Today, I completed my first ever Half Marathon. A year ago, I seriously questioned whether I would be able to complete a 5k. Go back and read this post. I remember writing that post and downplaying how scared/nervous I was to do the 5k. I actually made myself go run 5k on a treadmill the week before the race, just to make sure I could do it. I thought about that today, when I cruised past the 5k mark during the half marathon. The distance seemed almost short now. Life has moved a long way in the last year.
So, I did almost no research about this particular race today. I didn't know the course, how many people to expect, etc. I knew the start time, the location and the distance. When I arrived, I was amused to discover that there was a 10k and a half marathon, both of which started at the same time. Everyone would run the 10k, and then the half marathoners would do another loop of the same course. Just before the race, the MC gave a bunch of instructions in German, which I didn't follow (wasn't really trying). I figured I'd just follow everyone else and that ended up working out just fine. One of the biggest downsides of running two laps was the depression I felt when the leaders for the half marathon lapped me just before I finished my first lap. Those guys were flying.
This was probably the smallest run I have done. All told, there were probably about 1000 people running, but spread out over 13.1 miles, much of my run was quite lonely, particularly on the second lap. Essentially, for the second half of the race, I ran by myself. There were a few people about 50 yards ahead and 50 yards behind. Another consequence of the small field of runners was the small number of supporters. Crowds were very sparse and I never realized how much I enjoyed the cheering during a race. And there were no fun signs, either.
Running this race was both very meaningful and kind of sad. I ran the first lap without stopping or walking and made all the way to mile 8 before I walked at all. Pretty damn sure this is the farthest I've run without any stopping and I was moving at a pretty good speed for me (around 10:30/mile). In total, I walked probably less than 3 minutes. I've spent the past 8 weeks or so training and was proud of how I was doing. Yet, 90% of the field was ahead of me. It still stings that I can put in all of this work, and still not actually be very good at it. I am proud, immensely proud, that I completed this race. Simply completing this race puts me into an elite group of people. BUT, among the people within that group, I'm still not very good at it.
The second sad aspect of this race was that I didn't have anyone to share it with. Let me be clear - I have plenty of support for my running. Family and friends across, I believe, 5 continents offered me support through facebook and e-mail. But none of those people live in Frankfurt. I didn't have anyone cheering my on the sidelines. I didn't get to high five any of my friends during the switchbacks. No one met me at the finish line. It wasn't the end of the world, but I kind of missed that. (I fully expect to have supporters for the Frankfurt marathon. Darmstadt was 1/2 hour away and it's a holiday weekend, so that made it harder).
The last few miles were a real killer. As the course was set up, you went just past the entrance to the stadium at mile 12 (19km) and had to circle the stadium before coming back to the finish. I honestly didn't feel all that bad at this point - I wasn't out of breath, my back didn't hurt, my knees were a bit mushy, but not awful. I thought I might be able to give a little kick for the last mile. So my brain instructed my legs to go a bit faster...and my legs refused. Try as I might, I could not move any faster. A group of three lazily passed me while chatting away the late morning (I abhor talking runners, they make it seem too easy) and I couldn't move any faster. I had never had my body refuse a command like this before - it was a wholly unique and rather unpleasant experience. After a half mile of this effort, I gave in and just made it my mission to finish. No final kick was gonna come.
Anyway - my final official time was 2:19:59