Sunday, November 21, 2010

Star City Half Marathon

When I would tell people that I was training for a half marathon, the reactions I received were usually along the lines of, "Oh, I didn't know you were a runner!" to which I usually replied, "Well, I'm not really a runner, but it's something I've been doing lately." I don't know why I was afraid to consider myself a runner. Maybe it's the fact that I used to really hate running. In middle and high school, I dreaded when we had to run "the mile" in gym class because I was so awful at it; I could hardly run a lap without becoming winded. Even though I played tennis in high school and college, it thankfully never involved much running. Running was just a boring punishment for me. Until recently.

I really don't know why I suddenly decided to start running. Maybe I was bored with going to the gym for no reason. Maybe I needed a new hobby. Maybe I had more stress than normal built up from work. Maybe I just wanted to be able to put the 13.1 sticker on my car. Maybe I just wanted to be like Forrest Gump. Whatever the reason, I started running. And now I feel skilled enough at putting one foot in front of the other to call myself a runner.

So yesterday I did something that I never ever thought I'd be able to do. I ran a half marathon. And I enjoyed it!

I signed up for the Star City Half Marathon about a month and a half ago. I wasn't sure that I'd be ready in time, but I decided to go for it anyways. Sometimes signing up for a race is all the motivation you need. With a little help from a few books and my brother, my training went great and I felt ready for race day. Sure, I was nervous. Just ask Andrew; I told him how nervous I was only about 1,000 times leading up to the race.

I was nervous right up until they shot the gun. My nerves were compounded by the fact that the start was delayed by about 30 minutes. The rumors in the back of the pack were that the truck putting out the cones had broken down. Not only did we not start on time, but I felt like I had to pee about 15 minutes prior to the start, and the mile-long portable toilet line was too much for me. As we were waiting for the start, I seriously considered peeing in my pants if I had to. Thankfully it didn't come down to that. I saw a few other people jolting into the hotel about 50 yards away to use their facilities and I followed. I decided I'd rather risk the gun going off while I was inside and being a few minutes behind than running 13.1 miles with a full bladder.

I will now remember to follow the advice from one of the books I read:
It's always important to get to the race start site early. It's especially important at a big race. And this next sentence is the most important sentence in the entire book: When you get to the race site, immediately get into a portable toilet line. I'm not kidding. Do not stop to talk. Do not look around for friends. Make a direct line for the portable toilets. I don't care how often you go to the bathroom before you leave the hotel; you are going to need to go again before the race starts. Don't take any chances. Get in line. When you've gotten to the front of the line, then gotten in and out of the portable toilet, get back in line again. Trust me on this one. Stay in the portable toilet line until you have to line up for the race.
So true.

So really, it worked out best that the race started 30 minutes late. I started near the back of the pack and kept the same pace as everyone around me. We started to spread out by mile 3, and I stayed around the same people for the majority of the race.

Miles 1 through 8 really seemed pretty easy. I was probably too nervous and excited to really even think about it. I tried to remember not to go too fast, which I think I successfully accomplished. I ran from one water station to the next, grabbing 1 or 2 cups of water at each station. I walked with my water until I was done drinking, then chucked my cup and kept on running.

At about mile 9, I really had to start giving it all I had while still trying to save some energy to make it to the finish. I was jealous of the people running towards me because I knew they were already on mile 12. At mile 11, the race took a turn up the "Jesus Saves Hill" (named for the church at the top of the hill with a neon "Jesus Saves" sign on top of it). Let's just say I was wishing Jesus would have saved me from that hill in that moment. I took my time walking up this hill, as did many others. Once at the top, it was all down hill and flat from there to the finish. It was such a relief to turn the corner and see the finish line at the end of the block. I had done it! I had run my first half marathon and made it to the finish line gracefully.

My official time was 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 49 seconds, which was a 10:13/mile pace. I was more than happy with that for my first half marathon. I was expecting to finish in about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I met my goal but I still have plenty of room for improvement in the future.

After the race, I grabbed a bagel and some Gatorade, and decided not to stick around for the post-race festivities (I was 100% sure I didn't win the race). I spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing and sleeping, and enjoyed the most satisfying Outback Special for dinner (Andrew was gracious enough to go out and pick it up because I wasn't really feeling up to going out).

My biggest thanks goes out to my wonderful husband, family, and friends who fully supported me before, during, and after the race. I probably wouldn't have even signed up if it weren't for everyone's support.

If anyone else is thinking about running, here are two of the books I read. Marathoning for Mortals helped me to learn the basics of running and was a very encouraging and motivating book. Jeff Galloway's Marathon went into a little more detail and opened my eyes to the use of walking breaks during long runs. I'd definitely recommend both of these books, especially Marathoning for Mortals.

Happy Running!


  1. It's advice like that that throws out all my portable toilet queuing calculations! :)

  2. Lauren, I am so glad you found my blog! What a small world!! I cannot believe we were so close together in finishing! I am SO nervous to run the full marathon at Blue Ridge, but hopefully I'll have it in me. They give you 8 hours to finish and I might need every single one of those minutes to do it. :) I think it is so great that you're running the half at Blue Ridge. It was my first half last year, and I absolutely loved it! It's tough, but a really neat race. Thanks again for saying hi and good luck with your training!!