Signing up for the half marathon of the KRRA Limestone Race Weekend in beautiful Kingston, Ontario was somewhat last minute. While training for my first full marathon I went in with the mindset that it was totally okay to train from a 5k to a full marathon in 16 weeks. I had never officially run a half marathon but somehow that hadn’t fazed me, I knew that I would be running upwards of 21.1km weekly during my training so a half almost seemed like nothing (in comparison of course). Then I found out I would be in Kingston, Ontario for 2 weeks as part of a clinical placement for school so I randomly did a quick check online to see if there were any races going on during that time and well would you look at that! A half marathon on my second weekend there! The timing could not have worked better, I was supposed to do a 19.3km run that day anyways and I thought it would be a good idea to have some sort of an idea of what racing a distance longer than a 5k would feel like.
My mom wins the best mom ever award again, because she drove up to Kingston from Toronto (about a 3 hour drive) to cheer me on for what would be my first official half marathon!
Sunday, April 28, 2013 – the morning started off bright and early, a little cool as the sun wasn’t fully up yet. I had my usual pre-long run breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese and milk, and got dressed. I hemmed and hawed over wearing a long sleeve shirt and shorts as I was feeling the cool breeze but my mom insisted that once the sun was up in full force I would be ridiculously hot and sweaty so I slipped into a t-shirt and shorts, pulled on sweatpants and a hoodie and headed towards the start line!
The race itself is a pretty small local event but there were already quite a few people gathered around the start line, warming up and chatting excitedly. I always feel nervous whenever I am around a big crowd of runners especially since I’m a newbie and these are probably experienced sub 1:45 half veterans who know all about compression gear, garmins and energy gels. One day I’ll be just like them!
I think we got to the start line maybe 30 minutes before the gun went off, which gave me plenty of time for a quick pre-run bathroom break and before I knew it, I was handing my hoodie and sweatpants to my mom, picking up my timing chip which came in the form of an anklet that I’m pretty sure was pretty sweaty and gross by the time I was done with it, and heading to the start area.
Since it was a smaller race, there were no start corals, and the half marathons started with the 5k runners. The sun was up and I was already feeling happy about my decision to not wear a long-sleeve shirt. The half marathon course started with a 5km loop with the 5km racers that came back to the start line (finish line for 5k) and then continued in the opposite direction for a 16 km loop, back to the same start/finish line. I positioned myself near the back of the pack as I knew that most of the runners were only doing the 5k and would probably be a lot speedier than I was. The plan was to try and sub-2:15 but not over-exert myself since I was running a full marathon in a month and I didn’t need any injuries or time-off at this point.
The gun went off and holy crap, why am I running so fast? I clearly got a little caught up in the excitement of the 5km runners.
I didn’t have a garmin or other GPS watch, so I was basing my pace off the time I started subtracted from the time it currently was divided by the km marker I was sure of…a bit of math and definitely not as accurate as a GPS watch but at least it kept my mind occupied! I continued to run faster than I should have for the 5km loop and as we were nearing the 5km point which was the start/finish line, I noticed that all of the runners I was with started to part to the right towards the 5km finish line….while I stayed to the left, passed the 5km finish line, and suddenly felt all alone. Seriously, this sucks! I felt all of the excitement from the crowds that one normally feels when passing through a finish line of a race, except that I still had 16.1 km to go.
6km – this sucks.
6.1km – am I the only half-marathon runner? where is everyone else?!
6.2km – omg I must be last. 😦
6.4km – wait, someone just passed me! okay now I’m officially last.
7km – okay, I’m tired and no one is around me. I think I’m going to walk for a bit.
7.4km – someone else just passed me! I guess I wasn’t last after all. Maybe I’m last now 😦
7.5km – okay, Lianna, pull yourself together. You have to pass that girl who just passed you so that you are second last, not last place. (at this point I pulled it together and started running again)
8km – (passed the girl who passed me) haha sucker!
8.2km – wtf that girl just passed me
8.4km – take that (as I pass that girl who passed me twice)
8.7km – wtf man. she passed me again
Passing someone when you are running takes a lot of energy folks. Eventually at around 9km I ran up beside her and stayed beside this girl and we ran in silence for about a km before we started talking. I found out her name and learned that she had run a 1:55 half marathon before but she hadn’t trained for this half at all and was hoping to sub-2:15. Perfect! We decided to stick it out together and man, what a great decision that was. I developed one of those awful side cramps around 12km and this girl talked me through it, told me to keep breathing like I’m sending oxygen to the cramped area (kind of works!) and kept encouraging me. In return I huffed and puffed and wheezed my thanks whenever possible. She told me there was a 2:15 pace bunny who hadn’t passed us yet, so our goal was to never let that pace bunny get close enough to pass us and we would be golden. She also advised me to keep the pace we were going at and then for the last 1km completely empty the tank, drain the battery, etc. and give it our all to the finish line. Seemed simply enough at the time! We neared the halfway point of that 16km loop which was more of an out-and-back portion of the race, and started heading back towards the finish line. 15km in and I was suffering. We had seen how far back the 2:15 pace bunny was thanks to the nature of the out-and-back course and knew we had maybe 2-3 minutes in the bank. Unfortunately I still had that awful side cramp and we were beginning an uphill, plus I was feeling tired from going out too hard in the beginning. The sun was really beating down on us and I wanted to stop so badly to walk. Thank goodness for my new friend who kept me going, because if she wasn’t there running with me and essentially pacing me, I would have stopped to walk multiple times.
18km and we hear the pounding of footsteps behind us. My new friend and I both glanced back and to our dismay, we see the pace bunny with about 6 runners sticking close not too far behind us, catching up. We were both pretty tired and wanted the race to end. Slowly the pace bunny caught up to us and his group of 2:15 runners swallowed us and we both dug deep to stay with the group. 19km in and my side cramp went away, thank goodness. I was feeling a lot better but I could tell my new friend was struggling. “Keep it going! We can’t give up now!!” That was my attempt at giving her some of the encouragement she gave me for the majority of the race. 19.8km in and my friend was really struggling. “Pull it together!! It’s almost time to empty our tanks and drain our batteries!!!” That’s what I managed to yell at her before I started to slowly increase my pace. It was slightly agonizing and the concentrated look on my face must have been hilarious, but I pulled ahead of the pace bunny and continued onwards. I started passing people and before I knew it, I saw my mom ahead waiting by the 21km marker. 100 metres to go!
I felt really bad about leaving my new friend behind, I was hoping she would stick with me as I increased my pace but when I glanced back quickly she was nowhere to be seen. Seeing my mom always gives me an extra boost so I powered through to the finish line for the second time, except this time I was actually finished! I finished in 2:14:44.6, and was very happy with with my sub-2:15 time 🙂
The race was pretty well organized, immediately at the finish line a volunteer (wearing gloves haha) pulled off my anklet timing device (I was too exhausted to do it myself and I was pretty sure that if I leaned over to take it off I would fall flat on my face). Then right away I was able to help myself to greek yogurt, water, and chilli! I’ve never been a fan of chilli but I got a bowl anyways for my mom and in exchange she had my favourite post-race chocolate milk ready for me. Overall a well organized race and great memories to make up my first half marathon experience!