Knocking off a bucket list item, I recently ran the Red White and Boom Half Marathon.
I actually trained quite a bit leading up to it, though I never ran more than 8 miles (to be fair, I was planning on a 10-mile day a few weeks in advance but it started raining before I could finish and f*ck running in the rain).
What was supposed to be a stormy day on the 4th ended up being a beautiful morning, with not a single raindrop to be seen throughout the duration of the race.
When it was all said and done, I ended up meeting my goals in terms of pace at 8:23 per mile and crossed the finish line at 1:49:45 (I had hoped to be somewhere in the 8:00 – 8:30 range for pacing).
Having never ran a race further than a 10k, I picked up on a few ‘stages’ that you go through during a half marathon — starting with Stage One: Wishing you would’ve trained a little harder.
Stage One: Wishing You Would’ve Trained a Little Harder
The initial stage usually begins about 5-10 minutes before the start of the race.
You’re filled with existential dread and thoughts like, did I just waste 75 bucks to get halfway through this race and then walk due to a combination of cramps, exhaustion, and Andrew Bernard-esque nipple chaffing?
But, before you know it, the crowd of runners in front of you starts to move forward and it’s go time. No more time for self-doubt, it’s time to get serious.
Stage Two: Finding Your Pace Buddy
Early on — once the crowd of runners starts to thin out and smaller groups form — you’re gonna need to find your own pace buddy.
Now, you could do the smart thing and run alongside the actual pacers within the race. But I did not do that, as I showed up to the race a little late and was too far away from my would-be pacer. By the time the crowd thinned out, I couldn’t tell which pacers I had passed and who was the one 50 yards in front of me.
So then I just looked for someone who looked to be running a pretty strong, steady pace.
Occasionally, your pace buddy will leave you in the dust if they find a second gear. Or, they may fall behind. When this happens, you need to find a new pace buddy. There is no time to mourn the loss of your prior pace buddy.
Throughout the race, you may have anywhere from 1 to 10 pace buddies.
And then you’ll never see those people again.
But, they will forever live on in your memory as the people who helped get you from start to finish.
Here’s to you random strangers, who I ran alongside that fine morning!
Stage Three: Consider Kicking Up Your Pace and Then Thinking Better of it
My pace was pretty consistent across the board (aside from the hill at mile 11. Curse you elevation! Curse you!!).
But at some point, you’ll likely tell yourself, dang I feel pretty good right now — maybe I should see if I can go a little faster.
It’s best to quickly brush aside this overconfident thought and not do that.
Unless you’re actually competing, it’s best to stick with the pace you feel comfortable with. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out real fast.
Stage Four: Realizing Just How Crucial Those Gatorade and Water Stations Are
I never realized just how great a shot of electrolytes is before running this race.
I mean damn, they place those things at the perfect spots. Every time the going started getting tough, there were those beautiful volunteers with a cup of Gatorade to get me through til… well till the next hydration station.
God bless you, race volunteers. You are the real MVPs.
Stage Five: Grabbing Every Food/Beverage You See Once You Cross the Finish Line
At some point, you’ll eventually cross the finish line. After collecting your medal, the Pearly Gates open and you can reap the benefits of your hard work: a buffet filled with chips, bread bites, hot dogs, chocolate milk, more Gatorade (shoutout those electrolytes again), bananas, and of course, beer.