Since I began running in 2012 I hadn’t raced anything longer than a 5K. Then over the summer, one of my best friends signed up for the White Mountain Milers Half Marathon and I thought, why not? I needed a running goal to stay on track with exercising anyway, and a half seemed exciting and doable. So I found a training plan, picked Clayton and Deb's brains for tips and tricks, and started getting ready for race day (October 30th). Let me tell you what I learned.
First of all, after a few weeks of adhering to the scheduled runs precisely as they were written, I realized I needed to be flexible and chill out. Listening to my body and rescheduling both short and long runs if necessary became as important as getting enough mileage week to week. When my right ankle was aching after my final long run, a 10-miler the weekend before the race, I took an extra day off and scaled back my short runs even though I was freaking out! But the extra rest paid off and I had no problems on race day.
As my long run mileage increased in late September, I spent way too much time Googling "running fuel." Turns out, Swedish Fish are packed with the kind of sugar and calories that runners like me dream of. Clayton confirmed what all my Googling suggested and after a test run (ha!) about 5 weeks before the half I was hooked. They gave me a boost to finish the last few miles of each long run and were easy to eat and digest on the go. And they saved me the trouble of trying to make fruit juice gummy candy in my own kitchen!
As the race approached, my excitement waned and my nerves went into overdrive. I anxiously planned meals, slept as much as possible, checked and rechecked my list of things to pack and generally stressed out. But being in North Conway, New Hampshire on the rainy day before the race was not only fun but had a calming effect. The leaves were brilliant, the air cool and crisp, the shops and restaurants diverting. And I was able to enjoy all of it because I knew I was prepared.
Race day was the best day! I was tired and anxious (Was I going to be cold? What if I got too hot? Why did I stay up till 11 when the plan had been to be asleep by 9?!?) but when the race started my body took over, I settled into my favorite pace, and made my way, mile by mile, through the most beautiful New Hampshire fall scenery. I had a moment of panic after completing 6 miles when the adrenaline and novelty of running a half wore off and my body felt drained. But after eating a few fish I got back in the groove and carried on.
And then, when I received encouraging text messages at mile 10, I started to push it. My last three miles were, surprisingly, my fastest. I'd been training to push the last two miles of each long run and that paid off in a major way. Although there was a hill at 12.9 (how could they?!!) and my mind was ready to give up, my legs kept pushing and I crossed the finish line 4 minutes ahead of my goal time!
All in all, what can I say except that for anyone on the fence about doing a half: do it. It is awesome!