First Half Marathon: The Lessons I Learned

Before the start of the half marathon

My very first Half Marathon is a fact! Yes, you read that right, I ran my very first Half Marathon. This is my furthest distance up to date, and it was scary and nerve-wracking but also exciting and incredibly exhilarating! Even though I have been running for quite some time now, even I make mistakes, and looking back I find that there are some things that I would have done differently now I know what running 21,0975 kilometers is like.

1. Don’t do ANYTHING the week before the race

You’re gonna roll your eyes and say “damn Iris, you actually made that mistake, that’s the golden rule before race days” and YES I admit it, it was stupid as hell, but I did make the mistake. I didn’t go on a run that week. Nor did I train my legs in the gym. What did I do? Train my biceps and abs in the gym… I wanted to work off some steam because I was really nervous, so I figured that since I don’t run with my biceps it would be fine. NOT. I was really sore after training them, and a sore body equals a tired body. Tired body before running your very first half marathon is not a good combination.

2. Avoid adding stress

There were two things that had me stressing out before going into the race. Firstly, considering it would be my very first time running a half marathon I was nervous already, but knowing I did something stupid and knowing it was going to affect my race doubled those nerves about tenfold. Secondly, someone had told me that the last three kilometers would be really hard. I was so afraid of  those final three kilometers in advance, that when I actually got to them I made them harder for myself because of what I thought  they would be like. Turns out that those three kilometers were pretty much the best part of the entire race and I didn’t enjoy them AT ALL because I had been so afraid of them in advance. Running such a long distance is already stressful enough, you need to avoid adding EXTRA unnecessary nerves to that.

3. Shit happens

Sometimes things happen that you just can’t foresee or change. During my second kilometer I got this stabbing pain in my right side. I still don’t know what it was, I never experienced it before, but it hurt A LOT. I kept running but had to slow down because it hurt that much. You can probably imagine how bummed I was. I trained my ass off for this, and then right at the start things don’t go as planned. Sucks, but shit happens, you can’t change it. All that kept going through my mind was that this couldn’t seriously be happening. Those first five kilometers were a struggle but then it faded away. Just as sudden as it came up it disappeared again. Around the ten kilometer point there was another kilometer or so that the same pain bothered me, but just as before it faded away again. Some things happen that you just can’t see coming. It sucks, but you have to go with it because you can’t change it. Will I try to find out what it was so I can make sure it doesn’t happen again? Absolutely! But during the race you will have to face whatever is happening and deal with it.

4. Don’t set a time goal

This might sound unrealistic because EVERYONE sets a time goal for themselves, but I wish I hadn’t. As you can read above my first half marathon was far from perfect and all of the things mentioned above kept me from finishing under the time I’d set for myself. I was quite disappointed at first until I realized that was so damn stupid. I just finished my first half marathon ever. Key words being: I FINISHED! Perks of that first race? It’s always a Personal Record.

5. Enjoy the little things

This too might seem like it speaks for itself, but sometimes it’s not. I was so busy with myself, with running and finishing the race, that I sometimes forgot to look around. The route was great, the supporters were awesome, and kindness and support come from so many different angles. Around the twelve kilometer point, this little boy handed me a cup of water. Imagine me, all red faced and starting to tire, and the little boy just pats my back and tells me “Come on miss! You can do this! You’ve come so far already.” I smiled at the boy and continued but what he said didn’t penetrate until after I finished. Just like my father’s antics. My dad ran the race with me (he’s the best support system a girl can wish for!) and he’s always been faster than me, when I started to tire he would crack jokes or race ahead and make funny faces, at that moment I just brushed it off. I mean, some moments I felt like I was dying, ain’t nobody got time to laugh when you feel like your legs are going to give out. But looking back these moments bring a big smile to my face. I genuinely think that if I would’ve been more open for these moments this race would have been much more enjoyable!

Looking back at my first half marathon there are quite some things that I could’ve done better, but in the end, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I finished my first half marathon and no one can take that accomplishment away from me. I learned from my mistakes and hopefully (probably) the next one will go much smoother. Running isn’t a walk in the park, it’s hard work, it’s pushing through pain, but that moment you cross the finish line is indescribable. That euphoria, that feeling of accomplishment, knowing your body is capable of running 21,0975 kilometers is indescribable!

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