I ran my first half-marathon yesterday. This has been on my to-do list for a very long time, along with finishing my book, completing an olympic distance triathlon, and biking across country. One step at a time here, though…I attribute two factors to getting me through this race: Personal pep-talks and my music.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles. I didn’t think I would be able to do this, since the longest race distance I had run up until yesterday was a 10k(6.2 miles)–the half marathon seemed way out of my league. And then there was the problem with the training in the worst winter we’ve seen around these parts in many years. Trying to get in long runs between the snowstorms and the bitter cold was certainly a task. The sidewalks were completely impassable which forced me out into the road. I was as fearful of the angry drivers, who on more than one occasion, sidelined me into a snowbank, as I was fearful of slipping on the ice. I had hip pain and achilles pain and worried that these injuries would cause me to have to terminate my running for good. Everyone said that I should train on a treadmill but as any runner knows, it’s just not the same. Not to mention that two hours running on a treadmill is enough to make you go insane with the boredom.
So yesterday I drove to Hampton Beach with my friend Julie. A brisk 14 degress when I left my house at 8:00 that morning with a Northwest wind of 22 miles per hour. Great. But at least it was sunny. I complained much of the ride about how I was never going to be able to do this run. Without Julie’s matter-of-fact attitude that she has toward all races, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to pull this off. “You”ll be fine– you can do this,” was her mantra to me, over and over to the point I was sure she wanted to punch me in my whining face and push me out of the moving car.
I knew the key to finishing this race was my pacing. In other 5k’s, 10k’s, and sprint trithlons I am in race mode–always worried about beating my previous time. When those races start I am usually out of the gate fast and furious, trying to pass as many people as I can at the beginning.
I knew this tactic would not work for the distance involved. So I started out slow and steady, keeping my pace. What I noticed was that I was still passing some runners, without even trying. By the third mile I thought, ok, this isn’t bad, I just have to do this distance four more times… just keep moving.
I began giving myself a pep talk around mile 5. Come on, I said to my self, you have been through so much worse than this, you can do this. I pictured myself in the chemo chair for hours at a time and remembered how hard it was to watch and feel that poison going into my veins. I thought about the many weeks I was not allowed to run, or too sick to run. This silly run should be a piece of cake, I told myself. By mile 6 I was still feeling strong.
After mile 7 two things happened. Once I passed the half-way mark, I realized that I had less left to run than I already had finished and I also knew that If I stopped to walk at this point than my legs would start to tighten up. I knew I had to keep going. I did the math over and over in my head– 7 miles down/6 to go. 8 miles down/5 to go. I can so do this.
There are some runners who claim that real runners don’t need to listen to music while running. Well, if that is indeed true, than I am not a real runner, because without my music I would never be able to run to the corner and back. There are particular songs that simply keep my mind occupied enough that I don’t concentrate on how much my lungs hurt and others that get me so fired up I could run up mountains effortlessly.
At mile 9 we turned a corner and began the run back along the North Hampton coast line. The incredible views of the sparkling ocean to my left beneath a crisp clear sky and the fantastic mansions to my right kept me going. It was at this point my music became so important. And this song poured into my ears:
And suddenly I wasn’t tired anymore.
At mile 11, I knew that I only had 2 miles to go, but I also knew that I had never done more than 10 1/2 miles in training so everything after this was more than I could do. My thighs were burning and although I was lucky that both my achilles and my hip were still pain-free, the bottom of my right foot felt weird and it was getting increasingly harder to move my legs. But I was saved by the Black Keys:
This put a strut back in my step long enough to get me to mile 12 and then I knew I had really done this. I picked up my pace enough to pass a few runners while singing out loud:
And then, Edward Sharpe took me over the finish line….
Ooh, ahhh, Yeah, ya,ya,ya…..
I saw a lot of people running without music. I would love to know how they do that, what kind of pep-talk they give themselves. These runners may not consider me a true athlete because I wear an I-pod but I say, the fact that I even finished a 1/2 marathon makes me enough of a real runner as anyone–to me at least, and that’s all that counts.