I haven't even started yet and I'm already worried. This is my first half-marathon, and I haven't trained nearly as much as I’d wanted to due to a back strain, spring break, and a cold. Everybody here has headphones, too, and I don’t race with headphones. I think it takes away from the experience. I’ve got two friends to start with, but I doubt I’ll be able to keep up for too long because one of them ran cross country in high school. We decide to start with the 2:20 group even though our goal is to finish at 2 hours because it feels nice to be able to pass people instead of getting passed.
Wow. I could do this all day. The first mile was at a nice 8:30 pace and we passed the 2:10 pace keeper. I feel fantastic. My parents are here too cheering me on.
Another easy 8:30 mile. Running through campus is really cool. Having fans with funny signs and bullhorns helps with keeping your mind in a good place. Everything on campus is really flat, too, so I’m just flying through this stretch.
The 8:30s are catching up with me. Our group just passed the 2:00 pacer but I'm starting to breathe heavier than I should be this early in the race. My legs feel fine, though.
My little group is starting to waiver. The high school runner is still doing casual 8:30s, I’m beginning to struggle, and the other person has dropped back.
Oh no… Right after mile 5, we enter Cameron Park. I see the first hill and almost lose my composure. I hear someone next to me say that the hill takes 45 seconds. I tell myself to just go slow and get up it. The whole hill was nearly 100 feet and stretched out over a mile. I feel betrayed and the strategic walking begins. My plan was to just walk up hills to preserve energy for flats; however, the other guy I was with isn't having it. He just keeps trucking along while I begin my ascent alone.
About halfway through mile 6 (as I am walking up a hill), I approach a crossroads where runners cross back later in the race. I get up the hill and see a guy on a bike and I know what that means. Following close behind is the first place runner. This guy is gliding so effortlessly that if you don't have a point of reference, you wouldn't know that he was running at a crazy fast pace. I looked it up later, and he was at mile 9.5 while I was at 6.5. That kills the confidence a little.
Well, this is where the pain officially sets in as a constant. This is as far as my training regimen has taken me, so every step after 8 miles is a new personal best for “longest run.”
I am soaked in sweat. My hips hurt with every impact. My heart rate is alarmingly high. I haven't seen anyone I've known in 3 miles. I still have 4 miles to go… this is what regret feels like.
I think I can do this. Everything hurts, and each step (walking or jogging) is painful. Why did I pay to do this?
I’ve gone delusional. I’m sure that I saw two different mile-12 markers. This race has already taken my body, and now it's aiming for my brain.
I make sure to jog the last stretch to finish strong (but I walked right before to save some energy).
* * *
That was the most tired I’d ever been. My poor family was asking questions about how I felt, but I could only answer in short sentences. I about lost my balance a couple times walking around to stretch, but stayed on my feet till I reached a patch of grass to lay out on.
The Next Day
My body has betrayed me. I couldn't even get out of bed for church. I walked with a very noticeable limp on both legs and stairs were a challenge all day. Looking back, I’d do it a million times over. I finished in 2 hours and 6 minutes, and I'm already looking forward to getting another chance to beat my time.