Hey guys. I’m still in shock here. It’s been several days — long enough for my muscles to recover from their rigor mortis-like stiffness — but I still can’t believe that I ran (jogged? pseudo-walked? nearly crawled?) an entire 13.1 miles. Yes, a half marathon.
Especially considering that my training took a serious nosedive way back in August, and my last run before the half was a 3.5 mile jog exactly one month in advance. I decided to think of it as a three-month taper period and see what happened.
I was partially expecting to collapse halfway through and wake up in a medical tent next to people who have no toenails left. Or collapse a few hours after from some bizarre sci-fi illness, like toxic overload from muscle breakdown due to an unusually huge increase in activity. I swear I saw something like that on House once.
On the other hand, I kept replaying the mythical stories of runners like the guy who got really depressed at a bar one day and ran 20 miles home in the middle of the night just because, or the guy on my first Odyssey team who ran Boston for the fun of it without bothering to train first, or the chick who would “reward” herself after a long day of hard work with a 30-mile jaunt on the trails.
Granted, I’m sure that these folks didn’t sit on their asses writing lolcode all day either. But the bottom line was, I’d have my cell phone in my iFitness and family close by to pick me up if I needed to DNF. And besides, the route is like the double rainbow of footraces: the Pacific Ocean 100 yards to one side; adorable, old-style, likely multi-million dollar homes 100 yards to the other side; Cannery Row (hello, John Steinbeck!); the friendly denizens of the town of Pacific Grove; coastal bushes that look like something out of the mind of Dr. Seuss… The list goes on and on!
I had several double rainbow moments on that course. It was rather dangerous actually, as any sort of emotional overload while exercise immediately induces an asthma attack, which nearly happened to me three times.
First time was approaching the traffic tunnel that goes under Custom House Plaza at mile 2. Do you have any idea how freaking cool it is to run through a tunnel you’ve only ever been through in a car? The last thing I heard before going in was a girl behind me comment to her friend, “Ooh! This is my favorite part.” The entrance of the tunnel was lined by cheering spectators, who disappeared as we entered the tunnel like a herd of wildebeests, whooping and screaming and cheering out of sheer joy and listening to our echoes reverberate down the tunnel. Just when I didn’t think I could be any more overwhelmed, I heard the most triumphant yet loneliest sound in the world. A bagpiper stood silhouetted against the bright exit of the tunnel, slowly pacing as runners thundered by, cheering, and giving him thumbs ups. I teared up, choked up, started hyperventilating, and realized I had to calm down immediately, or else. Deep breath, relax your shoulders, relax your face, shout approval at the bagpiper, and keep on flying.
The second time I nearly had an asthma attack was about a mile before the finish. I had done pretty well through the 10K point, but miles 6 through 8 were becoming increasingly more difficult. Around mile 10, every time I slowed to a walk, my muscles shouted in protest as I muttered f-bombs and checked to make sure there weren’t any MarathonFoto photographers nearby. Only 5K left, and I still wasn’t sure I was going to finish. When I turned off the main drag onto the bike path that funneled into the finish at the wharf, I realized that I was really going to make it. I very consciously allowed myself exactly two sobs, then I pulled my shit together, locked myself in Chi Running mode, relaxed my face into the zen-like mask of a customer service representative, and ran like the wind (read: plodded like elephant) straight to the finish.
The third time was immediately after crossing the finish line. About ten feet to the finish, my heart and mind exploded with joy! excitement! terror! disbelief! exhaustion! transcendental meditation! and I literally leapt across that mythical paint stripe with a smile about 13.1 miles wide. I stumbled past the finish line medical tent in a haze, hearing shouting and beeping and god knows what other commotion that I couldn’t make heads nor tails of. Amongst other dazed finishers, I limped straight to the corral wall, put my elbows on the rail, my head on my elbows, and cried my eyes out.
So, yeah. I’d pretty much say that my first half marathon was the most epic experience ever. I had the luxury of recovering with a barefoot stroll on the beach in Carmel. To my utter astonishment, I only had two small blisters, both of which were gone in two days. I was sore from head to toe on Monday, and from abs to ankles on Tuesday. My knees were fine, a little tender on Sunday afternoon, but not excruciating.
I’ve said before that I can’t believe that I, Elaine, the chubby asthmatic kid who could barely run a mile, can run at all. One mile, three miles… thirteen miles?! You’ve got to be shitting me! However, I have the photos to prove it.
The only thing that I would change from the whole thing is the fact that they “lost” about a third of their finisher medallions, so I didn’t get my medal at the finish line. 🙁 That was a bigger letdown than finding out about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. However, they apparently “found” them a few days ago and will be mailing me one, stat.
I also have a very healthy respect for my upcoming Big Sur Marathon in May of 2011. Look out, Big Sur! Here I come!
Click on a thumbnail to launch my mini half-marathon gallery.
I would like to thank my boyfriend’s mom for making this whole wonderful experience happen. She registered me, planned our entire trip from Reno to Monterey, got us incredible rooms, picked out a fantastic restaurant for a pre-race day dinner, looked up directions to the starting line, got me there promptly at 5:45 a.m., met me at the starting line for company and photo ops, took photos along the course, staked out a spot near the finish line for more photo ops, and got me back home in one piece. Love!