Last year after the cross country season ended, my friends from school and I considered the idea of running a half marathon together. When we first talked about the idea of it, I was super excited. I love running long distances, and I thought that training for it together with some of my favorite people would be really enjoyable. However, senior year was SO busy, and since the only half marathon near us coincided with the spring track season, this dream of ours never came to fruition.
A little less than a year later, I joined my college’s running club (go blitz!!). Since everyone on this team is so wonderfully badass, it’s no surprise that as early as September, many members were talking about their plans to run the Richmond Half (and full) Marathon. As a newcomer, I didn’t know if I had what it took to run a whole 13.1 miles. My longest run up to that point was about 9 miles, but I hadn’t hit those distances in years. Still, I decided I would start training.
Let me first say that I did not train for this half the way I was supposed to. You’re supposed to start gradually working your way up in mileage over the course of a few months, but I did it in a little less than a month. Before that, I was running about 4 miles 2-3 times a week. Once I started training, I increased this distance to maybe 4-6 miles 3-4 times a week. I’m no math major, but 6 miles and 13.1 miles aren’t exactly similar distances. This past weekend, I ran 10 miles (with like 5 breaks) with my training buddy (love you, Sarah). But that’s literally it. I didn’t do any core work, didn’t train for longer distances, didn’t try any speed workouts, etc. I definitely could have committed to the training process more, but honestly, the first semester of freshman year is so hectic that I was proud of myself when I could simply show up to practice 3 times a week.
Even though I had minimal training, I still decided to officially register for the half marathon and see what would happen. A huge part of me doubted that I’d ever make it to the starting line, but nonetheless, I paid my hundred dollars and hoped for the best.
The week leading up to the half was one of the hardest weeks of college thus far. I was in a really crappy place mentally for various reasons (which I’ll probably make a separate post about eventually), and even though I knew I probably had the physical strength to get through the 13.1 miles, I genuinely questioned if I had the mental grit for the challenge. Even though I loved hanging out with everyone at the pasta party the night before the half, my head was still spinning from the stress of all my inside struggles, so much so that I slept a whopping 4.5 hours that night.
Nonetheless, we all dragged ourselves out of bed at 5 A.M. and drove 30 minutes to the start of the course. My parents and friends sent me the most supportive texts to encourage me, so that made me a little more motivated for the day. It was absolutely freezing outside, and I had to be careful to not start the race with too many layers on, for you can’t just throw your jacket onto the side of the course if you want to get it back in the end. I decided to enter the race with a long sleeve under a sweatshirt, a pair of Nike leggings, and my beloved Brooks Transcends. Before I knew it, my pace group was crossing the start line, and the race was beginning.
I ran the majority of the race with two of my lovely teammates which was so helpful. We were able to start out conservatively, allowing me to have enough energy to start speeding up with every mile. By mile 4, I was feeling really good. I really wanted to finish the race under two hours, and this motivated me to keep passing people and picking up my pace with every turn. Miles 4-10 went by surprisingly fast, and when I did the math at mile 10, I figured out that if I could run a 29 minute 5k (which I’ve done fairly easily during cross country), I would achieve my goal time. Until mile 10, I had not stopped once, except to quickly grab a drink from the volunteers. Unfortunately, I started getting piercing side cramps at around 10.5 miles, and I had to keep stopping to alleviate the stabbing feeling. I was able to sprint in between the breaks though, and I crossed the finish line at 1:56:27.
I started tearing up once I crossed the finish line and saw my time. I couldn’t believe that I accomplished what felt so impossible to me months ago. Sure, a half marathon isn’t THAT difficult when compared to full ones, but to me, the half seemed absolutely daunting before I ran it.
After grabbing the free blankets and hats they gave us, we went to get Starbucks and then to a fun little Richmond diner. Then we drove home! What a day!
Honestly though, this day was very much needed. I needed to prove to myself that I am capable of being mentally strong. After giving into my emotions a little too much lately, it was nice to feel like an indestructible little beast. The race made me put aside all my struggles and focus on myself- something I haven’t done in quite a while. College is great, but always focusing on friendships and relationships gets exhausting, and today was a reminder of how important my relationship with myself is. This race was a testament to the fact that while getting help along the way is crucial, the power to succeed and persevere ultimately comes from within.
Out of everything I want to tell my family about on Thanksgiving, this is the one thing I won’t shut up about. This is the one thing that I did not for a degree, not for anyone else, not because I had to. This is the one thing I chose to do for myself and my growth. This one thing, this 13.1 mile mini journey of mine, didn’t fix all my problems by any means, but it made me forget about them for long enough to help me remember that hope is out there, and I’m really dang thankful for that.