Running My First Half-Marathon

I ran a half-marathon two days ago — a first for me…

I’ve never ran a timed “running” race before.

And seeing as a lot of you have also never run a “running race” before, I thought I would give you an insider’s look at a “first time racer” throughout the event.

I set myself 2 goals.

  1. Finish under 2 hours (9:09 pace). And if I couldn’t do that…
  2. Finish without needing to stop and walk.

Here’s how the day went.

    • 6am 2 hours and 15 minutes before race time.
      Time to get up. I was nervous. Really nervous. I needed coffee. We stayed in a hotel prior to the race so that we didn’t have to get up this early to make it to the race. Yet there I was. They had 1 keurig a piece for us. Not enough. Need more caffeine. Oh well. Let’s do this!
    • 7am 1 hour and 15 minutes before race time.
      We should be leaving. We can’t. I can’t find my armband to hold my iPhone. How will I run with my music? Just hold my phone? How could I have forgotten it? ugh! I also had to buy a new pair of headphones the day before. My “Powerbeats” headphones will short out after they get the least amount of sweat on them. Crap. I should have tested the new ones before now. They won’t pair with my iPhone. OH NO! I’ve also forgotten my backup headphones!Disaster! On one cup of coffee. We’re gonna need to stop at Starbucks.
    • 7:30am 45 minutes before race time.
      Luckily, my wife has an extra armband I can use. I will just have to chance that the Powerbeats don’t short out. We have to leave. We check out of the hotel and drive 10 minutes into town. I’m hungry. I should eat something so I don’t run out of gas. I need coffee too. Where am I supposed to go to park now?
    • 7:45am 30 minutes before race time.
      We have to walk like a quarter-mile to wherever the finish line is to board a bus to the starting line. Luckily, I’ve found a coffeeshop on the way. Hmm. What should I get? I need a banana… Drat. They don’t have any… No bagels either. I settle on a cinnamon roll and a 16oz peppermint mocha. mmm. coffee. This couldn’t be a mistake. Could it? Is “coffee” ever a mistake? Nope.
    • 8am 15 minutes before race time.
      I barely finished my coffee. Didn’t even start on the cinnamon roll. We have boarded bus and are on our way to the starting line. Guess I’m not gonna eat anything before the race. My phone won’t fit in the arm band. It’s the wrong size. It’s too small. If I take the phone out of the protective case, I can barely squeeze it in… but the buttons on the side of the phone are being constantly pushed, raising or lowering the volume… or turning it off altogether. *harumph!*No time to panic.. The bus has arrived. We have to hike another quarter-mile to the starting line. It’s “go-time.”
    •  8:05 10 minutes before race time.
      I’ve gotten the phone to stay in the armband, but I won’t be able to operate it once the race starts. I decide to just hope for the best. I go to put on my Last Resort playlist on Fit Radio, but then I decide against it.The course is in a fairly remote area and the possibility of losing your streaming signal is REAL. I cannot run without music. I just cannot. So I put on a playlist I haven’t really listened to in over a year that is already downloaded on my phone. It will do. It HAS to.

      HUH BOY. It’s go time… It’s go time. It’s… crap. WHAT AM I DOING?? I don’t run long distances. When I was in high school, my coaches used to PUNISH us by making us run long distances.

      Marathon and half-marathon runners are crazy people. They’re masochists who LIKE torture. And here I am. About to get in the crazy masochist death torture double-time march “for fun.” aaaaaak!!!

      “Focus, Jason. FOCUS.”

      **turns on the song “Motivated” by NF**
      Adrenaline starts pumping.

    • 8:15 LET’S DO THIS!
      The MC says “GO!” Everyone starts running. *DEEP BREATH* I hit “start workout” on the MapMyRun app and start running. MapMyRun tracks my location via GPS and relays my distance after each mile ran. I didn’t start at the front of the line so I knew it wouldn’t be exact, but it would be “close enough.”

      The first hundred yards is like the running of the bulls. Everyone is trying to pass everyone. There is no room for anyone. I quickly find myself running in the bushes. Crap. Forget finding a good running pace. I just need to find room to RUN!

    • 1/2-mile mark. (all these times/distances will be based on my MapMyRun app readout)
      The crowd thins. I find a group of runners weaving in and out of the crowd, passing everyone. They look like a group I could run with. So I start following them. There are “pace runners” that have different finish times written on signs they are carrying. I pass the “2-hr” pace runner. That’s my “person to beat.” I desperately hope they don’t pass me back.
    • 1-mile mark (7:57)
      MapMyRun tells me I’ve run a 7:57 mile. That’s what my pace was when I was training…on a treadmill… for like a 4-mile run. So maybe a bit fast, but right on my training pace. I’ve found a couple who are running together and decided to pace them. I hope they don’t mind. Wow… they are going fast. I hope I can keep up.
    • 3-mile mark  (23:17)
      MapMyRun says I’ve ran 3 miles in 23:17. That is faster than I ever trained. Crap. I won’t be able to keep this up. There is a water station ahead. My pace runners stop for water. I don’t want any… I keep running.But now I’ve lost my pace runners as I am now about 30 yards ahead of them. I have to try to gauge my pace myself.

    Cruising. Things are peachy. Wassup camera?

    • 4-mile mark (30:26)
      Those are 7:36 splits. Almost a minute per mile faster than I trained on distance runs (8:30). I’m gonna die here pretty soon, I just know it. Just keep running.
    • 5-mile mark (36:53)
      MapMyRun tells me I ran that last mile in 6:27. I knew I was going fast but…umm…Oh well. I’m actually feeling pretty good. 2nd wind has kicked in. ONWARD!I begin passing people left and right. Nobody has passed me at this point. More and more people ahead… must… catch… people… and… pass… them.
    • 8-mile mark (57:27)
      I’m actually singing as I run. SINGING. While people are being passed. 7:10 splits. 5 miles to go…ummm… I may have underestimated my competitiveness. I’ve never ran any training course greater than 5 miles under an 8-minute pace. MapMyRun says I just ran a 6:11 mile after running 7 miles previously. Is that right? hmm. It IS GPS so… must be. At least my headphones are still working.
    • 10-mile mark (1:10:31)
      Average 7:03 split. Ran that last one in 6:41. That can’t be right. That’s not right. After 10 miles (I’ve ran 2 of those previously in training) I should be averaging about a 9min mile pace. I’ve noticed the mile markers have been different than the MapMyRun mile callouts, but I didn’t think they would be THIS off.I somehow missed the 11 and 12 mile markers on the course…
    • 12-mile mark (1:24:59)
      WALL… wall wall wall… !!! I’m dying. I’m gonna die. Ran that last one in 7:30. Definitely slowing down. Someone just passed me. Crap. I gotta catch him… “COME BACK HERE”… meh, he’s too fast. He’s probably like 23. oh well.ONE MORE MILE!! DIG DEEP!!
    • 13-mile mark (1:33:09)
      Ran that last mile in 8:10.  I’m out of gas. I should be done at any time… I should see the finish line pretty soon. People are starting to pass me left and right. This doesn’t look like the finish line at all. Something is definitely wrong. And then I looked over…and saw the “mile 12” marker. I still had a whole nother mile to go. **expletives**
    • 14-mile mark 1:40:34
      Who knows what my actual pace was? I was out of gas. I could see the finish line… a wee dot in the horizon. My legs were BURNING. I hadn’t stopped at ANY of the water stations. I could feel my quads and calves start to cramp. I started physically YELLING at myself to “COME ON!!”The couple that I was pacing early on passed me like I was standing still. I was determined NOT to start walking. I trudged forward.

      I …WOULD… NOT… QUIT!! Not this close.

      200 yards to the finish line. That’s it. Let’s go. The song “Motivated” came on again (for the 3rd time). I literally ROARED and began speeding up my pace.

      150 yards. I can see one of the people who passed me ahead. One of the two who I had been pacing for so long.

      “YOU WILL NOT BEAT ME.”

      100 yards. I broke into a dead SPRINT.

      50 yards. I’m closing in. There’s a crowd at the finish line. I can hear music and… bells? no matter. I am still closing.

      25 yards. I feel light headed. My vision starts to fade. I will not stop sprinting.

      10 yards.  I’ve caught him. I’ve passed him.

      5 yards. Gonna die.

      DONE.

  • I AM DONE.

    Sprinting, dying… literally feet from the finish line.

A wave of exhaustion hit me like I have not felt in years. I was literally gasping for air knowing that if I fell over, I would not be able to get back up. My legs refused to move. Not one more step. Staying upright was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. One of the race volunteers tried to give me a medal. They had forgotten to at the finish line. I could barely barely grab it. I could barely do anything. I just needed to breathe.

Just breathe.

In and out.

I stumbled around the finish line area, trying to get out of people’s way. I barely remembered to stop the time on my stupid CrapMyRun app.

14.1 miles in 1:41:39 with 7:12 splits…not even close to the actual milage.

It was only off by an entire MILE!!

***

Looking back, I have no actual idea what my split times really were. I just know this. The computer says I ran a 1:41:43 with 7:46 splits. Still faster than I ever dreamed, but not the 7:12 splits that MapMyRun had me believing. But how did that happen?

Like this.

See the “Snoqualmie Valley Trail?” That’s where I actually ran. See that blue line? That is the line MapMyRun “thinks” I ran. It lost contact with my phone and tried to pinpoint where I was after lagging out. This added a lot of extra distance in a short amount of time, pushing my total distance up and making my splits faster. This happened all over the course which, yes, added an entire mile to the map.

Lesson learned.

I’ve never actually liked “running.” As a matter of fact I loathe it.

And yet I do it. A lot. Because I’ve put “running a marathon” on my “bucket list.” And eventually I’m gonna do one.

I have a lot of challenges in life and I think I channel all of my “challenges” into “running.”

To me, running represents overcoming obstacles in life. It takes persistence. Hard work. Dedication. Commitment.

It takes TIME to be able to do it.

And in running, I can discipline myself to push through the fatigue. Push through the exhaustion, both mentally and physically. To push through the rigors of “life.”

I hate running. Every step.

But in doing it, I am overcoming that adversity.

I am teaching myself that though there may be things in life that seem like insurmountable challenges, I CAN dig deep within myself and push through it.

And running a marathon represents the ultimate challenge.
If I finish a marathon, I will have beaten my nemesis.

It is my way of conquering “running.”

And if I can conquer “running,” I can conquer anything life throws at me.

Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (8) and Jonah (3) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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