13.1 Guide to My First Half Marathon

So far, I think one of my favorite things about running a half marathon  is the hard, coma-like sleep that comes afterward. Seriously, if you are having any insomnia problems, may I suggest going and running 13+ miles? It’ll knock you right out.

Now let’s backtrack…

I had a fantastic experience running my very first Half Marathon. Yes, things could have been better – but my primary goal to finish was met with a better outcome then I imagined.

13.1 Guide to My First Marathon:

1. I had to wake up. It was so early. The sun wasn’t going to be up for at least another hour. The good part? Nashville is in a different time zone than Knoxville, so the 4:30 alarm screeching in my ear felt like 5:30 to me (and 5:30 sounds much more manageable than 4:30) or so I told myself. Drove to LP field to park and hung out with thousands upon thousands of fellow runners while we watched the sun come up and waited for shuttles.

At least the sunrise was nice to look at...

2. A word on organization. I must admit, I was skeptical that a race with around 30,000 people could remain organized. Surprise, surprise – it totally was. A steady stream of city buses drove everyone from LP field to the starting line at Centennial Park without much wait. Once we arrived, signs were set up, booths for medical help, general questions, pre-race grub, water, and porta-potties (ew) were laid out around the park. I already had my pre-race fuel (banana and kid’s clif bar) but I snagged a water to take a potassium pill and two motrin. Only a few sips though! I despise using porta-potties and I especially despise using porta-potties when the lines are 20 people deep. Corral numbers were easily noticeable and after finding where I needed to be, I plopped under a tree to stretch before I went to stand in line. Event organizers: I applaud your efficiency. This was not the cluster I imagined it may be.

Nothing like a replica of the Parthenon to wake you up in the morning!

3. Standing in line, I was able to look around and see just how many people there were…This was in front of me:

and this was behind me:

This is a lot of people...

4. And I was off! They announced that Sheryl Crow was running the half as well (No, I never saw here), but I figured I was in good company. Sorry not pictures from here until the finish, I may stop people from eating their food before I photograph it, but I’m not going to be that girl who stops during a race to bust out my camera…

5. First few miles were good. They were also slightly downhill – even better!

6. Music can take a workout to a whole new level. It’s hard not to listen to “Thunderstruck” or “Lose Yourself” without getting all jazzed up. For this reason, I typically reserve listening to music for races only (I geek out and listen to books on tape during training). I really hype myself up by downloading songs that I love and strategically place them at mile points (based on my estimated time) where I think I would need them most. Mile 4 consisted of Ke$ha & One Republic, Mile 7 had some Daft Punk techno nonsense, Mile 9 was some MGMT & Ok Go, and mile 12 was when I busted out the big guns: Eminem & Muse. They adequately served their purpose and I even found myself smiling during several songs – knowing what I had done for myself.

7. I knew it would be warm – I wasn’t expecting it to be hot. When the gun went off, it was low-mid 60’s. Around mile 3 it had to be at least 70, and not a cloud in sight. It only got hotter from there. I often skip water stations to avoid running into people but I made sure to stop and drink at least half a cup at every station, especially the Gatorade ones. The few sips of yellow Gatorade I managed made an enormous difference in my performance. My eyes were burning from all the sweat dripping into them (something that had never happened before to that caliber) and I used one of my water cups to dump on my face. I probably looked ridiculous afterwards (NO, I did not wet myself) but I’m telling you, it was heaven-sent.

8. I snagged an orange slice from people handing out assorted fruit. In theory this is a great idea – a little surge of sugary juice would be a great pick-me-up. Picking out orange from between my teeth for the next half mile was not.

9. The number of spectators surprised me. I would say at least 75% of the race had viewers lined up with signs and assorted noisemakers. Some were making a delightful morning out of it, sitting on their porches with their coffee trays and mimosas. Some of the sign’s cracked me up. Personal faves included: “Worst Parade Ever” and “Stay positive, at least this isn’t the Hunger Games”

10. Mile 9 was when I began to take note of how many people were walking…Making the strong heat all that more apparent. I read that night that there was 27,489 starters and 27,146 finishers in total. 343 people dropped out for various reasons, but I can say with certainty that the heat played a substantial role. I also passed about 5 people in and around the route that had suffered some sort of injury or exhaustion.

11. Hills? Pshhhh – it won’t be that hilly said my dumbass self that didn’t bother to check out any elevation climbs along the course. Joke was on me, rolling hills were quite frequent. The hill on mile 12 that I only saw for 5 seconds as I refused to look at it longer for fear of crying was especially daunting. I (thankfully) had been training on hills so it wasn’t too bad, but it really did separate the men from the boys – especially those men and boys that I passed going up said hills :).

12. Mile 11 was good – I had some Gu Chomps, some particularly inspiring music was on the ipod, and it was relatively flat-ish. Mile 12 was a different story. I was getting weak and the walkers were everywhere. I could stop, I thought but I really didn’t want to. I was actually making good time and I was worried if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again. My legs were jello, I was breathing heavier than usual. Then it turned into a mental game. I would not let myself stop. My body was tired and wanted to stop but my heart wouldn’t let me. It would be over soon – then I could rest. This may sound really lame, but it really was mind over matter at this point.

13. I (finally) saw the finish line and sped up . Weird thing happened while looking at my splits – my speed increased as I went on. Given the heat, I thought it would have been the other way around. Either way, I finished. I finished without stopping, passing out, or injuring myself in 3813th place.

2:02:29! Only 3 minutes behind ol' Sheryl thankyouverymuch

13.1 Getting through the finish line, I got handled a bottle of water and my piece de resistance:

So lovely and sweaty...

I chugged the water, got handed a towel, and sprayed with mist. Heavenly. Then I went and was on the hunt for goodies. And goodies they had: frozen fruit, bagels, pretzels, cookies, bananas, yogurt, Gatorade, marathon bars – it was quite the spread. I ate half a bagel and then for some reason thought it would be a great idea to chug a bottle of chocolate milk. It sounded amazing and it’s a great post-workout drink Big mistake. I was nauseous for a good 2 hours afterwards…You live and you learn.

Yes, I was sore. Later that day, Sunday, and today. But the good sore. The kind of sore that feels so good because I worked my ass off for 4 months to feel this sore. There will be another half, possibly a full – hopefully on a cooler day. But for right now, I think I’m going to just bask in the magnificence of it all for a bit.

Happy Monday everyone!


13 thoughts on “13.1 Guide to My First Half Marathon

  1. Congrats on your first half marathon!!

    I have been to Nashville a few times and it is gorgeous there. I would love to do this race. The medal looks sweet too! The Rock and Roll races are run pretty well and usually very well organized. I do RnR Philly every year and it is fun.

  2. Way to go- I can’t imagine running for 13.1 miles without stopping!! You and Jennifer can be my inspiration this summer when I’m running off the law school pounds!

  3. Awesome! Congrats on not stopping and powering through “the wall”. I think the guy with the “the worst parade ever” sign is probably an employee of the R’n’R series because the same sign was at my race and on the other side it said…”no one is chasing you”…it made me laugh as well.

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