One day before of a 15k race I met Jason, a fellow runner. He gave me several tips for my race, but the one advice that stuck in my mind was that I should keep a journal of my races, to have a hard copy of my feelings and thoughts. So here I am, writing the journal of my first half marathon.
I decided to run a half marathon in November of 2012. I trained from March to May of 2013, all in time for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon of San Diego, my current city.
My training included swimming, some Pilates, leg weights, and of course, lots of running. Friends ran with me on my long runs, or made me speed up in my tempo runs. Training was paying off, and I was feeling “physically ready” but not mentally, until somebody told me that if my body was ready, probably my mind was too. Words of wisdom.
Two weeks before the race, I had a bad run and ended up limping. I worked through it, got a massage and went to the doctor. Interrupted my training completely. However, the idea of not doing the race was not an option at all. Finally I decided to do the Half Marathon that I trained for, even if I ended up crying at the finish line.
Sunday, June 2, 2013. Woke up at 4:40am. Got my running clothes on, made coffee, had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and started walking to the trolley station. It was 5:15am, nice perfect-sweatshirt-San Diego weather. I was playing Ben Howard on my phone, while I waited patiently After a bumpy ride on the trolley with hundreds of other runners, we stopped and started walking to the start line. The vibe of the city was intense.
My friend Ben, who was also doing his first Half Marathon meets me at the bathrooms, where we wait for a long time. Finally we decide to start with corral 12, instead of 11, and just enjoy.
Mile 1 was full of excitement and smiles. My body was running as I wanted, and suddenly I listen to my Nike app saying I had a 9:58 pace for the first mile, –“Crap!, I was supposed to go slower first”.
So I slow down and enjoy the moment, but I immediately feel how the lack of training in the last two weeks is affecting me. I feel like a 200lbs woman trying to jog. But guess what? That big woman made it to mile 3, a 5k done. People are out of their houses holding signs with all kinds of fun non-sense. My favorite “Why always the cute ones run?”
Mile 4 is in sight. I take my shirt off like doesn’t matter that is an overcast day. I keep running in my sports bra and think that I only have nine more miles to go.
After 40 minutes of running my leg sends me a signal that it’s there, working through the exercise, I ignore it. Then I magically run into the pacing group with the 2:15 sign. I’m stoked! I’m not that bad and I’ll make it in a fashionably decent time. It’s mile 6 already. Hunger invades me so I have my GU energy gel when I find a water station. It’s been an hour that felt like 20 minutes. I let the pacing group go, or they leave me, rather. I know I’m going to finish at some point, so I take my time and listen to my body.
Around mile 7 I feel we are just doing circles through the neighborhoods. There is a downhill that makes the leg pain appear so I try to find a strike that doesn’t hurt. Then comes mile 8, young kids are giving more GU, I grab one, just in case. We turn left and there is a hill. Now I know why they were giving the gel a few meters before. People are walking up the hill, but I’m not. I’m working my calves and saying to myself I like hills (which I kinda do).
I can’t believe we are at mile 9, time is flying. We merge with the marathoners, who just did Texas St, a very steep hill. They inspire me. And then mile 10, everything after this is unknown territory for me. Never did more than ten miles in my training.
My playlist is great but doesn’t seem to do a lot to me. The road is getting tougher but we are close to Balboa Park, I know the downhill is coming.
Mile 11. The worse one. I’m tired, my leg hurts a lot, there are some little hills. I really want to walk, but there is no way I’m doing that, because I know if I do, I won’t be able to run again, I mean, jog, or whatever I’m doing at this point.
I see Downtown far away, needless to say, two miles seem a lot at the moment. I keep going, breathing, picking up my ankles and my feet from the ground. Finally there is a slope going down and I just let myself go and I pass just a few runners. Lots of people walking, but I refuse.
We go under a bridge, is dark, runners are cheering and screaming, I let a little scream of excitement go out of my mouth.
It’s mile 12 after the tunnel, I turn right and Cristian is there standing, looking everywhere. I smile, open my arms and hug him. We keep running, and he encourages me to go faster, I can’t, my leg is killing me. He gives me water and starts asking questions. I can’t answer nor talk. I’m tired but still focused. I just keep running. Cristian’s been there for half an hour and he’s freezing now.
The streets finally look like Downtown San Diego. I see everybody speeding to mile 13. I do my best, pushing, pushing. Spectators in the streets are saying “Just half a mile more!”, “Just nine more blocks!” It seems like an eternity to me.
I see the sign, and after it, the finish line and a big crowd.
I get strength from I don’t know where and speed up the last 400 yards to a 7:51 per mile pace, I’ve never done that before.
I’m striding long, and rushing into the finish line. I cross it and feel nothing. The only thing I feel is pain in my leg and relief that I don’t have to keep going. I start walking. Water, soaking towel, a banana, Jamba Juice. All. I just want my medal and leave, but I can’t walk. I’m grabbing Cristian’s arm. We go to the medical booth, they ice my upper leg and give me three layers of saran wrap. Doesn’t make a difference.
I feel ridiculous, I though I would be fine when I finished but I’m not.
Phone is ringing, text messages are popping. I meet Ben again, who finished half an hour ago. He is with Beth, my dear friend that doesn’t run, who is fresh as lettuce after being harvested. The morning sits her well. She hugs me and congratulates me. I just nod.
I find my sister, Sofia, she hugs me too. I’m just in shock for my leg. Disappointed. I finally sit down on the floor. Stretch, eat the banana and talk to Cris, whom I haven’t seen in ten months, and to Ben, who’s stoked for his amazing time and never thought he could do so.
I’m kinda mad. Moments go by fast, but suddenly is 10:30am. Where did those hours go?
Marco carries me to the medical tent. Lovely Dr. Melissa Hills massages my leg, says I’ll be fine, it’s a strain.
More ice, all over my right upper leg. She makes sure I’m not showing my derrière and covers it with my shorts.
I get one of those marathoner foil wrapper capes. It’s official now, I ran the whole thing.
I limp to the UPS truck to pick up my “gear”. Meaning my unfinished coffee thermo from the morning, my ID, keys and debit card. I remember I also have a sweatshirt, nice morning thinking Natalia.
We decide to go for breakfast in the neighborhood. They carry me there. I’m upset, in pain.
Sofia is calling everybody from my phone. Mom, friends, etc. I just smile and say thank you over the webcam.
We find a spot for breakfast but we have to wait for an hour to get a table. Ben gets me a latte and a croissant. We are sitting down and watch the marathoners arrive to the finish line after four hours and a half of running.
I limp to the restaurant and eat just because I have to, not because I really feel like it.
The day goes by, I go to sleep, in pain.
I wake up and I have that sense of accomplishment. Finally. I’m thirsty and I can’t even walk to the bathroom. Now I’m sore from the exercise. Calves and thighs are tight, blisters are itching.
I relax and spend the day in bed, resting. Then I stretch, take a bath, have some naproxen and crawl to the kitchen. But I don’t care now. I’m proud of it. I finished a Half Marathon. My first one.
My conditions were to never walk and to make it to the finish line. Check. I did so.
Two hours and twenty-nine minutes. Quite a journey, I want to do it again, but stronger, faster.
I’m fine now, I can walk slowly and carefully. People stare at me, but there is a story behind, and it makes me smile every time.