Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My first half marathon journey

 As most people know, I've been a runner for my entire life. I was a sprinter and jumper in high school and college, which was almost 10 years of my life. I wasn't the biggest fans of long distance running at the time. Anything more than 3 miles was the worst, and I didn't like it, but I would do it. I wasn't ever the fastest distance runner, but I could do it and always feel good about being done. Never did I think that I could run more than 4-5 miles in one sitting. They do say to never say never (and they'd be right). 

I'm 5 days out from my first half marathon. It's not the Hershy Half like I thought (I waited too long to sign up), but will be the Gettysburg Blue-Gray Half. The cool part about this race: you get to pick if you want to run for the North or the South! I'm running for the North (hey, I'm forever a Connecticut girl) and if the North wins, I get a commemorative mug for our side winning the race (though we all know that the North won the battle). 

I'm not going to lie and say that my months of training has been all sunshine and rainbows, because it hasn't, but it has been rewarding in its own way. Mentally, training sucked. I hated my long runs, but it was made tolerable by the fact I could listen to music and let my mind get carried away with the beat. I later learned that earbuds are not allowed to be worn during the race and to be considerate of other runners, I'd have to learn to run music-free. Eek! My first long run without music was hard. My mind kept wandering to places I don't like it to go (i.e. negative thoughts), but I'd give myself a mental pep talk and the thoughts would go away. After a while, the long runs wouldn't seem so bad anymore and once the leaves started changing, I would be able to enjoy natures beauty and the quiet of the trail I like to run on and appreciate what's around me. 

Now, 5 miles is almost easy (almost), I sing in my head, and am more aware of my surroundings. Come race day, I think I'm mentally ready. Physically is a whole other beast. Cardiovasuclar wise, I can handle the distance. My body, not so much. I'm still dealing with some residual pain and cramping in my right leg from my Achilles injury last year, but that's an easy fix for me. The thing that worries me to most is I've been having pain in my left foot and my symptoms are similar to turf toe (self diagnosis for now) for the past few weeks. I'm resting and icing as much as is possible for me, I've worn my walking boot for a day to immobilize my toe, and cut my running back severely. I had two goals in mind for this race. My first was to finish as it is my first, and my second was to stay under a 12 minute mile pace (the max time allowed is a 13:44 mile pace). While I would like to accomplish my second goal, I'm okay with the fact that I may not be able to keep that time, but I am determined to finish within the 3 hour limit.

Come race day, who knows how I will feel or where I'll be mentally, but what I do know is that I've become much stronger through this journey, and would be one I'd do again. Healthy and injury free would be nice the next time around though. Who knew that I would be gearing up for a half marathon in 5 days? It certainly wasn't me, but I'm glad I am. 

Pre race pic from my first race since June 2012