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My First Half-Marathon

It happened three weeks and 4,000 miles away from where I have been training for since June, but it was still the same 13.1 miles (21,1 km). Sarah and I carefully planned our Road to the Marathon, which started with a 5k in March, went to a 10k in June, and was supposed to include the Bass Pro Cohick Half-Marathon on November 4 and then the Little Rock Marathon in spring. Unfortunately, our “roads” have forked, and the terrain between the big stops (the races) isn’t the same anymore, but we still share the goal of working our way up to the marathon distance (26.2 miles).

So instead of running the route which starts and ends at Bass Pro that we have been training on since June, I ran a route I had never even seen before for the Giessener Walking Day (weird name for it, huh?). I didn’t know where the water stops and restrooms would be. I didn’t know if it was hilly or flat, shaded or sunny. I didn’t know if it was one giant loop (like the Bass Pro route), or a smaller loop I’d run multiple times.

It was a 6.55 mile loop that overlapped with the 10k-ers 3.05 mile out-and-back. And now we meet one of two aspects of this race that I strongly disliked. As I was doing what felt like a pretty good pace, the fast 10k runners (who started a full 10 minutes after we did) caught up, and suddenly my pace felt like walking. The fastest 10k ran yesterday was 33 minutes. That’s a 5’24” mile for six miles! So anyway, being passed by fast 10k runner after fast 10k runner was a big blow to my mental game.

I made it to the half-marathon turn around where THE water stop was and had mentally overcome being so slow compared to the other people on the course, so I just kept running. Normally, it is good to take those water stops, because by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, but I had on my fuel belt, so I had water with me and wasn’t too worried about getting some aqua when I did feel like walking.

About 3 kilometers out from the starting line, which signified half of the distance for the half-marathon runners, an older man caught up with me that I had been playing leap frog with the whole time (I’d pass him slowly, then he’d pass me, etc). He was fun to talk to and spoke some English to me even though I spoke German to him. Man, as difficult as it is to form German sentences during normal everyday life, it’s that much harder when you’re sweating, exhausted, and not even half-way done with your race! But I am determined to get as much practice as I can, and he corrected me a little bit, so it was fun to try. His name is Martin and this was a training run for him, as he is running the Frankfurt Marathon in two weeks. And now we get to the second aspect of this race that I strongly disliked.

Except for Martin and I, it felt like all the other runners were professionals, or at least were really fast. The first half-marathon finisher did it in 1 hour 16 minutes (that’s a 5’48” for 13.1 miles!). I did my first loop in 1 hour 10 minutes, which is a PR for me, as I did my 10k in June in 1 hour 15 minutes. Almost everyone at the race was a member of a team. Rob, who ran his 10k yesterday in exactly one hour (his goal time and a pace of 9’50”), was 150th place out of 163. It just isn’t like that at the races I’ve been to in America. There are usually a wide range of abilities, and I’ve never come in dead last like I did in this race (well, there was one lady behind me, but it sure felt like dead last!). I hope that this race was like this because it was a relatively small race. This would be awful to deal with for a marathon!

So anyway, Martin wasn’t out to shatter any records and was “running at his own pace,” just like me. It was nice to run and talk with someone for a little!

I took my carb shot as I hit the starting line and walked and talked with Rob for a few minutes. The carb shot didn’t hit me very good, so that third leg of the race was a lot of running for 5 minutes or so, then walking for a minute or a minute and half, gulping down some water, and running again. I even took a little stretch break to renew my body and mind a little. When I hit the turn around point for the last fourth of the race, I finally started feeling good, and I ran most of that leg pretty well. The the nordic walkers caught up with me.

As far as I can tell, nordic walking differs only from normal walking in that the nordic walkers use sticks and the “best ones” walk really fast. So fast that three of them caught up with and passed me! So about halfway through that last leg, my mental game, which was going through a strong period, plummeted, and I felt slow and worthless again. I let them pass me and pass me they did! Soon enough we were far away from each other that I could ignore them and bolster the last bit of mental strength. As I got closer to the finish line, about 1.5 km out, I saw Martin running towards me! He had finished his half-marathon in 2 hours 30 minutes, talked to Rob for a few minutes, then ran back out to encourage me! Martin von Wetzlar, if you ever read this, DANKESEHR! And even though I didn’t know it was you who had told the announcers at the finish line, I did hear them say it was my first half-marathon. Thanks!

So I crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 37 minutes, and 57 seconds. My goal time was 2 hours 30 minutes, but I didn’t want to be any slower than 2’40”, so at least I hit that goal. My pace was 12’08” per mile, which I am proud of. Not 11’00” or 11’30”, but I’ll get there. The biggest lesson I learned during this race is that I need to focus on my mental game more during my training runs. My body felt, overall, pretty good during the race, considering what I was putting it under (read: “My legs were killing me, but that’s what happens when you run long distances. Nothing hurt extremely bad, and I was able to finish on my feet and not on a stretcher. That equals ‘pretty good.'”), but my mind suffered blow after blow because of the other athletes on the course.

So when is the marathon???


5 thoughts on “My First Half-Marathon

  1. Pingback: Berlin Marathon Race Report: Km 14 to Finish Line (Pt. 2) | Linden's Pensieve

  2. Linden

    26 Mar on 2008 at 5:21

    @jazzyjo: You were there with me the whole time. But I still might have to try running with my mp3 player next time.

    @beth: Ha ha, I think that should be the marker of success. Then, except in the most extreme cases, I will have succeeded. :D

    @angie: I cannot tell you how good it feels to know that I am not alone in that suffering. It was awful. We aren’t running any more local races until we get much faster. The Berlin Marathon, however, should be just fine… ;)

    Maybe we need to start a petition: Slow People Against Mixed Races. Uh, maybe we need to work on our movement name, but I’m with ya.

  3. Angie

    26 Mar on 2008 at 0:36

    I just now read your Half-Marathon posting. Way to go girl! You did it! Excellent job!

    Corey understands what you mean when you talk about the shorter distance runners passing by and the mental frustration that brings. He ran the OKC marathon last year which also has a marathon relay at the same time. He talked about how frustrating it was especially toward the end when he was running out of gas and the new runner with the next leg of the marthon relay would come bolting out and pass him like he was standing still. We decided they should’t combine races…one distance at at a time. That way everyone is in the same miserable boat. :)

  4. Beth

    22 Oct on 2007 at 11:53

    My favorite line: “I finished on my feet and not on a stretcher.” Excellent! A success for sure :) We are proud of you, LInden!

  5. jazzyjo

    15 Oct on 2007 at 17:28

    Wow, you really had to overcome a lot yesterday! I am SO proud of you!

    Heather Myer lent me her iPod Shuffle and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (audiobook), and as much as I thought I would hate running with something in my ear, I really enjoyed it. It sufficiently distracted me from the fact that I was running alone.

    And I took some Advil before the run to stave off any minor aches and pains. I felt pretty good (mentally and physically) the whole time. I highly recommend it for your next big run!