Without further ado, I give you Jen!
My first half marathon was a challenge I took on after starting to run in late April of this year. My friend from way back, otherwise known as, Halifax Runner Girl, inspired me to take up running after following along through her blog as she recapped races and spoke of her relationship with this sport. So when I was asked to recap my first race it seemed like a nice way to bring this experience full circle. So here we go...
I live in Brooklyn New York, and I wanted to find a race that was fairly close by so I signed up for the Atlantic City half, a race that involved boardwalk, views of sandy beaches and ocean waves...sign me up. The course was described as flat and the boardwalk would be forgiving on the joints so I figured this would be the perfect half for a novice like me.
One thing this novice did not consider...Atlantic City= Casinos, bachelor and bachelorette parties, weekends of rowdy non-stop fun. Why would this be an important consideration? Well the night before a race you need to sleep...Fail. But it was quite entertaining listening to all the fun going on outside the room, and honestly I am not sure I would have slept much anyway.
Mile 1, 2, 3, ticked by and I was still hanging with this group. I then saw the hill...shock went through me and shear panic. I had trained on bridges with inclines and parks with hills but not enough to tackle this ramp. Yes RAMP...where was the promise of boardwalk views? We were running up the ramp to the highway and it was steep. Runners around me were cursing, “Hills! when did they add a hill into this race?” one runner remarked. ( I would later read online that they changed the course this year.) I knew I had been A) running way too fast and B) this hill was going to take a bit out of me. I sucked it up and pushed up the hill. One runner beside me began to walk, cursing, I think she had made the same mistake. I kept going trying to block her out.
Mile 4...I had to stop at the porta-potty. Line up...”Oh no!” I thought as I watched the rest of the runners continue on. I gave myself a pep-talk noting that this would give me a chance to adjust my pace. I relaxed and did just that, until another winding ramp. This did not make me happy. I focused on my form and pushed my way up. My legs and lungs were at this point telling me...we should have trained on more hills...oh well.
Mile 5, 6 ticked by and the sun was beating down on all the runners. The course was now taking us through residential neighbourhoods. Honestly it was boring, and I was feeling quite defeated. This is when the mental strength had to kick in. More runners were starting to walk. I could feel myself slowing down. I let myself walk through the water station and took my gu. The Volunteers were great and very motivating. I was frustrated and tired and worried as I took in the gu. “What if this is too much for me?” I started to worry. I noticed a lot of the runners had a friend or family member with them. I started to feel very alone. I pushed myself to start running again. A spectator yelled out to the runners, “KEEP GRINDING IT OUT RUNNERS!” I breathed in her words and energy as I passed her almost in tears at this point.
Mile 7, 8 we hit a turn where I could see the pack of runners in front, and as I rounded the bend, the pack of runners behind me. I realized I was about in the middle. I started to listen to the conversations around me. One runner was with the pace leader for 4:30 marathon time. She was sharing that she was doing her first marathon and that she was scared that she was getting tired. I smiled at her and told her she was doing great. Secretly I was telling myself the same thing. Husbands and wives were pushing each other along, charity runners were cheering each other as they passed and I felt connected to all of the runners around me. For this moment in my life these people were going through something with me, completely unaware that their presence was keeping me going.
Mile 11.5 my hip started to hurt again so I walked. I decided to walk and sprint until I reached 12.5 miles and then I would give it all I had left. I did just that. I saw the finish line, the faces of the spectators and I ran like hell. I passed through the finish and received my medal. I looked at my Garmin it said 2:32, I would later find out my official time was 2:37.
It was not the race I wanted to run. I was hoping for that 2:15 finish because that was my goal and during training I knew I could hit that time. But I learned that even when you are tired, and you are hurting you can push yourself to complete what feels impossible. I am proud of that! I started running the end of April 2011, and in October 2011 I finished a half marathon! My goal now is to keep running, get stronger and run another half in the spring. Who knows maybe someday a full...anything is possible!
~ Jen Marsan