My first half-marathon

We were supposed to run 10 miles today according to our training schedule and I was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Ever since we did the Cascade Lakes Relay in early August we haven’t been running regularly as we’ve been focusing on hiking in preparation for the hike around Mt. Hood we did over this past Labor Day Weekend.

It is amazing how quickly you can fall out of running shape, and I’ve really been struggling on my weekly runs lately.

The week before last it was because my legs were still exhausted from our epic hiking adventure, and then last week I attempted to run in Houston, TX while at a work conference. Between the heat, humidity and fatigued legs – my body just wasn’t having it.

The day before yesterday Glenn and I did a training run around Portland’s waterfront. I had hoped that a change of scenery would make the running easier. I was wrong. It took everything in me just to make it 2.6 miles. Needless to say, if I could hardly make it 2.6 miles two days ago then I was absolutely positive that I didn’t have it in me to run 10 miles this morning.

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Running along the Willamette River – always a nice change of pace from our regular neighborhood routes.

I’ve only ever run 10 miles four times in my life. So, as we started out down the trail this morning I spent a good deal of time replaying those long runs in my mind – trying to remind myself that I had done it before and I could do it again.

You see, Glenn and I set a goal last year of running a half-marathon this year.

We had done several 5k runs over the past couple of years and were planning to give an 8k a try. Why not try a half-marathon next year? we asked ourselves. At the time I thought it was a long shot that we’d be able to do it, but we had well over a year to train so we signed up for the Portland Half-Marathon.

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Running the 8K Shamrock Run (Portland, March 2014)

Figuring we needed all the help we could get, we joined a marathon-training club.

I was skeptical at first. I was sure that we had just signed up to run with a bunch of super fit spandex-clad runners that were going to leave us in the dust. It turns out Portland Fit attracts people of all shapes, sizes, ages and abilities and everyone was super supportive. We found ourselves in a sea of runners, joggers and walkers – all with the goal of pushing themselves to do something amazing. With their help we were actually ready to run our first half-marathon 4 months ahead of schedule.

This morning, as the doubts about my ability to run 10 miles swirled in my mind, I thought about all of the times during training for that half-marathon that I had done the impossible.

I remember the Saturday we showed up to the Portland Fit event to learn that not only were we going to run 7 miles that day (something I had never done before), but that we were going to do it up Terwilliger Hill (a daunting and long climb out of downtown Portland).

My heart fell upon hearing this news. I looked at Glenn and said “I can’t do that!”

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Jogging up, up, up Terwilliger Hill (that’s Glenn up ahead of me in the bright green jacket).

As it turns out, I could run 7 miles up Terwilliger Hill! And, weeks later I could run 10 miles, then 11 miles the week after that. Every week I had a loud refrain in my head that said “I can’t do that!” and a few hours later I was in awe that I actually could.

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After having run 11 miles for the first time in our lives!

Soon thereafter we ran our first half-marathon, the Helvetia Half – a lovely run out in the rural countryside outside of Portland.

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About to start the Helvetia Half-Marathon. I was so nervous.

Once again, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do it – at least not without having to walk big sections of it. After all, the longest training run I had ever done was 11 miles (once!) and I can tell you that the idea of running another 2+ miles after that was out of the question.

Nevertheless, we found ourselves at the start line on an early morning in June (2014). We had made the decision that we would go at a very slow pace (12:00 minute miles or slower) and walk when we needed to. Before I knew it, we were 6 miles into the race and I felt great. I was still pretty sure we’d peter out before too many more miles – that was to be expected. Right?

But there were a few things that really helped me stay positive.

First, my mother had come over from Bend (Oregon) to cheer us on at the finish line and since I assumed she was probably pretty bored waiting the several hours for us to show up, I would occasionally call her to give updates on our progress. Knowing my mom would be there at the finish line gave me something to look forward to.

Similarly, my friend Alisa came out to cheer us on. She told me the day before that she would be on the running route somewhere, but I didn’t know where. This distracted me endlessly as each time we’d round a corner or crest a hill I’d be looking for her. At around mile nine I saw someone beside one of the alfalfa fields jumping up and down excitedly with a cardboard sign. My heart just about exploded with joy when I saw her.

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Alisa ran beside us for about a mile – which provided even more distraction and encouragement.

Before I knew it we were 10 miles into the race. I felt great and hadn’t had to walk any sections of it.

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We’re hanging in there!

Around then Glenn and I started chatting with a lady that had been running near us for quite some time. In fact, during part of the race I could tell that someone was running right behind me for several miles. She eventually came up beside me and thanked me. She said I had a great pace and that running behind me and focusing on my shoes had gotten her through some of the more difficult and hilly sections of the race. Before you knew it we were passing the road sign that said “one mile to go!”

Finished running our first half-marathon. Such an accomplishment!

Finished!

As I set out this morning I was sure I’d need to turn back a couple of miles into the run, yet my GPS watch kept ticking away mile, after mile, after mile.

I’ve had several people tell me that once you can run 6 miles, you can run forever. I think there is something to that. I often experience a sensation where the aches and pains go away, and my body relaxes into the long run. It feels almost like I am floating along on the back of a bicycle. This must be that runner’s high so many people talk about.

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On this morning’s run – about 6.5 miles in and feeling great!

In the end not only was I was able to run the full 10 miles today, but I felt great and was running at a pace about 20-seconds per mile faster than I had run that distance before. Crazy!

In the coming weeks I have a few more long training runs in preparation for the Portland Half-Marathon in early October. I fully expect that those “I can’t do this!” doubts will creep back into my mind.

I’ll do my best to remind myself of today’s experience where I learned, yet again, to have faith.

Given the opportunity, my body will rise to the challenge and do the impossible.

P.S. One of the highlights from today’s run was when some joggers passed us, whistled and called Glenn “sexy legs.”  I’d have to concur – look at those calves! 

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8 comments on “My first half-marathon

  1. Good going. Isn’t it amazing what one can do when one puts their mind/body to it. Your thoughts mirrored those that I experienced. Thanks for putting it into words

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