My Second Half Marathon Experience

for beth

So we are almost at a week after running my second half marathon – the Brooklyn Half. It has been more like 5 days but this has really been my first time to chat about the experience much like I did for my last half marathon two years ago. I know that I won’t go into that much detail here (though looking at it in retrospect I guess I had a lot more to say than I thought) I’ll just hit home the points that really meant a lot to me.

To start I wanted to reiterate something that I’m sure I mentioned here but I don’t read back into my posts and you probably didn’t either so I’ll mention it again.

I had come to terms with not expecting to do well in this run. Though I had spent two plus months training hard for this run the training didn’t feel as though it was going to plan. Most days I felt tired, exhausted, frustrated, angry, and it didn’t all have to do with running (though so much of it did). I feel like I’ve been a raw ball of emotion, especially since finishing the race, but more on that in a bit. Some was work related and just the result of having a packed life. And don’t get me wrong – that is great – you don’t have time to think about what you aren’t doing with your life (though I’m sure I found time once or twice). So I made a deal with myself knowing full well that I wouldn’t accomplish my goal. There probably wouldn’t be any more half-marathons in my future if I didn’t beat my time from two years ago (1hr 38min 16s). I more or less made myself be okay with it. At least I remember thinking that I was okay with it.

It was funny if only because the amount of work I actually put in. I’m sure I’ve never put that much mileage into a month as I put into the month of March (116 miles). I followed a training plan the best that I could. Trying to mesh it into an already busy schedule was like trying to fit an oversized foot into a tiny shoe. Sometimes the big toe is going to peek out in the comical way that brings to mind a Looney Tunes cartoon. I definitely never trained this hard.

So the week of the run arrived and I remember looking at this date from two months before thinking that it was so far away. It would show up and I would be this completely different person perhaps some unreal running machine.

I have this negligible fatty pouch on my stomach. What that means to you is that sometime around after running that last marathon I had put on some weight. It probably amounts to 7 pounds each year and I know this isn’t a big deal to most people but as someone who weighed 125 pounds from about 19 to 26 it is sizable and also quite noticeable. I blame the holiday period of time. I never became inactive; I was always doing at least a few runs a month but I didn’t loose any of the weight I had put on – the pouch remained. And so it did for the duration of training. Could I have done more with my eating habits? Of course I could have and for the duration of April I really did cut back on the junk. I tried to eat was necessary and tried to have a proper structure of meals. I kept telling myself that I would bring healthy snacks to work so that I wouldn’t snack on the junk there but that never came to fruition. I definitely snacked less – I didn’t stop (and I still haven’t). I did a few more core (abs and such) workouts but not nearly as much and as often as I told myself I would. Nonetheless I may have shaved off a few pounds according to a HiGi station at my local Stop and Shop (thought it said I weighed in the 140s when I started keeping track and I guess that I don’t know if that was accurate because I don’t have a scale at home).

So the end of that part of the story is that I may have been a slightly different person (maybe a bit more defeatist) but nothing to the extent that I was measuring in my head.

The week was upon me but that Saturday still felt fairly far away. I was in a meeting that Friday before it – the day before – and it registered to me that in less than 24 hours I would have already finished the race. And it still felt far away.

But again before we get to the race itself I still had so much that I felt like was working against me. Another of those things were the injuries. I’ll call them subjective injuries because to my knowledge nothing was broken or torn (though I suppose that could be the case in which case – oops). They more felt like strains or muscle tightness. One feels like a groin strain that hurts a consistant amount when I’m not running a lot. It hurts more on off days but surprisingly hasn’t hurt too much since the finish. It is livable and doesn’t prevent me from doing anything but I could do without it. I think that goes without saying.

The other I can’t explain so much but it is pretty terrible. I think I sustained it a couple of months ago when I was running in the woods with my friend Harry. It hurts the most when I keep a short stride – much like I did on the day that it happened. I feel like it was the result of the repeated impact of the way that I was landing that day. Again it feels more that the tendon or muscle is strained or stretched than actually damaged. Where it hurts the most is on the right side of my lower back (where my back meets my butt) and it feels (when it is at its worst) like a scratching stabbing pain that doesn’t let up and it is particularly accentuated when I move in certain ways. It hurts much less or not at all when I am active so it seems to be a result of something being tight.

Even before this race started I had enough things that would guarantee that I didn’t complete this race in the way that I imagined it.

I still tried to do the right thing by myself. I was on a crazy hydrating kick two days before the race drinking a cup of water every minute I got the chance. I’m sure I haven’t taken in that much water in such a short period of time that I have on memory.

The morning of the race was a lot cooler than I was expecting. Sixty degrees and cloudy. We had to be there quite early because of a lot of new security measures. It felt as though it wouldn’t begin. And then it did.

The whole first half mile was downhill so I was able to start at a quick pace. And then I came to a realization. I didn’t need to try and pass a whole bunch of people, I needed to maintain a pace below 7.30/mile. For the first mile I ran 7.35. I’d need to pick up the pace a little. According to my running app I maintained a pace of 7.16/mile for the next 7 to 9 miles. At mile 10 my pace was 7.18/mile for the race up until that point. I could do this and I had approached the race like that for the whole thing up until that point. I kept telling myself that I had trained for this; my body could physically handle what I was giving it. I felt different in this race than I had ever before. Confident. All of the adrenaline, all of the build-up to the race was working in my favor. It didn’t matter that I had trouble sleeping the night before.

That isn’t to say that it didn’t get hard. For the last four miles every time I would slow down to sip some Gatorade or water I didn’t want to speed up again. But I did my best. I pushed myself and remember thinking that there wasn’t any pain – just fatigue, I could work through fatigue. They weren’t my fastest miles, I definitely slowed down but I knew that as long as I kept every mile, for the remainder of the race, under 7.30/mile then I wouldn’t have any problem beating my last time.

The last meters of the race were on the boardwalk of Coney Island. I opened my stride and went as fast as I could. I wanted the throw my arms up in the air when I finished but really only managed a flail. That sort of thing is embarrassing to me. I crossed the finish line at 1hr 37min 48s, a full 28 seconds better than my last time. It doesn’t sound like much but it was everything to me. Everything. For the the first time after finishing a race I felt a rush of emotion. I wanted to cry. The tears never came but every time I would think about it I was absolutely overcome.

I’ve been embarrassed to talk about it too much up to this point because I’m not one to always admit to weakness. Even though it is always right there in front of people to see, I am always self-depreciating,  when it comes to raw emotion I don’t have a lot of it. For whatever the reason. So when it happens that is a very real part of me that is exposed. To talk about it is to open it back up again and there aren’t that many people that I feel as though are privileged to that information.

That is why this may be one of the most real things that I have ever written. It is all out there to see. I just hope you can appreciate me sharing it with you. I’m proud of this race as well as this post. I normally only display surface insecurities.

After the race I felt great.  I was tired though that goes without saying. But I felt great. Nothing hurt. That wasn’t the case when I had finished the Philly Half Marathon.

I’ve been taking a break since finishing. I probably only needed a day or two to heal but I owe those potential injuries more than that. For the past two days the one in my back flared up really bad. It sucked to do much of anything but sit but I had to work. It is much better today so I’m glad I have these two days off of my feet. Maybe I could have rested more for the rest of the day after the race or even the day after that but hindsight is 20/20.

I think I’ll do some light exercise today – something off of my feet. Somewhere down the line though there will be another half marathon.


2 thoughts on “My Second Half Marathon Experience”

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