This half marathon was so much more difficult than my first. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a moment when I wanted to quit (there were several), but in the end I persevered. It’s hard to even know where to begin for my race recap. Chronological order makes the most sense so let’s start at 5:15am, October 20th, 2013.
My alarms were not set to go off in their strategically sequenced ringing until 5:45, but at 5:15 my mind told my body it was time to go. I popped out of bed and gathered all my race gear before heading off to the site. First surprise of the morning–I was greeted at my door with a frigid wall of ice wind. For some reason I had this expectation that the weather would somewhat mimic the weather of the morning before (BIG miscalculation…did I forget where I live??). The 40 degree weather prompted me to go grab an extra layer.
I made it to the race site an hour and a half before gun time and started to settle in and explore the area. I’ve been in Durham countless times, and I am all too familiar with Tobacco Road specifically, but everything looks quite different at 6am just hours before a half marathon. I had some friends show up to wish me well and my racing companion made her appearance about 30 minutes before the start.
It had not warmed up at ALL, but we still decided it would be best to run in our tanks and not have to lug around extra layers, so we stripped off our jackets. I hated this decision for the 10 minutes we waited for the start, but by mile 5 I was thankful to have nothing but my body to carry up the hills. After stripping off our extra layers, we had to find our pace group. Our first half marathons had been similar 11 min/mile paces, but, alas they didn’t have any pacers slower than 10:30. We found a spot near the back and gave each other one last look of “why are we doing this again?” As the start bell rang and the thousands of people in front of us started to walk, jog, and finally run, we knew there was no turning back.
Durham very quickly greeted us with some little hills, luring us into a false sense of security. If THESE were durham’s hills, this wouldn’t be so bad! Mile 3 came by fairly quickly, and by my watch’s count we were maintaining an 11ish minute pace. Then it hit me. There was a sharp pain in my left hip. Not a searing or stabbing pain, but more of a pulling. I could run through it.
Mile 4-It was around this time that I took inventory on how my body was doing overall. Legs- feeling okay. Shoulder- pulling a little (running puts some strain on your arms due to holding them up for so long and swinging). Lungs- struggling a little (around mile 7 I realized this was due to an unused, forgotten inhaler sitting uselessly in my car). Hips- same pulling on the left side.
Mile 5- One of the hardest miles yet because this is where the 5 miler racers broke off to their finish line. I can’t describe the self control it took to not veer right and run under their banner. This is when Jen turned to me and said “You were right. I hate them a little for being done.” RIGHT? But alas, our journey had 8.1 more miles.
I started realizing I probably wouldn’t be able to keep Jen’s pace. The consistent hills were taking a toll on my body and it was screaming for a respite. We decided to rest at the 5.5 mile water table, but shortly after that I convinced her to go on without me. I never want to hold someone back from their best. She reluctantly took off, I stopped for a stretch and contemplated my next move. I had 7.1 more miles to go-now solo- and I had little confidence my body could push through it. I started to secretly search for a police officer or course monitor that had a golf cart. The golf cart would be my salvation. Alas, as I jogged the next mile or two there were none in sight, and by mile 8 I decided there’s no way I’d forgive myself if I didn’t finish. I had no time goals for this race. My goal was training. My goal was finishing. An inner battle was waged:
Suck it up. You’ve done it before
Yeah, but not with THESE hills.
Your body hasn’t given up. Why have you?
Eventually that stubbornness won out, and I knew I’d finish. I picked up my pace and drove as hard as I could for the next 20 minutes. There were no milemarkers in sight. Twenty-five long, grueling minutes passed. I told myself if the next marker I saw said only mile 9, I would quit. I would not accept a 25 minute/mile pace. Just then I came over the top of another hill (hill number 5,672 for those who are counting), and saw the blessed mile 10 marker at the bottom beckoning me down the hill. The declines were almost as bad as the inclines on the course. The pounding of my feet against the pavement rattled through my ankles, knees and all the way up to my hips. Keep going. It’s only a 5k from here.
I passed a guy holding a sign that said something along the lines of “only 16,452 more feet.” I wasted one precious breath to inform him that I hated his sign. He took it in stride (I think he’d heard that a lot), and cheered me on. Mile 11 came and went asI tried to psych myself up for the final bit. By now the racers had thinned out, and I ended up running with the same people for the last two miles. It gave me someone to keep up with. I really wanted to finish with “the girl in the pink,” but then this guy running barefoot with a backpack slowly inched past me, and that’s when I kicked it up. No way was a barefoot, backpack guy going to beat me to the finish! I dug in and made it past mile 12 and made a left turn into the final stretch.
It was long and uphill and you could see the finish line beckoning you home. I took one last walking respite. I’d reached the point where finishers were coming back to cheer on their friends. I picked up to a jog again, willing my body the last 300 feet. Then Jen appeared from behind the crowds and jumped into stride with me. It lifted up my spirits just that little bit I needed to pull out the running finish. We hit the finish line together, her for the second time, me for my first. We joked, laughed and cursed the hills that had almost stolen the finish from us. We recapped all the crazy signs we read along the way and babbled about some of the more scantily clad racers. We had done it.
I finished around 2:54 -Nearly 30 minutes slower than my first. It seems backwards to have gone slower my second race, but for me this time meant two things. 1) my first time was really good 2) the durham hills suck. I also knew as I crossed the finish line that April Mary could NOT have completed this half marathon. My training had paid off. That realization is further supported by the fact that I am up and walking today. Sure, my body is sore and some of my joints feel less than springy, but this is NOTHING compared to the Mary post first half marathon. She couldn’t walk for 2 weeks. She went to the doctor worried about a stress fracture. I am not her. I am stronger than she ever was (and she was pretty strong).
I met all of my goals for this half marathon (and more). I will never do these races for time. I’m not racing against anyone but myself. I’m not trying to beat anything but my own goals. For this half my goals were as follows:
1. Train consistently
3. Be able to function afterwards
I accomplished everything I set out to do. Thank you everyone for the support and encouragement. I think my next goal will be the Nike Women’s half in DC….evidently that half marathon ends with being awarded a unique tiffany’s finisher necklace from firemen in suits. I can see why this is a women’s half. That one isn’t until April though, and I am potentially trying to find some sort of tough mudder or spartan race prior to that. Either way, the Durham Bull City Half Marathon is done, and this girl is going to take a few days off.