My Half Marathon Journey

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Rochester Marathon Finish
I made it! And I was still alive!

So I’m not sure why I had the brilliant idea to run a half marathon. I am not a runner, whatsoever. Actually, I never have been any good at distance running. Even back n my younger days (aka the Glory Days) I was a sprinter. Running a mile to me seemed like a complete waste of time and effort. To me, there was a reason our coaches used long-distance running as a form of punishment. It was torture!

rochester half marathon shirt
Here is my official shirt that I got from running the Half Marathon. My Badge of Honor!

So when I got the idea to run a half marathon, I thought it was the first sign of me losing my mind. I got an email in late April from a local running store (they sell running shoes, clothes, etc.) telling me about the half marathon in my city. For some reason, it stuck with me. I wanted to try it. I still don’t quite know why. I think it was more that it was an enormous challenge for me. It’s something I never thought I would or could accomplish in a million years. So I decided to go for it. Just for that reason. You ever get the feeling when someone tells you that you can’t do something that you want to do it more than ever? Well, that’s how I felt about myself. I didn’t think I could do it. I legitimately did not think I could run 13.1 miles. And that is what pushed me to try it. To prove to myself that I can accomplish anything. No matter how insurmountable it may seem.

half marathon training 2
Me training for the half.

I told my long-time racquetball partner about the idea and told him that we should tackle it together and run the race. His response was less than enthusiastic. He didn’t know why in the world we would ever want to do it. Which is a good point, because when you actually weigh out the pros and cons, the cons do make a very strong case to sit your lazy as on the couch and never mention the words “half marathon” again. But I convinced him to at least train for it. He didn’t have to run the race, but let’s push each other to train for it. He agreed reluctantly and we decided to start training.

half marathon training
I think I was getting a sign from up above because this sign kept telling me to slow down….and I was NOT going fast!

The problem was, I didn’t know how to properly train for a half marathon. At this point, I could barely run a mile without stopping. So how in the hell was I going to be race-ready in 4 months? We looked online for all sorts of training regimens and ways to get ready for a race. We tried a bunch of apps on our phones. We finally found one that worked with the Under Armour “Map My Run” app. I used to have a Fitbit and that’s how I did all my tracking. But I finally had to get the Apple iWatch and have not looked back. So I could no longer track using the Fitbit app. It still will track but it uses the phone instead of the watch for the data. So it’s not the best way to track. The Map My Run app not only tracked our steps and progress, but it also gave us a training regimen and kept us accountable to each other. We made it a competition. Who could run the most miles in a week or a month? And we were off.

Like I said, at first I could barely run a mile without having to stop. The Map My Run app actually adjusted to me and my pace. In other words, it could tell I was a fat slob and took it easy on me. Essentially easing me into my big boy running pants. There were days when I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had always heard about this “runner’s high” that people got where they reached a certain point and no longer felt the pain and it actually started to feel good. Well, I have to tell you that I chased the hell out of that “runner’s high” and never found it!

My running schedule was Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. My “Easy runs” were Mondays and Fridays. Tuesday was usually a tempo run where I’d go at a slower pace, then increase my tempo for timed intervals, then end it at the slower pace again. Saturdays were my long runs. And some of them were absolute hell. I remember the first time I saw 8 miles on my plan I thought I was going to have a heart attack!

The training went fairly well. I ended up hurting myself a few times. My Achilles really started bothering me about halfway through my training. It looked like it had a big golf ball inside of it, and hurt like holy hell. I went to the doctor to get it checked out (knowing that I wasn’t going to stop running) and he told me he actually has the same issue. It’s because we run pronated, meaning our feet cave in. He suggested I go to that running store and get some custom fitted soles. I also do some work for a local podiatrist, so he took a look for me too. He ended up giving me a few inserts to try to boost my heel up when I ran. These worked tremendously and made the pain almost go away completely.

half marathon training
Same sign…different day. Both telling me to SLOW DOWN!

The next injury occurred two weeks out from race day. I was starting to taper, which apparently means that you lessen your training in preparation for the big race. Anyway, I was running on the sidewalk of a fairly busy road near my house. I was coming up to a stoplight and saw that the pedestrian light was on, so I figured I could keep going. I started running through and did not even see a car coming from the same way that I was coming from, trying to turn onto the road and beat an oncoming car to make the turn. He slammed on his brakes (they actually screeched). And I had to jump out of the way. I tweaked my knee pretty bad when I jumped suddenly, but thought nothing of it. I was pretty upset but kept on going. I didn’t get hit. So I figured no harm, no foul. When I got home, my knee really started acting up. It got to the point where I couldn’t bend it without the knee giving out. And if I turned inwards with my foot planted a pain shot through my body like a cannon. I went back to see the doc. He immediately diagnosed a torn meniscus but sent me to the orthopedic doctor to confirm and decide whether or not to have surgery. I decided to wait for that visit until after the race. I wasn’t going to stop.

So race day finally came and I was pretty damn nervous. I never took a look at the course, so I had no idea where I was going or how hard it was going to be. I barely made it to the start on time (one of the perks of having two young kids) and was surprised at how many people were there. I was going great. I decided to pace myself and run at 11 minutes and under. I got to the 5-mile mark with no problems at all. Until the hills came. Holy sh*tballs! These hills were no joke. My buddy that had been training with me is a cop in the city where I’m from so he knew the course very well. He said he’d meet me during the race and run a few miles with me. He met me at most of the hills and helped me push through. At one point, I tried to drink a cup of water that went down the wrong tube. After choking on that, I decided to take the water stops a little slower. But overall, it was fun. Sure, I can say that now. At the time I wanted to kick my own ass for ever attempting this in the first place. But I am very glad I did it. I made it to the finish. And felt it for a few days.

Rochester Marathon Finish
I made it! And I was still alive!

It was by far the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life, but it’s left me wanting more. I don’t know if that necessarily qualifies me as a runner now, but I do know that I have a full marathon on my bucket list. And it is something that I now know I can accomplish if I put my mind to it.

Here are some images of the race:

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