My First Half Marathon was a Disaster

Starting to Run

I started running “seriously” in early 2016 (by that I mean half marathon training). It coincided with a few changes in my life. I had just met Jon, and I had agreed to come with him as he ran Around the Bay that year. I decided to run the 5k race, just for fun.

It was novel, to run a race. To get a medal. To eat a free banana. I liked feeling part of something. The miles and struggle that everyone had put in to prepare for the race seemed to emanate from the crowd at the start line. It was intoxicating.

Half Marathon Training

I was generally fit, both from years of a regular and varied gym routine, and playing Roller Derby. When I began to run a few times a week, I was absolutely chuffed by watching myself be able to run “the longest I’ve EVER RUN” each week.

I randomly decided that I wanted to train for a half marathon. Why not? Goal setting is good, right? I’d train a bit, run the race, and get back to my regular gym life. Jon suggested the Ottawa Army Run, and I thought that was a great idea!

So I ran and ran. I trained according to a combination of online half marathon training plans. I started tracking my pace. I incorporated speed work and hills.

Jon told me he thought I could run the race in under 2 hours. I became obsessed with that goal. I was also losing weight, and getting faster.

Through the half marathon training, I would get so anxious for each weekend long run. I would drive out and “plant” water bottles to pick up if it was hot. I slathered myself in sunscreen. I carefully selected my attire. I experimented with all manner of headphones, waist packs, hand-held water bottles, and all kinds of gadgets to deal with the discomfort of running.

I suffered some calf strain, got dehydrated, fell on the trail, and dealt with some digestive issues. It was tough, but I was doing it! I was progressing! I ran a 21 km long run 2 weeks before the actual race, just to know I could do it.

It started off as a great race…

Race day. Jon and I woke up in our Ottawa hotel room. We split a grapefruit, a bagel, and a banana. We dressed, and headed down to the start line. We found a great spot in our corral. I was nervous, but energized. The race seemed to start before and I knew it – we were running!

Jon had agreed to stay with me through the race. I didn’t want to know how fast I was going – I thought I’d run by feel. We started fast, and I felt great! I was passing people, and it was exhilarating! I was keeping everything focused, locked-in, and not wasting any movement.

…And then it all came crashing down.

Mid-race, I was feeling the pain. I took in water, but felt so hot and so parched. It was agonising to see the runners ahead of me who were already looping back on the other side of the road. I started to slow down, but kept pushing.

Around 18km, I don’t remember much. Apparently, Jon looked back to see me weaving back and forth, suddenly at a slow jog. I remember stopping for a minute, then continuing.

Suddenly, I was on the grass in the hot hot sun, throwing up. I thought for a minute I could finish the race. I felt like a huge failure. Jon had stopped and was looking after me, and had called for help. I somehow got water. My heart was pounding. All I wanted was shade from the sun.

A first-aid golfcart came by and picked us up. We entered the cool aid tent, and I was transferred to a bed. I fell into an emotional dark hole, and all manner of crazy bleak thoughts took over my mind. I rehydrated silently, not wanting to put a voice to my negativity.

Aftermath

After I rehydrated and cooled down enough to carry on with the day, my body was shaking and weak. I felt off-balance, and strangely euphoric. I managed to eat a little, but then continued to throw up on the long car ride home to Guelph.

I felt like a failure. A disappointment. I was embarrassed to go back into work and tell everyone what had happened. I knew I had it in me to finish, but I had pushed too hard, too soon. I felt foolish.

After a few days, I began to accept what had happened. I realized that I had done my best. I had put myself out there. I had tried. I had put myself through the hardship and struggle of half marathon training, and come out the other side. I had made a plan, adhered to it, and executed.

And I wanted to do it again. I still needed the medal!