Monday, December 9, 2013

My First Half Marathon: Race Recap

Well guys, I did it! I ran my first ever half marathon. Running a race is so much more than just running the race. This race meant more to me than just 13.1 miles.

12 weeks. 18 workouts. 48 runs. 204 miles.
Not to mention all the running I did prior to September 16th, as I prepped for training.
Not to mention the actual race itself.

I devoted my heart, mind and body to the idea of this one accomplishment for roughly the past 4 months of my life and there were moments when I wanted so badly to give up. There were moments when I thought I was completely nuts. There were moments when I doubted my abilities. But I did it, and I am so glad I did. 

So, here we go, race recap:

After my final training run (which was Thursday) I rested, got my outfit together and waited for Sunday. I was a little nervous but also super excited. The weather was supposed to be in the low 40s and there was a chance of rain. I was begging the weather gods to not send rain. I could handle the cold, but the cold and rain, I wasn't so sure. I ate tons of carbs on Saturday night (pasta!) and it was delicious.

 Pictured above: In addition to my running clothes, I had my race bib, two energy gels, my arm band, ear phones, running belt, hair clips, chap stick, gloves and an ear warmer. It takes a surprisingly large amount of gear to run in cold temperatures for long distances.

I thought I might have trouble sleeping that night, but I actually didn't! I was a lot less nervous than I thought I would be.  Sunday morning was an early one. We got to the race about 6:30am. 

My hubby and I together before the start. 

As 8am got closer, I ate my first energy gel, sipped some water and headed to the starting line. Reid was so amazingly supportive. I could practically feel the excitement and pride radiating off him. The energy amongst all the people was wonderful and infectious. After Reid kissed me goodbye, I stood amongst the crowd at the starting line and got a little teary. I couldn't believe I was standing at the start of a half marathon and I was about to experience the culmination of all my hard work. The gun went off and the race began. 

My goal was to finish the race in 2 hours and 50 minutes. 

I had opted not to use my GPS tracking app, but rather to just pace myself and go with what my body was telling me to do. I thought there might be clocks positioned at various points of the race so I could keep an eye on my pace (turns out, there weren't). It was difficult to find my pace at first because there were so many people running past me, making me feel as though I was crawling. I also felt amazing and wanted to speed up, but I knew I was at the very beginning of a long journey and I didn't want my adrenaline to trick me into pushing myself too hard too soon.

I somehow missed the mile 1 marker, but when I saw the mile 2 marker I pulled my phone out to check the time. 8:27. I knew I was approximately a minute behind the gun time (I wasn't at the front of the starting line because that's where the elite runners line up). So I figured I had been running for approximately 26 minutes. A little slow, but I was feeling good so it wasn't a big deal. It got a little misty for about a mile but then it stopped, thank you mother nature! 

At about mile 6, I saw Reid and my in-laws had also arrived to cheer me on. They snapped some photos of me:

Seeing them gave me such a boost of energy. Reid ran along beside me for a minute or so and he asked me how I was feeling. I responded saying "I'm having a blast!" and it was true. I was feeling awesome. I asked him what time it was, expecting it to be around 9:15-9:20. He checked his watch and said "9:12". I said "WHAT?!?! Are you kidding me?!" Could I really be keeping a 12 minute pace? I was stoked! And I kept running. (At around mile 6.5 I ate another energy goo).

I can't even really explain how I was feeling for the first 8 miles or so, but it was a wonderful feeling. The change of scenery and the excitement of watching the other runners really kept my mind off the distance and I was shocked how quickly it seemed to be going. 

Parts of the course were strange and not very scenic, but other stretches were absolutely gorgeous. The trees were colorful and the roads were winding. 

At one point this woman ran past me and shouted "9 miles people! We've only got 4.1 to go! Keep it up!" I assumed she had seen the mile marker and I had missed it (they were small and easy to overlook if it was crowded). I kept trucking along and about 3 or 4 minutes later and I came around a curve in the road to see the marker for mile 9. What??! I thought I had already passed this spot. Stupid lady with her false information. I was discouraged for a minute, but then I forgot about it and just kept running. 

When I passed the mile 10 marker I remember thinking "Ok, Jesse. This is the furthest you've ever run in your life. Everything from here on out is uncharted territory". And I ran.

I only remember having one moment around mile 11 when I thought about walking. But I told myself "you've run this entire way, are you really going to walk with only 2 miles left?" I dug deep, I pulled up my big girl panties (metaphorically speaking of course) and I kept running. 

At mile 12 I picked up my pace very slightly. I'd say I was at approximately mile 12.5 when I turned a corner and could see the finish line. And I remember thinking "hell yeah, let's do the damn thing". I passed probably 8 people in that last half a mile and when I hit the 13 mile marker and was only feet from the chute, I turned my music off and sprinted my little heart out. I was running as fast as I could (which wasn't very fast because by this time I was so tired). I passed two more women and entered the chute. My family was there, cheering me on. I could see Reid filming me. I could hear my dad yelling "RUN FOREST RUN!" and I could see my mom and in-laws beaming at me. I heard the announcer say my name and I saw the clock. "2:37". 

UHH... WHAT?!?!?!!?!?!?! 2:37!!!!

I felt this HUGE smile on my face as I crossed the finish line, reached for my medal and then practically collapsed into my sister's arms. I asked her "2:37?!! Is that a joke?!" But it wasn't a joke. I had knocked my goal time out of the park! I felt so amazing.

In the background you can see the last two women I passed. Sorry ladies!

The next few moments were a blur as the rest of my family came and gave me hugs and congratulated me. I honestly didn't feel any pain while I was running but it was only a matter of minutes after finishing and I started to feel the aches and pains set in. My legs started to cramp so I walked over to the pavilion and got a banana which helped. Now that I wasn't running, I also began to notice how cold it was! It was freezing out there!  

 I love this picture of me and Reid.

After a brief photo session in front of one of the race signs.... 

I received my official race results.

My official time was 2 hours, 36 minutes and 1 second. I was right, I was exactly 1 minute behind the start gun. I finished the race a full 14 minutes quicker than my goal time and I still can't believe it! I'm also shocked that I ran the second half of the race faster than the first half. And I passed 29 people in the second half of the race. And, I ran the ENTIRE WAY. I only walked a few steps at a couple water stations, just enough so that I could actually drink the water without spilling it all over me and kept running. 

I don't know what I'm most proud of. I ran a half marathon. I ran it without walking. I did it 14 minutes ahead of my goal time. My pace was UNDER 12 minutes. I did it in freezing cold weather. I did it all by myself. I am so grateful I decided to do this and I never should have doubted myself. 
Afterwards, my family came over to our house and we celebrated by eating pizza and hanging up my race ornament :)

 My sister gave me this ornament on Thanksgiving and nearly made me cry because it was so perfect and thoughtful. That was the first moment when I felt like somebody else understood how much work I had put into this.

The rule was I had to wait until I had finished the race to hang it up, so after I'd eaten my body weight in pizza we had an informal little ceremony in our living room and I hung up the ornament. 

The rest of the day I basically slept and limped around. I am SO SORE. Beyond anything I've ever experienced in my life. I literally had to climb down the stairs backwards while clinging to the railing. We went out to dinner last night with my parents (yes, I did wear my medal to dinner #aintnoshameinmygame) and Reid had to help me in and out of my dad's truck. There was no way I was swinging my legs up high enough to get in that thing on my own.

Today I'm still sore, but getting better. There may come a time in the distant future when my knees will stop clicking every time I move. 

I owe a huge thank you to my family for coming out yesterday morning to support me even though it was freezing outside. I also owe a thank you to my readers who have kept up with me through my entire training. I think having my blog as a tool to keep me accountable was vital to my success. If you are thinking about biting the bullet and training for your first half marathon, I say do it! Why? Because years ago, I put this on my bucket list...

...and yesterday I got to check it off.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to google to find a 13.1 sticker for my car. 



  1. Congrats! What a great accomplishment! I love the outfit you chose. Very cute!
    Miranda @ Hurry Up and Wait

    1. Thank you! I only have one good running shirt for cold weather, and luckily its a cute one! Have a great day!

  2. This was a wonderful entry. So inspiring! I hope to do this as well but currently can barely run a minute lol. Any tips to get started?

    1. Thank you Patricia! I'm glad you enjoyed it! If you want to start running, I'd recommend the couch to 5K program. It's a great way to get started! Also, believe in yourself! You are capable of SO MUCH MORE than you could ever imagine!


  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. It brought back so many memories of how I feft when I ran my first half back in '98. (Good gravy...I am getting old!) Actually, alot of what you felt is kind of what I go through during every race! Can't get over all of your family support. It's so sweet and touching. That 13.1 ornament is the best! Love, love this post! Congratulations on all that you accomplished and for crushing your goals! Now that you have this checked off the list, do you think you will continue running?

    1. Thank you so much Luisa! It's so wonderful to have blogger friends who can relate to this experience! I will definitely keep running, I kind of can't imagine my life without it now. I'm going to cut back somewhat and enjoy the holidays but I am hoping to run some 5Ks and 10Ks in 2014 (I'm going to try to get a few of my friends and family on board for those!). I may be brave and do another half marathon one day because the race itself is so much fun! I'm just not sure if I want to subject myself to the training again, that was definitely the hardest part!

      P.S. I'm glad you liked the post so much. I think I've read it 10 times since I wrote it and it still makes me so happy :)


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