This might sound crazy: I ran a half-marathon without training.
To some people, the act of running sounds crazy, let alone running for 13 miles. But, my passion for running had been building since I was in college and this year I thought I would test myself. Coming off of a fitness high from fight training, I decided that if I could jump in the ring and take punches, a foot race would certainly be no beast. It was not the worst possible thing in the world, but it was no walk in the park. The experience was more of a race against myself than anything else, and it showed me my mental strength.
I did not train for the race, but I was certainly in decent shape. I had been running regularly, around 6 to 10 miles total per week, leading up to the race. The thought to even race came after completing a cold, January run around Stroud’s Run State Park, near my home. It was the greatest distance I had ever run (7 miles) and recognizing how I felt after that run, I signed up for the 45th Annual Athens Marathon the following week.
The race was going to be a personal fitness benchmark. I would finally be able to gauge my level of fitness amongst my runner friends who knew all their “top times.” After some internet research, I decided that a good goal for the race would be 2 hours or below. That is what I carved into my mind, and acted as my motivation through the race.
It was a cold morning on race day. Mid-April in Ohio tends to be still cold, and I had to dress for the occasion with a compression layer and a thermal layer under my t-shirt.
Pre-race nutrition consisted of a banana and a piece of toast with chunky peanut butter, followed by about 20 ounces of water. I skipped coffee, for fear of dehydration. My running playlist was good to go (2 hours of Queens of the Stone Age) and I setup my RunKeeper app (one of the best fitness apps ever) to announce each 10 minute interval. I was ready to head to the starting line.
To describe the energy at the start of the race and throughout is not doing it justice. You really have to be in a race once in your life to feel the moment. My nerves were going, my blood was flowing, there was a mix of leisure runners, old people, students, and serious athletes at the race. I had no friends or family at the event: it was just me and my 2 hour goal.
The whole thing seemed almost surreal. The stronger runners pulled ahead early, and I kept my own pace. It was really tempting to push the pace and keep up with others, but I had to overcome that urge quickly or risk getting gassed and killing my time.
When I had about 5 miles to go, my mind started playing tricks on me. A sudden urge to stop came over me, but I pushed forward, gaining inspiration from the others I was passing on the way. My only thought was, “If there are people 30 years older than you still running, you had better not let up!” As I entered the Ohio University running track (Pruitt Field), I knew my persistence had been worth it.
By the end, I was running on sheer adrenaline. I could see the digital race clock above the finish line, counting up to “2:00:00.00”. I was full-on sprinting as I saw the clock hit “1:58:00” and completed the race exactly at my goal of 2 hours.
Crossing the finish line was the equivalent to jumping into a pool of cold water. I felt exhausted, accomplished, sweaty, powerful, and tired all at once. The free food and beverage at the end was a nice relief, and I got a nice medal and pat on the back for finishing.
I will race again; there is no doubt about it. It was a personal challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed. This year I am considering taking the plunge for a full marathon (and actually training).
Getting my friends to join me in the next race will be the new challenge. We will see what 2014 has in store…