I had no doubt that I could do it. It seriously never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t finish…until I started running. And then I started having some doubts. I knew my body could handle it, but mentally, it was a challenge. The crowds were overwhelming, I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to because THERE WERE PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, and my bum, old lady hip started hurting around mile six. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it for the world. Here’s what I learned and why I’m already signed up to do it again next year:
You will feel all the emotions when you least expect it.
Leading up to the big day, I had been anticipating a good cry at the finish line. All that work, all those miles, I just knew when I finally got to the end I was going to lose it. Except I didn’t. I lost it standing in the corral, waiting for the race to start. I had a good sixty seconds of ugly crying before I pulled myself together. I don’t know if it was the excitement in the air, the idea that my family was coming down to cheer me on, or the energy Jelly Belly beans I had just consumed, but I couldn’t help myself. I had been training for this moment for four months, it was finally here, and I was just so overwhelmed by all of it.
You have no idea what a runner looks like.
In my head, runners look like models only with more muscular legs. I’ve seen the cover of Runner’s World before, I know what a runner should look like. And I’m sure you’ve noticed, but I don’t look like that. Apparently, neither do ninety nine percent of those that run. And that’s easy to write but hard to understand because my head tells me all the time that I’m not a runner, I shouldn’t be running, and who are you to try and run a half marathon? It’s crazy and dumb and completely untrue. But it’s what goes through my head all the time. Even when I was passing people smaller and more fit than me. Even when people bigger than me were gliding by me. I ran the majority of the race with an eighteen year old bikini model. Or at least that’s what she was in my head. She was super-tan, skinny, pretty, and, I bet, super-nice if we had spoken one word to each other. Basically, she was perfect. According to my overactive, high on running, slightly delirious mind. And she ran the same pace as me the.whole.time. We finished within thirty seconds of each other. I won, of course. We weren’t racing each other, but IF we were, I would have been the winner. Take that bikini-model-who-wore-the-big-tube-socks-on-Saturday-who-is-probably-really-nice.
Time is dumb and you should just focus on finishing.
My goal was under two hours and ten minutes. That wasn’t a lofty goal or completely unattainable. I’ve consistently run all my miles between 9:30-10:00. Even my longest run of eleven miles leading up to the race wasn’t bad. I started off slow at ten minute miles, picked up the pace in the middle, and then ended my last two miles with 10:20 and 10:38 respectively. So I figured I could hit the 2:10 goal. Everyone says the atmosphere and the adrenaline keep you going and I had trained so hard, never quitting early or skipping a workout, that I felt good about my goal time. And then I ran 13.1 miles on Saturday and never got below a 10:00 mile. Ever. The only spot I could have gone faster if I wanted to was when we hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and by that point (I was into mile six by then), I had lost all confidence in myself. The app I use to pace myself, Map My Run, wasn’t working so I didn’t know my pace and I just felt I was going so slow but there was nothing I could do about it (although according to Map My Run, my first mile was three minutes and twenty seconds…a personal best, for sure!). It was a hard realization that I was going so slow and even as I type this, I have to keep telling myself I just ran THIRTEEN POINT ONE miles and not be discouraged or so critical of myself that I miss the big picture: that I did something I never thought I could do.
You’ll take encouragement from anything.
All those strangers holding signs and cheering? They were for me. All those bands and dance troupes and cheer squads? They were out there for me. I tried to smile at everyone as I ran by, too tired to say thanks, but wanting them to know I appreciated them, whatever weird thing they were doing. Right after mile eleven, I hit a wall, I couldn’t find my focus or energy and then suddenly, I see a giant sign being held up that says MARY GRAHAM IS MY HERO and I thought, huh, someone else with my name is running today too! that’s weird! and then I got closer and it was my friend Brittany and she was talking to me and cheering me on and I just started crying and laughing at the same time. It was completely unexpected and wonderful and perfectly timed. I was wondering if I could keep going and then there she was telling me I could. And I believed her.
You’re gonna need more water than you think.
I kept trying to wipe sweat off my forehead but there wasn’t any there. Ever. I knew I was hot and drained, but I wasn’t sweating. I attributed it the nice weather (it was a little cool when we started) so it must have been keeping me from really sweating. (Even though in hindsight, I would work up a sweat on a run in thirty degree weather so I realize what an idiot I was being now.) At the finish line, my mom remarked at my lack of sweat and then my dad mentioned I might be dehydrated. I said I had been trying to wipe sweat off my forehead, but all I was getting was chalky, sand-like stuff and apparently THAT’S A RED FLAG for dehydration. Now that I’ve talked with some people that know what they’re doing, I should have had a Gatorade the night before and one before I ran. Good to know.
Those last two miles are never-ending.
I hit a wall at mile eleven. LIKE THE BIGGEST WALL THAT WAS EVER BUILT. If I had had enough energy, I would have kicked myself for not having some kind of refuel/energy shot ready for the two hour mark. I did my Powerbar gummies after mile six like I had practiced but didn’t think anything about the second hour mark. According to people that know things about running, you should refuel at an hour because at that point your body is out of reserves and needs more energy. So I had my gummies pinned inside my little back pocket and happily chewed them for a minute or so as I ran around the track. But I hadn’t even thought about the two hour mark and how I wouldn’t be done and I’d need to refuel again. Which made those last two miles even more unbearable then they already were. I had never run more than two hours on a training run before. I had no idea I’d need more. And I paid for it, big time.
You’re going to swear to yourself you’ll never do this again. And that would be a lie.
There were certain points where I could talk myself into this race being a one-time gig. Been there, done that. Got the medal, here’s my shirt, the end. But that didn’t last more than a minute or two. Even in the midst of my misery, I was thinking about how I’d do it differently next year. And so Sunday I signed up for next year’s Mini Marathon. And then yesterday I signed up to do another half in two weeks. To prove to myself I can do it better. I’ve done all the really hard work, all the training at the gym, all the long weekend runs when I’d rather be sleeping, all the sprints where I thought my lungs would explode. I’m not satisfied with my performance and so I’m going for a re-do. In two weeks. A different course, but still a redo. It’s like some weird addiction.
Winner of the McDonald’s Mini Marathon giveaway: congrats to Mandy T.! Your prize pack is coming in the mail this week to help you reach your health and fitness goals. I’d like to thank McDonald’s of Central Indiana for supporting and sponsoring my run this past weekend. It was an amazing feeling to have so many people behind me as I made the 13.1 mile trek through our beautiful city.
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