My First Half-marathon Experience

Twenty-one Kilometers.

Such a long distance to travel on foot. However, distance is subjective. 

For a marathoner, it is half of his usual run, but it is a matter of life and death for a sedentary person. 

There are many things long-distance running can teach us. Not just in racing but also in life.

This is the story of my first half-marathon race: the preparation, the competition, the setback, and the finish line. 

3 Months Before the Race:

12-weeks of preparation for a half-marathon is more than enough since I was already running for more than a year then. My longest run before the race was 18km finished after 2hrs and 30mins.

Before I started training, I managed to find a training plan from the Internet and decided to follow it. It contained four runs a week composed of Interval, Tempo, Recovery, and Long Run. 

It was a good thing that I lived closer to running places like Mandaluyong Circle, National Center for Mental Health, and Rockwell to run whenever I can. 

The first few weeks have been on point. I was able to complete the plan’s target weekly mileages with flying colors. 

But as much as I wanted to follow it, sometimes my schedule just sucks. 

All of a sudden, my 15K long run became 10K. My Speed Workout becomes a casual run. And I barely have time for strength training. But I still continued to train. 

Discovering a Team

One day I was browsing Facebook and found a post on the Pinoy Fitness page. It said that they were looking for members for the group category of the race. I was intrigued by the team concept, so I decided to join in. 

2 Weeks Before The Race:

The following weeks of training came quickly, and I became more confident in my fitness level and speed.

Week 11 was the longest long run of the training plan, so I went to a longer route.

I started running from Boni Ave to Rockwell to Makati Ave. Turning to Ayala Ave and had a quick loop in the triangle. Then to McKinley Road going to McKinley Hill.

My office then was in McKinley, so I was familiar with the place. I came out of C5 Road before running to BGC. I ran around BGC until Km. 19 before exiting to Kalayaan Ave and finishing my 21-K Long Run in Guadalupe. 

I finished the run a few minutes before 2hrs, which made me confident that the atmosphere of competition of the race will push me past my limit. 

1 Week Before The Race

The week before the race is called the taper week. It is used for recovery in preparation for the race, and all running activities must be lessened. 

This is also the time to eat more for ‘carbo-loading.’ So that I have enough fuel during the race. 

I was tensed on the day before the race for some reason. And It was a good thing I was working on the night shift, so I am more awake in the early morning and will not oversleep. The race begins at 4AM.

Starting Line:

I rode the bus going to Mall of Asia Grounds and walked a few more blocks to the starting point. It was my first time to see a crowd of people ready to run. I tied my shoes tight, clipped the bib on my singlet, and rolled the timing chip on my laces. 

The starting line is where I felt most pressured. My stomach was churning, and I was not sure if I was about to vomit or poop. Good thing I took a loperamide tablet before the race. 

We were guided by the trainers to do some dynamic workout to ease the tension.

But as I looked to my left and right, I saw that my competition looks fierce.

The Competition:

During the race, I realized that I was racing against four competitors. The distance, the time, the person in front, and myself. The greatest of which is me.

Distance. 21.1km is a long grueling run. To be able to finish this, I will need all the air in my lungs, my heart to pump oxygen to my muscles, the strength in my legs, and the stability of my core. 

Time. The cut-off time is 2 hours and 30mins. Having a personal record of 1 hour and 50mins, I was confident that I will crush my PR. Only to fall way short of my expectation. 

The person in front. I stopped considering anyone behind me as a competitor. The person in front of me is all that matters. I discovered that I can be very competitive. 

Myself. It is almost philosophical to say that everyone’s greatest enemy is themselves. But during the race, I somewhat discovered it to be true. 

I read something about the 40% Rule of Navy SEALs, which states that when your brain starts thinking you’re already done, you are actually only 40%. 

The Race:

I was filled with too much excitement, and my muscles were tingling. 

The shoes I wore were rubber but were not explicitly made for running. The racing venue was asphalt, and the weather was humid.

The countdown started then the gun banged. All of a sudden, everyone started running. The fast starters were overtaking almost everyone while the rest were running their own pace.  

I wanted to run fast and separate myself from the crowd, but 100m from the starting line, I felt my feet burning. 

Every step was agony, but I endured the pain. I just told myself that it will eventually disappear, which it actually did. I was at kilometer 5.

I looked at my Strava app… Disappointed. At that rate, I know that finishing sub-2 is almost impossible. 

The next 11-km, however, came like a breeze, I was running effortlessly. I felt like my shoes were gliding on the ground, and I can just run forever. It was a feeling of euphoria. The thing they called runner’s high. 

But then I crashed…  

The Wall: 

The wall is the place no runner wished to encounter but most often did. 

There are only 5-km before the finish line, but every part of me was aching. I felt blisters on my foot. My knees were shaking. Side stitches were spiking. And both my legs were cramping. 

I had to walk most of the remainder of the race because I can’t bear the pain anymore. Then I saw the finish line. 

Finish Line:

It was quite disappointing to fall short of my goal of running under 2hrs. But it was still amazing how people congratulated me as I passed through the finish line. I failed to get the finisher medal because I ran below the cut-off time, but it was okay.

My teammates were waiting for me near the stage, so I went their way. We had a few laughs, even though we were all exhausted.

It was great meeting like-minded people through running, so we kept in touch and promised to join other races. 

Lessons Learned:

1. Running is both a mental and physical activity. 

The body can accomplish just as much as the mind is willing. It may crash and burn but persevere. The end will be worth it. 

2. Learn to adapt. 

There are so many things that can go wrong in the actual event. The training is only a simulation. We must be proactive and adapt to what the situation presents us. 

3. Wear proper running shoes. 

It is tough to admit, but sometimes the shoes are the game-changer.

4. Aim high. 

I aimed for sub-2 and failed. But this will not stop me from pursuing a higher goal. 

I always believe that we may fall short of the actual goal, but the result will always be better than not challenging myself.

5. But be humble. 

The race brought a feeling of satisfaction. It taught me to be humble and let the result speak for itself. 

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