Okay, I did that almost three years ago, but I just now have the time to write about it. Although this race seems like a distant memory, my excitement and sense of accomplishment are strangely still present and accounted for. I finished this race in 2 hours, 16 minutes and 15 seconds (roughly 10:20 min/mile pace). I wasn’t out to set any world records, just to finish. Before this race I had tried to pick up running several times, but without much success. It wasn’t until the first time I ran over 4 miles without stopping that I even considered a competitive race. I decided that a half marathon was a completely attainable goal after running 7 miles for the first time in my entire life. After that run I went straight home and downloaded a half marathon training plan for beginners and signed up for the Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank international ½ Marathon. Which I must say, even after 3 years of competitive racing is still my favorite. The race is unique because you actually run the Ambassador Bridge crossing into Canada in Windsor Ontario. The race then winds you through downtown Windsor and back to the tunnel where you run an underwater mile before crossing back into the states. It is one of the only three competitive races in the United States that crosses international borders, and in my humble opinion, one of the absolute best!!
Obviously since I waited so long to write about this experience, I have completed many ½ marathons since then- 15 to be exact. Although, this particular race, maybe because it was my first, taught me the most. I guess you can’t spend months training and hours running and expect not to learn something. Here are a few of the most important things.
I cannot remember the last time I stuck to a plan or schedule this strictly. I followed my training plan word for word, and day for day. I knew that if I skipped even one long weekend run, my chances of finishing the half marathon decreased. This meant skipping parties, waking up hours before everyone on weekends and spending the remainder of the day with an achy body and jello legs- totally worth it. Admittedly, I have not followed so strictly for some other races I have participated in, running them with little or no training (that’s another blog topic coming). Although I finished in decent time, following guidelines and disciplining yourself pays off big time on race day… TRUST ME!!
Strength in numbers
Train with others! Although I’m a competitive introvert, having a training buddy helps out tremendously. They are there to push you during those long runs, keep you motivated, and remind you that you actually CAN DO THIS (because trust me, you’ll doubt yourself more than you think). It’s also HUGE to have someone with you on race day. Not only are organized races an absolute zoo, but there is something truly special about making this achievement together, start to finish. Plus you have someone there to take a million pictures with.
Get fitted for shoes. Get fitted for shoes. Get fitted for shoes. I cannot stress how important this is enough! I ran my first race in a $90.00 pair of Nikes that I ordered online. I ended up with shin splints, plantar fasciitis, and tendonitis all during the course of my training. Some of those injuries stuck around to haunt me for over a year after race day. It wasn’t until I finally broke down and went to a running store that I understood my error. They fitted me into a pair of Newtons and my running hasn’t been the same since. Seriously, get fitted for shoes!
Good days/Bad days
This is a real thing, and it’s mega frustrating! Maybe one day you run 7 miles and feel absolutely exhilarated, but then two days later you can’t even make it through 5K without stopping 6 times. This happens, don’t give up. I remember during my training getting to the 10 mile mark, I was SO excited. That morning I set out with my route planned and my hydration full. I didn’t make it 2 miles before I had horrible side cramps and my legs felt like jello. I got so upset with myself that I started crying, which caused me to hyperventilate because I was running and my breathing my already short. I crawled home hysterical and completely defeated. I got home and cried, a lot. After I was done I decided to to pull myself together and try again the next day. So I did, and it went great! I ran the full 10 with no issues and even shaved some time off my pace. Everyday is different, don’t give up.
Wake up and live
6am is worth waking up for! I can’t count how many sunrises I’ve seen, watched fog settling in, and seen wildlife busy with early morning tasks. There is something so special about the energy you receive from watching the sun kiss the tree tops while you’re pounding the pavement. I have tried (in vain) to photograph and instagram some of these moments, but they just don’t translate. I think these moments are the special reward for being awake at that hour, only available to those willing to rise early enough to see them.
We are all “Real runners”
“I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some are just faster than others. I never met a fake runner.”
– Bart Yasso
Competitive racing can be very intimidating. Many people are very passionate and involved. Some of these people are elite, the best of their breed, but this doesn’t make them anymore of a runner than you. Remember each and every person you stand beside at any organized race trained equally as hard as you. They all suffered through the 6am wake-ups, the cold, the heat, the sweat, the sore muscles, and the rest of the preparation that goes into the race. Each person there has ran 100’s of miles and overcome many personal barricades. We are all “real runners” because we all run. Celebrate finish lines not finish times. We all worked really hard!