After many weeks of planning and training, yesterday I ran my first 1/2 Marathon. As I wrote in my preview post, my realistic goal time was 2:10. My “dream” time was to finish in under 2 hours, which I knew was a bit of a stretch, but figured it could be doable if everything was clicking for me and I was “in the zone”. But again, since it was my first 1/2 Marathon, I really tried to not put too much pressure on myself to have a great race, and instead just go out there and have fun and enjoy the whole experience.
First, a Note on the Event, Volunteers, etc.
Considering that this was my first “big” race and that I don’t have anything to compare it to, I thought that this event was extremely well organized. There were aide stations every 2 miles or so with water and Gatorade, and there were volunteers everywhere. The course winds through a large trail system, where there are lots of branches and intersecting trails. There was a volunteer posted at every single fork in the trail where someone could possibly make a wrong turn. Every volunteer I saw was friendly and cheerful, clapping and cheering all the runners on. A big thank you goes out to all those wonderful people for helping to make it such an enjoyable event! And how can you not love a race with a course map like this?
Ok, on to the Race!
The race didn’t start until 9am, which gave me plenty of time to get a good night’s sleep, eat a light breakfast of oatmeal, and then head downtown to the start of the race. I got there about an hour before the start of the race, and had a chance to catch up with Sam of Operation Jack, who was in town to run the full marathon, which started at the same time/place as the half (if you’re interested, you can read Sam’s race recap here – spoiler alert: he LOVED the course and ran a great race!). This was his 38th Marathon this year, out of the 61 he’s got planned to raise awareness and money for autism. Sam was a really cool guy, and I wish I could have spent more time talking with him, but I’m glad he was able to make it up here and had such a great trip.
The first mile or so just kind of wound around downtown Anchorage until we made it down to the Coastal Trail, which – imagine that – follows the coast. My only real complaint about the 1/2 Marathon is that we actually don’t follow the Coastal Trail for very long (the full marathon follows it all the way out and back). At about mile 3, we branched off toward midtown. It was around here that I picked up my first water at an aide station, and learned my first lesson of running races – slow down when you’re trying to drink water/Gatorade from a small dixie cup. The first time around, I tried to just keep running full speed while I drank, and ended up spilling most of it down my front 🙂
From there we continued on mostly wooded trails until we hit the turnaround point around mile 7. When I hit the halfway point around 1:03, I knew a sub-2 hour finish was a long shot, so I just focused on running the best I could, not worrying quite so much about the actual time. At this point I was still feeling pretty good. There were a few points where my breathing kind of got away from me and I really had to concentrate on taking long, deep breaths to get it back under control.
Somewhere around this point I also had a bit of a celebrity sighting (at least a celebrity as far as Alaska goes – and no, I’m not talking about her) On my way inbound back towards downtown, I passed DeeDee Jonrowe on her way outbound to the turnaround. If you’re not from Alaska, you probably have no idea who DeeDee Jonrowe is, but she is one of the most famous Iditarod mushers in the state, holding the fastest time record for a woman. In 2003, she completed the 1,049 mile race just 3 weeks after completing chemotherapy for breast cancer. In other words, she’s one badass chick, and it was kind of a rush seeing her out running the same race as me.
Somewhere around mile 8 or 9 I could definitely feel myself starting to lose steam. My legs were still feeling good, and my feet and ankles weren’t bothering me at all, but I was simply just running out of fuel in the tank. It was around here that I saw a guy holding up a sign that read “If everyone could do it, they’d call it a 5k”. At first, I kind of chuckled a bit, but as I continued on running and thought more about it, it actually kind of pissed me off. Sure, a 1/2 marathon is quite a bit more difficult of a run than a 5k, but that doesn’t mean we should be diminishing the accomplishments of those running a 5k. It wasn’t all that long ago that I couldn’t run a 5k myself, so I know all-too-well how much of an accomplishment being able to run a 5k is. But I digress…
By around mile 11, I was pretty much running on fumes, but I knew I was getting close to the end, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Within about 1/2 mile of the finish, there was one last big hill that just about did me in, but I continued to run up the entire thing, however slow it may have been. Just after reaching the top of the hill, a group of us actually got stopped by a cop that was directing traffic and needed to let a fire truck through. This held us up for probably 30-60 seconds, but the short break may have actually been a bit of a blessing after having just run up that last big hill. The cop was very nice about the whole thing, apologizing several times and saying that they would get us going again as soon as possible.
Shortly after the fire truck got through and we started running again, we turned a corner and the finish line was in sight within about 1/4 mile. At this point, a huge sense of elation came over me, knowing that I was all but done at this point. I could hear lots of people cheering and screaming at the finish line, and even though I didn’t have much left in me at this point, I picked it up and finished strong. Shortly before the finish line, I spotted my wife and kids cheering me on, and there even happened to be a few other people I knew in the crowd that I heard shouting out my name, which was a pretty amazing feeling.
In the end, just 19 weeks after stepping out the door for my first run ever, I finished my first 1/2 Marathon in 2:06:09. I may not have made my “dream” time, but I was extremely happy with how I did. And like I’ve said before – the best thing about your first race is that it’s always a PR 🙂
Update: I just looked up my official chip time from the race, which takes an extra 17 seconds off my time – 2:05:52 🙂