How I ran my first half marathon!

A few months ago, the thought of running even 3 miles seemed very daunting. I have always hated running. There have been times when I have literally forced myself to run just because I wanted to run but I have never gotten myself to enjoy it like many runners do. They call it the Runners high I think? I still don't know what that is by the way. I would rather play a sport or do some HIIT type of workouts. I love those. I would opt for them any day over running, if given an option. I am a big fan of CrossFit.

Anyways, from what my memory serves, the longest I could run non-stop before I started to train for the SD Half was maybe 5 minutes tops at a speed of 5 on a treadmill. That's like 0.4 miles or something like that. After that, I would drag myself to reach the 3 mile mark by running/walking in tandem. That was my relationship with running until I decided I am going to run a half marathon NO MATTER WHAT. Half Marathons or any marathon or even 5K for that matter, in general, have been a fleeting idea to me. I have always been so intrigued by seeing people who do it. I always thought maybe some day, I will actually have the courage to do it myself. But, I never took it seriously. It was one of those things that I really wanted to accomplish but I wasn't really driven towards it. It was, utmost, a dream!

So, after I moved to San Diego, some of my close friends were going to run the SD Half Marathon and they asked me if I was interested as well. I thought this was probably the best opportunity that I will have to train together, run together (not literally but just be there for each other as support) and actually be focussed and dedicated towards something that I have only thought about accomplishing all these years. And, that was it. I didn't want to let it go.

So, on January 25, I signed up for it and there was no looking back after that. I had roughly 7 weeks to train for it. I found a training schedule online and tried sticking to it as much as I could. It started really slow the first 2 weeks with 2-3 mile runs during the week (walking+running) and the long 5-6 mile runs during the weekends. Not to mention, those long runs were brutal. I hated them to the core. I wanted to give up so bad. It took me forever to get them done. Even after forcing myself to run during the training weeks, I never really enjoyed it. I just pretended to be nonchalant about it to my conscience and went about it. It was a goal that I wanted to complete so I just sucked it in and ran without thinking.

Weeks passed by. I could definitely see a lot of improvement in my stamina. I could run non-stop for much longer distances than I could originally when I first started. One day, I think I was surprised and couldn't believe myself when I ran 1 mile non-stop and still have some energy in the tank to run some more. That was truly, groundbreaking lol. Seeing the improvement, I kept going on. The shorter runs during the week suddenly started to increase to 3-4 miles and the longer runs kept getting brutal between 7-8 miles. My time per mile started to improve as well. I was really happy and I already felt like I had won a huge battle against my mental block of not being able to run for long distances. The support from friends and the curiosity to know how everyone was doing in their training, their running times, their weekend long runs, etc. was a huge advantage as well to keep myself motivated throughout the 7 weeks.

Fast forward to the D-day, by now, the maximum distance I had run was 9 miles at one go (some walking but mostly running). The longest distance I ran non-stop without walking was about 3.4 miles in 35 mins. That was also my fastest min/mile clocking at an average pace of 10'19'' min/mile. So, I could technically run a 5K with ease. The total number of miles I had run since Jan 25 during the training was a staggering 97 miles. That's almost 14 miles/week and 2 miles/day for 7 weeks. Not bad eh?!

But, not everything goes right all the time now, does it? On the D-day, I started fine. I was clocking at around 12:00 min/mile for the first 7 miles. I even ran the first 5 miles non-stop without stopping which I had not done before even in the training. I was all set to get the 13.1 miles done between 2:35 and 2:45 which was my goal. But, I started cramping really bad around the 8th mile. My right thigh and my left foot arch started hurting every time I landed my foot on the ground. On top of that, the 10th mile was the most difficult part of the course. It was all uphill. Miles 11-13.1 were probably the easiest but by that time, I was hurting so bad I literally couldn't run or even walk for that matter without limping. So, my pace and timing was all gone by then. I had race guards come up to me twice and make sure I was okay because they saw me struggle towards the final miles. But, I survived somehow. It sucked to the core. The pain in my foot and thigh was excruciating but I managed to get it done finally in 3:10. That was almost 25 mins more than what I originally aimed for.

Needless to say, I am disappointed with the timing. But, I guess there were a few mistakes I did (These are not excuses. I didn't completely achieve what I set for and I am just making some self points to keep in mind for posterity) and I hope to not repeat them again, incase I decide to run a half again:

  • I did not stretch all my muscles properly before the race.

  • I stopped running outside after the first few weeks of training so the transition from running on a treadmill to outside suddenly was a little off and unexpected.

  • I didn't run my last long run of 10 miles the weekend before the D-day because I didn't feel like. The last long run I had run before that was 9 miles the weekend before that. So, basically it had been 2 weeks since I had any long runs so maybe my body wasn't completely prepared to take the 13.1 miles on the D-day.

So, whats next?! I honestly don't know. I am going to take some well earned rest and concentrate more on HIIT type workouts. I am still not a big fan of long distance running and if ever I run again, I will only do it because I want to challenge myself.

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