How I Ran My First Half Marathon

13.1 miles.

In general, that distance doesn’t seem that far.

Until you decide to RUN those 13.1 miles.

Saturday, March 16, 2013, marked my first half marathon. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series in Washington DC.

Start Line RNRDC

click here for a picture of us runners on Instagram.

BOTTOM LINE (for those who have been following my journey and want the fast recap)::

I had a great time. I ran at least 1 minute-per-mile faster than any of my long training runs and I beat my goal time. Most importantly, I felt really good throughout the entire 13.1 miles. I can’t believe it’s over!!

BACKSTORY (for those who want to learn more about how I trained, the obstacles I overcame, and how to do this for themselves. plus my next big goals.)::

I committed to running this half marathon in early December 2012, after my marathoner-friend told me about the race. My runner-boyfriend also decided to sign up, so we all planned a fun weekend in DC.

But it all started in November of 2011. That’s when I made the big decision to start running long distances and complete a half marathon.

This was a big deal for me because I hated running. I only ran about 4 miles at one time and only did that every few months. I didn’t enjoy it. I had convinced myself that I had to run a certain amount of miles in a certain time. And when I didn’t make that time or when I felt like crap, I hated running even more.

Too much pressure for something that is supposed to be fun.

So back to November 2011—I decided to start training for a half marathon. I wouldn’t check my times. I wouldn’t be so concerned about miles. I would just run. I would go at a comfortable pace and build my endurance.

Even though I exercised constantly, nothing can get you in shape for running long distances other than running long distances. Swim to be a better swimmer. Play that sport to get better at it.

This was a challenge for me. Even though I exercised constantly, nothing can get you in shape for running long distances other than running long distances. Swim to be a better swimmer. Play that sport to get better at it. While you can train those muscles to be stronger, also start the exercise you want to get better at.

But I persevered. And I actually became pretty good. I was running longer distances at faster paces-paces I didn’t even know I could do-probably because I stopped being so concerned about my time.

But then in mid-January 2012, I had to take 3 weeks off for severe arch pain. It sucked. I had finally found my groove and I had to stop. I practiced acceptance and patience. I knew I had to rest properly if I wanted to keep any injuries away.

I started back up in late February and signed up for a 10K in Central Park in June, the Women’s Only Mini 10K race, with my marathoner-friend. I trained for the 10K and had a great time. I felt great during the race and enjoyed it, even though I didn’t go as fast as I had previously been able to go.

I basically took the summer and fall off from running after that, and when I got back from Asia in mid-November, I decided it was time to pick a race for the half marathon. And it turned out to be March 16. 

The 12-week training plan I followed was for people who had never run a half marathon before but had been running distances. I wasn’t going to fool myself and train to run at a faster pace that would only leave me injured again. Most of the runners I talk to (and who are in the Runners Unleashed group) have or had injuries preventing them from running. It’s important to recognize them and make sure you don’t overtrain to exaggerate the injuries or sign up for a race you won’t be able to train properly for. My friend just told me this man tried to prove he didn’t have to train for a marathon and only ran about 9 miles at the most. He completed the marathon and sustained permanent injuries because he didn’t train. 

While I felt my arch a bit during training, it never caused a major problem. I had already learned how to massage my foot to ease up the muscles. I had discovered my left piriformis muscle (muscle in the mid-lower area of your butt) was very tight and acted up during runs. But I stretched it constantly so it didn’t become a major problem either.

And because of that training, neither one of my problem areas acted up at all during the half marathon.

Fast forward to the days leading up to the half marathon::

I was nervous. I had a bad long run the weekend before-meaning I felt very tired and my legs felt heavy during the run. So my brain focused on that instead of all my previous amazing runs. I barely slept the night before the race, though I had read that the most important sleep night is actually two nights before the race because hardly anyone sleeps the night before, so I was rested from that. With a 5am wakeup and a 7:30am start time, I realized that I was probably so delirious that I had no idea I was running for the first half of this race. (I’m not a morning person.)

My nerves subsided as soon as I arrived in my corral. I was ready. I had a good feeling. My body felt good. I had prepared for 12 weeks. I knew exactly what to do. I had all my gear, and I knew my friend and my boyfriend would be waiting for me at the finish line.

I tried to remember I was doing this for fun. This was not a competition. That’s really hard to do, but you realize quickly that there are thousands of people just like you running this race and you become inspired by every single one of them.

The massive, steep hill around mile 5 didn’t scare me, especially when I read the sign of a spectator that read, “Make this hill your bitch!”

The first 3 miles went by fast. The massive, steep hill around mile 5 didn’t scare me, especially when I read the sign of a spectator that said “Make this hill your bitch!” The subsequent hills after that were easy. Once Mile 10 hit, I realized I had 3 miles left and I still felt good. I couldn’t believe it. Then Mile 11, two more miles left. And I ran as fast as I could at that moment for the next 2 miles to finish.

Could I have gone a little faster? Maybe. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was finishing. It was sticking to something I made a decision on and started. I found my pace, felt great while doing it, and went faster when I felt my body could do it.

I didn’t want to end the race falling over. I wanted to cross the finish line proud that I accomplished this. While I did have a time goal that I made the week before the race, it was attainable for me. I knew I could do it.

Will I do another half marathon again? Probably. (I thought this answer would be no, so I surprised myself.)

Will I ever do a full marathon? My answer is still HELL NO. 🙂 I am very impressed by those who run marathons but that is not for me.

MY NEXT BIG GOALS::

Mini 10K in June 2013

Tough Mudder? – Summer 2013

Favorite Sports: Tennis, Surfing, Swimming – starting Spring 2013

Sprint Triathlon – 2014

Thank you for getting to the bottom of this post! I’d love to hear what your goals are and how you are accomplishing them. Need a kick? Read last week’s post and Monday Mantra on getting sh*t done! (the most popular post so far this year)

Download your free running training plan for a 10K here (for runners and walkers).

Join Runners Unleashed on Facebook – a community of runners and exercisers that cheer you on, give you advice, and hold you accountable (no matter what level you are).