for my first half marathon.

I’ve never been much of a runner, and when a friend and co-worker and I first started talking about running a half marathon, it was kind of a daunting thought. 13.1 miles… in a row? Yeah right.

Before this summer, I had never run more than probably 7 miles, and quite honestly, regularly doing more than 3 was a stretch. But with a bunch of lunch runs and longer weekend runs, I slowly tapered up. Using a combination of group runs for motivation, along with iOS applications RunKeeper and GymPact, I was able to consistently run.

RunKeeper even has training plans, and I used one of those pretty religiously to make sure my workouts were right for me.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I was set to run 10.5 miles of the City of Oaks half marathon as a practice run through with my best friend’s wife, Shannon who was also doing her first half marathon. It turned out we were at about the same pace.

That 10.5 run-through run ended up being a great confidence booster and helped put out minds at ease, making the pre-race jitters of a week ago pretty minimal.

Regardless, we still got there plenty early to make sure we had a good, close parking spot and got a lay of the land at the starting line. The 2013 City of Oaks half marathon also happened to land on the end of daylight saving time — making an early start not as early as it could have felt.

We were pretty surprised that while we were there early, that so many weren’t. An hour and a half or so before the 7am start of the race, the area around the start/finish line on Hillsborough Street was still pretty much a ghost town.

But as the start time approached, Hillsborough Street really filled up.

After a few pre-race photos, it was time to setup in the queue around the place where we thought we’d finish. While the goal was to end faster, Shannon and I setup in the 2:15 area.

After the national anthem was sung and a few announcements were made, we were off — sort off. There were so many people squeeze together, that the start was a bit of a walk, rather than a run. But after going over the actual starting line, we were off.

The sea of people was amazing and seemed endless, and we were pretty close to smack dab in the middle of it all, which was a great distraction and motivation for the majority of the race.

While I know we wasted a lot of energy in the first 4 miles or so weaving and passing slower runners, it really helped keep your mind off of the sheer distance still ahead of us.

Throughout, I had to kind of pinch myself for a couple reasons: first the amount of people both ahead and behind us. All these people were here for the same reason. Secondly, it was amazing that all these public streets were temporarily shut down for us to run on — routes I may rarely if ever get to run again so safely and wholly for running.

The third piece was that on top of the huge number of participants — the huge number of suporters. People were everywhere along the route supporting not just their friends and family, but everyone running. So many of the handmade signs were awesome, funny and a great distraction throughout the course.

The first 11 miles or so honestly felt great. I felt like I was pacing well and that the number of turns and participants around us were motivating.

But then at a little more than a mile and a half to go, it started to become more of a stuggle. Heading back to Hillsborough Street, where the start and finish was, we turned away from the start/finish, realizing we were still going “out” and not “back” yet.

It was really a mental and physical struggle to finish the run on Hillsborough. I’m thankful for a volunteer giving out Twizzlers in front of Meredith College, along with the final water station. It didn’t help either that our phone-based GPS reporting we had done more than the course would report.

So yeah, I struggled a bit at the end. Had I been running, my pace would have suffered even more in the final mile than it actually did. Luckily, I was running with Shannon still. Neither one of us was feeling great, but we both were motivating the other to finish the thing — and we did.

Arms raised, we both finished at 2:12:03, 3 minutes ahead of our initial pace. But more importantly, we finished, never stopping — running the whole 13.1 miles.

We were given our shiny finisher medals, water and took a few celebratory photos. The morning was quite cold, and luckily they had those space-age mylar silver blankets that ended up working quite well to shield from the cold and the wind.

For the first few minutes, I felt pretty spent. All I wanted to do was sit down and rest, but I felt quite satisfied and impressed with myself.

After hanging out with friends for a bit after the race, I headed home, tired but fully satisfied and hooked. While the City of Oaks 2013 was my first half marathon, it wasn’t going to be my last.

A few days later, I signed up for my second half — this one in early Spring, starting and finishing at Charlotte Motor Speedway — appropriate with my recent infatuation with NASCAR, and the fact I’d driven on the track back in August.

While running will never ever take the place of cycling for me, it definitely has its place in my training and enjoyment. Here’s to doing even better and faster in Charlotte.

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