Four months ago, I was not a runner. Sure, I was in good shape – I went to the gym frequently, did yoga, etc., but running was certainly not my forte. I considered two miles on the treadmill a pretty good workout. But yesterday, for the first time in my life, I ran 13.1 miles. I still can’t believe I did it. On that fateful day in August, when I first started training, I was skeptical that I would ever complete my goal. But here I am – over 130 miles of training later – with my goal finally accomplished.
Here’s how the morning of the race went down: at 5:00 am on November 25th, my friend and I groggily rolled out of bed, stuffed some GoLean Crunch and toast with peanut butter down out throats, and hit the road. We cruised down the deserted LA streets to Venice Beach where the start/finish line was. I was relieved to find that the race was super low-key – there had to be less than 100 people running and the people hosting the race (Rocket Racing Co.) were super friendly. It was just the kind of atmosphere I need for my first HM.
I was delighted to discover not just that the course was completely flat, but also that the entirety of it was on the bike path along the coast. We ran 1.3 miles south first (i.e. into downtown Venice Beach), looped back to the start/finish line, then did the loop again. We then ran 3.9 miles north (along some of the most beautiful coast I’ve ever seen) and looped back and finished there.
I’ve got to say, the 1.3 mi dip into Venice Beach was so entertaining. I passed homeless guys in drum circles (one of them even reached out to give me a high-five), ran around bicyclists, waved to gay couples walking their dogs, smelled strong evidence of marijuana wafting out of apartment buildings, etc. That street has got to be one of the most eclectic in all of Los Angeles. Luckily for me, the first 4 miles of the race were so distracting that I didn’t even notice the distance I was covering. As I ran north, the sun was just starting to break through the early morning clouds and fog. It was the most beautiful site. I can’t imagine a more scenic location for a race.
Physically speaking, the last two miles were incredibly painful. Remember, the most I’ve run before (in any one stretch) was 10 miles. I was surprised at how much I really felt each additional mile past that. 11, 12, 13…the balls of my feet were hurting, my hip joints ached, my thigh muscles felt really tight….ouch. The good news? I didn’t experience any chaffing (thank you Body Glide!) and I didn’t feel like I was running out of energy (Shot Bloks, thank you as well). I felt that the only thing that kept me from running further was the pain in my legs. My running partner stashed some Advil in her pocket before the race and popped them during the race. Maybe I should have done the same?
I know a lot of people don’t like to listen to music during a race, but because this race was so uncrowded and low-key, there were many times when I was pretty much alone. For this reason, I did bring my iPhone along and listened to the Songza playlist “Sunshine Indie Pop.” I’ve been running to this playlist a lot recently – it’s the perfect mix of energetic and interesting.
I finished in 2:05:50, so I realized after the race that I’d been running at a pace much faster than I’d been training at.
What’s next? Definitely a few more half-marathons, and who knows, maybe a marathon? I guess I have some time. After all, there were two fifty-year olds running in the 50 mile event at the race…
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was actually pretty nervous about my 8K yesterday. Not only had I never run 5 miles straight before, but this was my first actual race (even though most people would probably start with a 5K). To increase my mental stress even more, as soon as I got on the trail, I realized it was far more difficult than I had anticipated.
The race was called “Into the Wild” – and they weren’t kidding. The trail wound though steep hills, and the terrain alternated between soft sand, rocky river beds, and pavement. At some points the trail was a foot or less wide, making it nearly impossible for runners to pass each other.
I also decided not to wear my Vibram FiveFingers for fear that I might get blisters, so I wore my other minimalist shoes, the New Balance Minimus. They worked well and were super comfortable.
One thing I really loved about the race, however, was the sense of camaraderie among the runners. Maybe it was especially pronounced since the trail was so tricky, but many of the runners chatted during the race about how difficult it was and cheered each other on. Since I’ve largely been training on my own, I’ve missed this kind of community, and it was nice to find it here.
At around three miles, though, I definitely started to feel like giving up. I had just conquered an incredibly sharp incline and I thought, “Okay, that will be the last of it,” only to encounter a similarly difficult slope right after. The course felt like it was never going to end. Had I been running on my own, I would have stopped at this point. Luckily, I had incredibly buff, seasoned runners passing me by, and that was enough to keep me motivated. (Or maybe it was the approaching nightfall and the fact I was in the wilderness that kept me going…)
This race was really helpful because it taught me a few things to consider about before the actual half marathon:
- Don’t rely on your iPod. I usually use Songza (an app that uses internet to find playlists) but because there was no internet, bringing my iPod along ended up just being a burden.
- Take a TUMS before the race, or bring one along. I don’t know what happened – I didn’t eat anything strange at all before the race, but I kept getting indigestion and it made running very uncomfortable.
- Bring gum. This might be TMI, but I kept choking on my saliva since my throat was getting really dry.
- Wear longer shorts. I experienced some pretty uncomfortable chaffing between my thighs and this made the last mile even more difficult.
All in all, I felt that my cardio was pretty strong, and that if it were not for the points mentioned above, I would have had an even faster time.
For beginner runners, I would highly recommend registering for a short race before the actual half marathon. Not only is being around the other runners inspiring, but it was great to get a feel for a typical race environment. Not to mention, I now feel that much more inspired to keep training!