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I ran a freaking half marathon.

Funny face

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!

Racing by the sea

You can just barely make out the masses treading alongside the ocean

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.

The tunnel

The entrance to the mythical tunnel at Mile 2

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. AΒ  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.

Nearing the finish

Closing in on the finish… maybe a quarter mile to go?!

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. πŸ™ 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!

20 thoughts on “I ran a freaking half marathon.

  1. Congratulations!
    I know exactly the feeling you’re talking about. A mile before the finish line, you’re wondering why you’re doing this. A foot after the finish line, you’re wondering when the next one is.

    Thank you for sharing! πŸ™‚

    1. My Chi Running instructor told me I tend to “prance” when I run… I’m definitely prancing across that finish line in that photo. πŸ˜‰ Thanks so much! I can still hardly believe it happened…

  2. AWESOME!!! They’re addicting, huh? I’m still broken from my last race and considering whether to enter the NYC Marathon lottery. Terrified of the full mary distance…but you’re planning on it, huh? Big Sur is definitely on my bucket list, both to visit and race! Was it incredibly hilly? (My partner wants to know, she refuses to run anything with hills, especially after our last race. Steep hill at mile 12?!? Yeah that was a lot of fun. )

    1. AJ, they’re SUPER addicting! I remember at several points telling myself, “You are totally and completely miserable right now. You’ve never been this physically uncomfortable before in your life. Remember this because you’ll probably forget it all as soon as you cross the finish line.” πŸ˜‰

      The half marathon had, like, one hill, if you want to call it that. But the half is on a different course than the full. The full very well could have killer hills, considering it follows Hwy 1 between giant cliffs and the ocean — I think their website has a full video tour of the course if you want to preview it: http://www.bsim.org/site3.aspx

      I’m terrified and excited about the full. I think I need to start training, like, NOW to be ready for it by May. O_o;;;

  3. haha.. like is said on twitter the other day, you should SO leave the PROOF on there. It just works too well. I think the pics might lose a bit of charm without it. XD

    CONGRATULATIONS! I think I’m a bit better at keeping up my training when I have an impending race, but don’t think I have the balls for a half marathon quite yet. I am alternately SUPER PROUD of you, and SUPER JEALOUS of your balls. XD

    1. Thanks! My balls are blushing. πŸ˜‰ I’m nothing if not stubborn, lol.

      The idea of a half marathon is a lot to swallow. It took me maybe four years of (inconsistent) running before I got over the mental block keeping me from going from 5K to 10K.

      I don’t think I could wing a marathon like I winged this half, though — I should be more scared of the marathon in May, but it just sounds fun right now (with it safely in the far future).

  4. Congratulations!!! YOu did it!!!! 13.1 miles is no slouch distance! You go, girl!!!

    I plan to walk my first half-marathon next year — the Silver Strand Half on Coronado — not quite as scenic as Big Sur…but a nice level=ish course along the coast.

    BTW, Thanks for the Hello Kitty chopsticks! They are way kawai!

    1. Thanks Natasha! And I’m glad the chopsticks finally made it safely to you — I’ve been hanging onto those things for you for a while, even though I can’t even remember why I had them in the first place, lol!

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