Ever since I ran the Princess Enchanted 10k at Walt Disney World earlier this year, I knew I wanted to train for a half marathon. It seemed like a distance that would be a challenge for me to accomplish, but wasn’t so far out of reach that it would be near-impossible.
I had originally planned for the Emerald City Half Marathon in August to be my first half marathon. However, I quickly accepted that I am not a summertime runner, and realized I had not trained enough during the summer to be ready for the Emerald City Half. I don’t like heat and humidity, and this summer was not lacking in either.
In early August, Aaron and I ran the Scioto 10-Miler race to help me build mileage for my half. That race went very poorly for me. I started out great, but by seven miles in I was hurting and my tank was empty. The last two miles were an absolute struggle, and my finishing time was terrible. So after that race I made the decision to drop down to the quarter marathon for Emerald City, which did result in a PR for that 6.55 mile distance.
I still needed to get a half marathon in the books, though. So I signed up for the Columbus Half Marathon, which is run as a part of the Columbus Marathon in October. I figured I’d have plenty of time to train for this half in the cooler early-fall weather.
The Scioto 10-miler was as far as I’d get, though. For nearly all of September, I had some strange GI health issues that caused nausea, stomach pain, and left me fatigued most days. I did get some training runs in during that month, but they weren’t as long as I needed, and I was generally wiped out afterward.
In early October I was feeling a little better, and I participated in the Run Like A Girl 10k. I felt great in the cold weather, and while I didn’t have a PR for this race, I did finish strong and felt like I could have kept going. That gave me some hope that the Columbus Half might happen.
October 18 was the big day, and it was COLD. Aaron was running this race, too, but we agreed that he would run ahead of me at his own pace. I think the reason I burned out so badly on the Scioto 10-Miler was that I was trying to keep pace with him, and while he was only trying to help by encouraging me, the result was that I went too fast for me. For this race, we agreed to meet at the end and each run at our own pace.
They say you shouldn’t try anything new on race day, but I broke that rule. On long runs, the two greatest problems I have are hitting a wall with my energy around mile seven, and a persistent swelling in my hands until I can no longer bend my fingers.
For this race, I had found a pair of compression gloves for crafters, and decided they could help keep the swelling down in my hands, along with drinking only the Gatorade on the course and not the water. (The swelling comes from hyponatremia from sweating out too much salt.)
I also realized that part of my energy problem was that I don’t have the metabolism of the average person. Most recommendations are to fuel up during the race with simple carbs (sugar) that can be quickly absorbed for energy and won’t upset the stomach. But the more I ate/drank, the faster I ran out of energy. I have hypoglycemia, which means my body overproduces insulin when it detects a sugar surge. This can leave me feeling weak and shaky. So for this race, I packed my usual sport gummies for energy, but I also included a baggie of nuts to eat along the route. The nuts provided fat and protein to slow the sugar absorption, and also gave me a little extra salt to help with the swelling.
We were wrapped up in layers and mylar blankets before the race, trying to stay warm as we waiting in our corral in the 28 degree weather. But then it was finally our time to run.
I ditched my throwaway jacket before I reached the end of the first mile, finding that I was already warming up quickly. The hardest part at the start of the race was reminding myself to SLOW DOWN. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and run faster, but sticking with the intervals and pace I trained with was going to get me to the end.
I’m a Galloway interval runner, so I alternate timed running and walking intervals. I’ve learned that skipping walk intervals early on will only lead to skipping running intervals later in the race, so I forced myself to comply with each walk interval even though I wanted to run more during that first mile.
As we progressed out of downtown and into the Bexley area, I fell into a good rhythm while listening to my music. I could feel my fingers starting to swell and pushing against the compression gloves, but the gloves were keeping them from going any further. The gloves were working!
I also felt great along the course thanks to messages of support from friends and family. I recently learned about the Motigo app from my local chapter of Moms Run This Town, and asked everyone to please record some voice messages of support for me along the course. I can’t fully express how encouraging it was to hear voices of friends and family suddenly pop into my earbuds at certain points along the route, making me laugh and reminding me that I could do this. It’s a free app I highly recommend for other runners to use. (That recommendation is not sponsored in any way. I simply love the app.)
As expected, I reached the start of mile eight and started to feel some fatigue setting in. The nuts were doing their job and keeping me from hitting the wall, but not getting in enough training before this race was starting to have an effect on me. I wasn’t hurting, but I was slowing down a little and my brain felt a little foggy. We reached the Clif Shot Station (packets of energy gel), and I took one just to give it a try. Well…I can now say that eating something with a taste and texture you don’t like will snap your mind back into action quickly! It had the texture of frosting and wasn’t a taste I appreciated. I shuddered as I tossed the remainder away, my mind now fully alert thanks to my disgust.
At this point I accepted the slower pace that kept me comfortable and settled in for the next two miles through German Village. I did stop at the mile 10 flag to grab a quick photo and Instagram it, trying to humor myself with the caption of, “10 mile warmup complete. Time to crush this 5k!” I know, I’m hilarious when I’m half-delirious from fatigue.
Mile 11 was my slowest mile, but it wasn’t until I was in my final mile that everything started to hurt. My right foot began throbbing with each step, my right hip had pain shooting down it for each stride, and each step forward was made by pure willpower. I was back in the downtown area, and the crowds were growing larger the closer I got to the finish.
I had nothing left when I made the final turn. I walked part of it, but when the finish line was in view, I forced myself to run…or shuffle slowly in as much of a run as I could muster. Crossing that finish line, after traveling 13.1 miles, was amazing. Yes, I was sore, and yes, I was stumbling as I moved to the recovery area. But having that medal placed around my neck made me feel like I could do anything. I earned that.
Everything came together that day to give me that moment of triumph at the end. The weather was good, the gloves controlled my swelling, the food kept me energized, the virtual cheers from friends and family kept my spirits up, and my feet carried me through to the finish. My first half marathon was a success.
Oh, how I hurt that afternoon. And the next day. But you know the crazy part? Not even 24 hours later, I thought to myself, “Let’s do that again.”