The Everyday Girl Guide to: Running My First Half-Marathon (Does This Bib Make Me Look Fat?)

September 11, 2013

It’s race day.  It’s race day!

It was a little harder to generate that enthusiasm when I woke up at 5 am after being up until midnight the night before, but I found it after fifteen minutes.  It was time.


Okay, the enthusiasm will come.  I drink water before I let myself go to the bathroom (I spent most of the day before drinking like crazy, too), then I eat a banana and drink 8 ounces of chocolate almond milk with a little mocha mix thrown in.  I go back to the bathroom, dress, put on my bib and timing chip, and debate cutting my bangs off.  No, not enough time.

A quick, five-minute devotional and I’m out the door with my pre-packed bag.  I verified ahead of time that there will be bag check and I know there will be bathrooms… just not where they’ll be located on the course.  The trouble finding packet pickup and not knowing where the bathrooms will be are the only two things that I would find to be negative about the experience.

Oh.  Except for parking… but that’s really a Ventura problem, not an organizer problem.  I get to Ventura and end up going around in circles looking for a free parking lot.  I really don’t want to pay $8+ just to park.  Eventually (after a little detour through the County Fair parking lot) I find a free lot… five blocks away.  It’s now 6:30 am.

I chat with guy wearing a race shirt who drove all the way from Redlands for his first race.  I’m sure a lot of racing regulars won’t find 130 miles to be a big deal, but I did.  He must’ve gotten up before 4 am or stayed the night.  We separate when I find the bathrooms.  Time for a last minute pit stop.

It takes me a bit to find the line for bag check-in, but the line moves quickly and is well-organized.  I get a bright orange strip of tape to tie around my bag, then I’m off to the race course.  Butterflies are trying to emerge from the caterpillars currently lodged in my stomach.

There is a mass of people at the starting line.  No wonder there wasn’t any parking.  There is some talk about being in the right waves, which confuses the newbie in me.  Eventually I just ask the nearest person and determine I’m just going to go in the third/last wave.  Looks like it might be safer.

Someone local does a wavering rendition of the National Anthem and the first wave takes off.  I do my best to paste myself to the wall and stay out of the way.   That’s.. a lot of people.  I’m glad I didn’t start with the first wave.

The second wave starts and it’s a little bit smaller.  I’m still glad I didn’t start yet.  Back of the pack is a comfy place to be when you think you’ll be walking a lot.

Third (and final) wave.  I start somewhere at the back, strapping on my armband for my phone and popping in my earbuds.  Wish I’d thought to start a timer on the phone, but I didn’t.  I’ll settle for the music.

The pack starts out pretty slowly, more like a mass of cows in the butchering shed, but eventually we manage to spread out enough to get up to my normal speed.  I think it’s my normal speed.  I really can’t pace myself properly with all the adrenaline from running with this many people.  I run by myself or with my kids.  This is… fun?  I think it might be…

I remember very little about the first three miles.  I decided early on to run to the pace of whatever music randomly came up, but the rest is largely a blur. There were a few curves in the course until we came to a main street, then it was all straight-away.  I do remember that my bladder got a little over-excited and I had to stop at the first bathrooms at Mile 3.  I also had to wait in line.  I’m pretty sure every person behind me was having a bowel movement, because they were slow.  I was fast… I had a race to run.

Just after Mile 3, I was running next to a lady with a big smile on her face.  She turned to me a bit breathlessly and said, “This is personal best for me.  I’ve never run three miles straight before.  I’m running on pure adrenaline now!”

I’m sure I  blinked at her in amazement, then the smile spread to my face and I gave her a hearty congratulations.  She’d never run three miles straight before and I was worried about finishing this?

Around Mile 4, I caught up with a very big guy (probably 6’4″ and built like a football player) wearing a shiny purple skirt over his running clothes.  He was occasionally dancing around and having a good time cheering on others.  When someone told him they enjoyed his cheerfulness, he grinned big.  “A friend told me I’d be hating this by Mile 5.  I plan to enjoy every step.”

That attitude infected me and I started cheering on other runners, too.  Trust me, it’s more fun that way.  I didn’t just cheer for anyone; I tried to choose the runners who were alone and/or looked like they were struggling.  After a bit, I was running with a lady in a blue shirt.  She smiled after one of the times I played cheerleader and said, “You are making this so much fun!”  I explained to her about the guy in the purple skirt and we ran and cheered people on together for almost two miles.  Then my music went high tempo and, obedient to my decision to run with the music, I sped up.

There were Clif Shot Gels at Mile 6.  I grabbed a vanilla and nursed it for a while.  Nasty, vile, overly sweet stuff, but I could feel my body needed it, so I ate every bit, wishing I’d figured out which flavors were good ahead of time.  Just a bit further and it was turn-around time… halfway!

After the turn-around, I noticed a guy who would run full-tilt for about 100 meters, then walk, the run another 100.  I never figured out if he was trying to work out a cramp or just didn’t know how to pace, but it was kind of entertaining and was working for him; he kept pace with me for about four miles.

I cheered on the last of the runners who hadn’t made it to the turn-around yet, then concentrated on passing one runner at a time.  I didn’t rush it; I just focused on another person and told myself I could run a little longer.  I did walk now and then; roughly one song for every three to four miles.  But I walked a lot less than I thought I would.  In fact, once when I thought I was going to have to walk for a bit, “Run” by Hillsong came through my earbuds.  I couldn’t help it; I had to run.

It was time for the last few miles.  Just TWO to go.  I walked for a little bit, then told myself I could run the rest.  I misfigured the 12 Mile mark, though, and started running hard too soon.  I had to slow down and walk again.  I still managed to pick it up and even kick it into overdrive as the finish line finally came into view.  Okay, I wasn’t sprinting across the finish, but I wasn’t walking, either.

I looked at the clock: 2:37.something.  2:37?  2:37!!!

I was going to be happy with 3:30.  I’d just run my first half-marathon.




One Response to “The Everyday Girl Guide to: Running My First Half-Marathon (Does This Bib Make Me Look Fat?)”

  1. Nicely done. I run my first half in a bit more than 2 weeks, I hope I can remember to enjoy it as thoroughly as you seem to have.

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