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My First Half Marathon- A Recap

I shared last week in my reverse bucket list that I ran a full marathon in 2010. I was a freshman in college at the time and was so scared of gaining the "Freshman 15" that I decided I would train for a marathon and then I could eat whatever I wanted. The plan worked brilliantly, but I haven't been motivated to run further than 3 miles since. 

I've done my fair share of at-home workouts over the past few years including a lot of Jillian Michaels and P90X3. Last November, Alex and I decided to go for a spur-of-the-moment run around our new house. It felt incredible. I remembered how much of a release running had been for me freshman year, and it brought me back to the days that I spent training. For the next couple of months I started consistently running, and around January decided that maybe I should train for something. I've always wanted to do a half marathon, so I decided that would be my goal. But I decided that I also wanted to shoot for an under 2 hour half marathon. This averages to be 9:09 per mile. I am NOT a fast runner- my marathon was 11:15 or something like that per mile so cranking it to 9:09 was a pretty lofty goal. But since I had started running in November, I had been consistently running around 9:30 a mile so I figured it was a doable goal. 

I chose the half marathon I did because the course didn't look terribly hard, but I mostly chose it because it coincided on a weekend that my family was coming up to Denver to watch my brother play lacrosse. I had my family and a couple of friends at my full marathon and it made the biggest difference in the world. My husband, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, my in-laws, my brother in law and his girlfriend, and one of my very best friends all showed up to support me. Let's just say that I had the best cheering squad at the race. Now, onto the race.


{This was at the starting line... I was SUPER nervous}

I was nervous, you guys! Like really nervous! I wanted my goal time so bad but was nervous about achieving it. I didn't particularly like being nervous, but it was kind of cool to feel that nervous/competitive energy that I hadn't really felt since playing tennis in college. Several days before the race we had had freezing rain and snow, and I knew the course could potentially be really muddy. The forecast that morning was cloudy around 35 degrees with a chance of rain. This was actually perfect for me- I run way better in sub-50 temperatures, I was just hoping it wouldn't actively be raining through the race. I woke up at 4:45 the morning of the race, tossed and turned until my alarm went off at 6. Alex drove me to the race and after 45 minutes of warming up and trying not to get too nervous, I lined up and waited for the starting gun to go off. 

Miles 1-4
My strategy was to go a little bit slower than my goal pace for the first 2 miles of the race so that I wouldn't get tired and hit a wall later in the race. My goal pace for the first 2 miles was 9:15 or 9:20 and this had been really hard for me to do during my training runs (I always started running way quicker). The first quarter mile of the race was seriously muddy despite the race organizers best efforts to put bark down. The mud helped me start slower and I was able to keep a 9:20 pace for the first two miles. I actually kept the 9:20 pace (unintentionally) for the first four miles which started to be a serious mental challenge because I started worrying that I wouldn't be able to make up the time later. 

{This was about mile 5 and I felt good}

Miles 5-9
This course ran alongside a beautiful lake that was absolutely stunning, and had I not been so worried about my time I would have stopped to take pictures because it was gorgeous. This particular stretch of the race was mostly concrete which was a huge deal for me. I had done the majority of my training runs on concrete and prior to hitting concrete I was running on a trail that was fairly muddy in spots. The mud had slowed me down and so I was able to crank up my pace on the concrete (my fastest mile, 8:22, was during this concrete portion). There were a couple of ladies that I kept passing then kept passing me so the little cat and mouse game helped me keep a quick pace. 

Miles 6-7 got a little bit tough because I kept wondering when I was going to turn around. This was also the stretch where I didn't see my cheer squad for about 4 miles, so I just kept thinking to myself "just a little bit further until I see my people". 

{This was mile 10 and as I'm sure you can tell, I felt like death}

Mile 10-12
This was the hardest part of the race for sure. I saw my people at mile 10 and knew it would be the last time that I saw them before the finish line. After the race, they made sure to let me know that I looked like death at mile 10. Thanks guys. There was a lady in front of me that I had passed forever ago and all of a sudden she passed me again. I kept up with her but she was crankin it out at a 7:40/mile pace, and I eventually lost her after a mile or so, but trying to keep up with her meant that my 10th mile was a quick one (8:37). 

I felt really gassed at mile 11 (probably from going way too fast in mile 10), but a lady that I had been running either right in front of or right behind  most of the race passed me and yelled "we're almost there". That was exactly the boost I needed, and a perfect example of why the running community can be so dang awesome! 

The rest of mile 11 and 12 all I could think was "If I ever get the idea to do this again, someone shoot me." I also started counting down from 100 to distract myself from my misery. 

The Finish 
The race organizers didn't put a "Mile 13" sign out (for you half marathoners- is this normal??) and I kinda got thrown for a loop. I rounded the corner and realized I was closer than I thought so I started picking up my speed as much as I could. I glanced at my watch and saw that I was at 1:58 so I told myself "Go Sarah go, you're going to make the 2 hour mark!" 

I sprinted as fast as I could towards the finish line but the last quarter mile (right before the finish line) seemed muddier than when I had started and I felt myself getting stuck. I was focused on trying to get through the mud without twisting an ankle and just felt this incredible frustration as I felt myself slowing down. 

I crossed the finish line and glanced down at my watch and saw 2:00:06 (2 hours, 6 seconds). At this point, I could care less. My husband, family, and friends were all at the finish line and all I could do was bend over and catch my breath. I got really super dizzy and it took a good several minutes before I caught my breath and was ready to smile for pictures. 

{"All About That Bass"- one of my favorite songs during training}

{My in-laws with the funniest sign}

{5280 is the feet of elevation of Denver... that's my beautiful momma}

I smiled for my fair share of pictures as the elation of finishing my first half marathon set in. I was happy with my time- it wasn't the 2:00:00 or less that I had hoped but I just knew that if the last part of the course hadn't been so muddy, I totally would have reached my goal. Since then I've had my moments of "if only I had run faster here...", but for the most part I've been content with my time. I knew that if the weather conditions were different, my time probably would have been different too. 

I finished 51st overall (out of 163 runners), 7th out of 30 in my age division (Females 20-29 years old), and 17th out of 97 females. I felt pretty proud of how I finished considering it was my first half marathon, and my stats leaves room for improvement in my next half!  

{Most of my people.... from top left clockwise: my hubby, one of my closest friends, my brother in law and girlfriend, my brother's girlfriend}

I stood around chatting with my friends and family and just enjoyed being done with the race! My people were awesome you guys. I guess someone along the course that was running close to me said, "Man I wish I was Sarah!" Someone else said, "I guess Sarah must be about to pass me!" And one lady said with desperation in her face, "My name is Michelle" and my squad started cheering for her by name. Having all of them there with their awesome signs made the race so much more fun and made all the difference in the world. 

It's been two days since the race... will I do a half marathon again? Probably. Will it be anytime soon? Probably not. Towards the end of my training I was getting tired of how much of my time it was taking, so for now I think I'm just going to enjoy running whatever mileage I want at whatever pace I want.

Oh yeah, and after the race one of the booths was giving out a fitbit to whoever could hold the longest plank. You were also entered in a drawing for a gym membership and some pretty awesome other prizes. So even though I was exhausted, I had to try. My brother's girlfriend beat my mom and I, and none of us were close to the longest time that won the fitbit (7 minutes something). 

{Check out our form! ;) }

If you're wondering, I used this half marathon training plan. I have an upcoming post explaining why I chose that plan, and some of my tips on how to avoid injury while running. 

In case any of you were wondering, my splits (according to my GPS) are below. 

Mile 1    9:23
Mile 2    9:15
Mile 3    9:15
Mile 4    9:18 
Mile 5    8:58
Mile 6    8:22
Mile 7    9:13
Mile 8    9:18
Mile 9    8:29
Mile 10  8:37
Mile 11  9:03
Mile 12  8:56
Mile 13  9:11

Final Time: 2:00:06
Average Split: 9:11

{All my people minus my Dad and brother who had left already for my brother's lacrosse game}

Would you or have you ever run a half marathon? If you have run one before, what's your strategy for running it? 
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  1. GREAT JOB! You're amazing!

    And WOW a seven minute plank? Kill me!

  2. So awesome girl!!!! I did one in March, but did not train ;) Your times are rocking it, esp that sub 9 min mile!

    7 minute plank, NO WAY!!!

    So glad you had friends and family there <3

  3. Oh man, so many things to comment on.
    1. It's hilarious that you were like "I will never do this again!!!" and then you were like "at my next one..." ha! Love it.
    2. You do look dead in that mile 10 pic. That's how I feel too at that point.
    3. I love that other people were wanting to be you so they could have signs! I have totally done that before because I see the same people all over the course with signs, and I think good grief that person has a good cheering section!
    4. THAT SUCKS you were just 6 second away from under 2 hours! Oh my gosh. How annoying. Now you HAVE to do another one, because you can totally beat that!
    5. I am a huge fan of the FIRST training program. 3 days a week is my jam. Before I got pregnant, I had just started a training plan for my goal of an under 1:50 half marathon. Obviously that's been put on hold for now ;)

  4. Haha thank you! And I know right?? The lady didn't tell us before we tried what the winning time was because she didn't want to crush our spirits. Glad she didn't mentioned it. Maybe my next goal will be a 7 minute plank :p

  5. Caroline I am SO impressed that you did one without even training!! I felt terrible and I did train- you're a superstar yourself! And 7 minutes... crazy right?! I would, at the very least, get bored!!

  6. I had a really good cheering section... I almost felt bad is that weird? But it was awesome. And the 6 seconds was really lame but I tried to be happy with it because if it wasn't such a muddy mess I would have been good. But, yes, that's sort of why I want to do another one. Although there's some ones that are pretty but hard so it could be fun to do one of those and not stress out about time so much. That FIRST program is great, I'm so glad I read about it on your blog! I totally tell everyone about it because I feel like it worked SO well... I remember one week my 6 mile run was my long run and I was like oh my gosh I'm going to have to do a 6 mile tempo run eventually?! And a few weeks later I was hitting all my times for my 8 and even 10 mile tempos which was AWESOME to see. When Baby Bum comes you could do the FIRST program for a sub 1:50 half... while pushing a running stroller! That would be totally killer! The thought of you doing sprints/speedwork while pushing a stroller makes me laugh :D


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