On Sunday I ran my first half marathon: the huffin puffin half marathon in Mount Pearl, just 15 minutes from St. John’s. I signed up for this race a couple of weeks ago, just to get the distance done. I’m hoping to move up to half ironman racing in 2 years time, so a half marathon under the belt would be a good first step.
My preparation, however, was far from optimal. I had a wonderful summer in Belgium with lots of travelling and a running volume of only 15km/week. When I got back to St. John’s, Tory (a fellow MBA student) asked if I wanted to join their running group for an 18k on a Sunday morning. I told myself I was gonna sign up for this 21.1k sufferfest if I could survive the 18k run without any shin pain the next morning. As you can probably guess, I didn’t have any shin pain and I joined their group one more time for a 19k run the next week.
Only one week later I would find myself at the starting line at 7:30AM, brutally early on a Sunday morning. I had set a very ambitious goal; I was telling everyone I was aiming for sub 1:45, but really I wouldn’t be happy with anything above a 1:40. Ambitious for a first-timer, eh? I figured I might as well try to go for a decent time because I was fairly certain I’d be able to finish the race.
The actual race
So here we are, at the starting line, waiting for a gun shot that wouldn’t come. Instead, they just shouted “GO!”. I started somewhere in the middle because I know myself: if I would start on the first line, I would adopt the pace of the 1:20 runners and find myself crawling before halfway. I started off running at a pace of 4:50/km. It felt really easy and everyone around me seemed to be more out of breath than I was.
The first waterstop was after 6km, and they had water and Powerade. I thought to myself: “it’s early in the race, my stomach can handle some energy drink and it will benefit me later on”. What I didn’t anticipate was that it is extremely hard to drink from a cup while running. Now imagine me, running with a cup of Powerade, figuring out how to drink it. I give it a first try and I manage to get half of the Powerade out of the cup. Unfortunately it didn’t go where it was supposed to go, instead it ended up all over my shirt and hands. No more Powerade for me!
I managed to contain myself and with my Powerade scented shirt I hit the 10km mark in 47’47”, right on track to run 1:40. The toughest part of the course was already done so I sped up a little and started reeling people in. Up until this point I hadn’t been passed by a single runner. On one of the last hills of the course I caught up with a guy in a yellow shirt. As soon as we passed the hill, we were pretty much running at the same pace so I stayed with him to keep myself from bonking later on in the race. We started chatting a bit and my new friend, Kevin, told me he had done 14 marathons in his life with a personal best of 2:46. Obviously, I picked his brain for some tips on when to speed up, how to drink from cups and how tough the course would get in the final kilometers. After running with Kevin for about 15 minutes, I decided it was time to go for it.
At the 14km mark I sped up to 4:30 pace, and I was feeling strong. I continued running strong and paying attention to my form until we had to run up a slight incline for about 1.5km into a brutal headwind. I was suffering. Suffering and counting down the minutes. At the top of the hill, there was a turnaround point and I was incredibly happy to be running downhill with a tailwind. I encountered Kevin, who was still on his way up the hill, and he gave me a thumbs up. The sign for me to dig deep and give everything I had left in my tank for the final 5km.
During those final kilometers, I was running at 4:15 pace and my legs were starting to give out. It was slightly downhill and that in combination with the distance was really taking its toll on my quads. I caught up to another guy and started drafting of him because I couldn’t go much faster. With only 2k left, I was suffering more than ever and I was trying not to slow down to keep up with my windbreaking buddy. Just out of nowhere, I sped up, passed him, and left him behind. He didn’t slow down, I just sped up while I thought I couldn’t go any faster.
After 1 hour and 38 minutes I turned into Bowring Park where the finish was located and I was extremely happy to be running a sub 1:40. I finished my first half marathon in 1:38:47 (gun time)!! And on top of that, my last 10km were covered in 44 minutes! This must be the first time in my life that I post a negative split!
Here’s the proof of me finishing:
Official results: 1:38:37, 36th overall (227 finishers) and 4th in the 20-29 AG. Not bad at all!
I’m sure I’ll have a nice story about the morning after pains and aches. At the moment, I have troubles walking and going down stairs…
To be continued!
“Yes b’y! Fire up a scoff!” – Make some food