Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My first half marathon, part 1: What led me there

Last Saturday I completed my first half marathon. I can recite my official time, 2:38:23, in my sleep. That time was right about where I wanted to be. Although I could have maybe run it a bit faster. But, my goal was to finish.

The road that led to this half marathon has been long. Until a year ago, I never envisioned myself being any more than a casual runner. I ran cross country for a year or two in high school, mostly for fitness, and I came in almost dead last at the regional meet one year. I ran throughout college and graduate school, because it felt good to get away from studies for a while. I got away from running in my adult, mom years. I took it up again in 2009, but in the last 2 years my motivation had waned a bit. My excuse: No time. My legs felt weak. It was too cold out. My hips hurt. I wish I had known about myofascial release then.

I believe opportunities, and teachers, present themselves at exactly the time you need them, if you are open to seeing them. The Universe works like that. So, almost exactly a year ago, I found myself in Ashland, Wisconsin. It happened to be the weekend of the Whistlestop Marathon and Half Marathon. The Hermit's apartment was about six blocks from the finish line, so I wandered down there to check out the scene. I watched the runners as they triumphantly crossed the finish line. I felt the energy from the spectators. And, I thought to myself, "I could do this! And it would be fun!" So the seed was planted.

My training began in winter. Here in Minnesota we were blessed/cursed with a lot of snow in the winter of 2013-2014. So I did what any insane Minnesotan would do: I went cross country skiing. And I loved it. So much, I skied 10 kilometers across Chequamegon Bay, from Ashland to Washburn, Wisconsin, in the dark.

But, alas, spring came slowly to the Northland. March and April were in between seasons, not enough good snow for skiing but not warm enough/snow thawed enough for running. According to Map My Run, I ran three times in April. As I recall, it was a disappointing baseball season for my oldest son as well, the whole season being crammed into three weeks in May.

I remembered my thoughts about the half marathon in May. About the same time, my daughter was taking an interest in fitness and healthy eating, and working out. I thought again about how I would like to lose some weight, and thought "So what's my excuse?" I could think of none, so I started running. Two or three miles at first, with a pace over 12 and usually 13 minutes per mile. But I was running, and I remembered every good thing running ever did for me. I remembered how it kept me sane in insane times.

As the weeks went by, I started increasing my mileage. I had never run over seven miles at one time, and when I reached that distance it was a milestone. Seven miles is kind of the bridge between casual runner and serious commitment. On one July evening, as I was waiting for Joe's marching band bus to return from the day's activities, I logged on to the WhistleStop Marathon page, and I registered for the half marathon. Commitment.

to be continued


robin andrea said...

I'm so glad you wrote this all down. I've been wondering how you got started running down this path. It's a great story!

Pablo said...

A year from now, we'll be reading about your full marathon adventures. But until then, let's hear more about this epic half.