Whoa~~ I ran my first half marathon!!
On October 26th, I ran the We Run Seoul 2014 race with Thi (sounds like tea), my friend and training buddy extraordinaire. I was already planning on running this race again (as I had the past two years) but just the 10km distance. Luckily for me, Thi believed that I could do the half-marathon and pressured me to give it a try, and I did it!
With only three weeks before the race I trained like a maniac. Not really focusing on speed, my workouts were mainly distance runs gradually adding miles each time. My average was 30 miles a week with three or four workouts. Logging the miles gave me confidence that I could complete the race, but the downside was that by race day, since I had been training so intensely, I felt extremely sore and my thighs, calves, and even my feet felt like they could cramp up any second. I treated myself to a foot massage at The Foot Shop in Myeongdong a few nights before the race and I think it helped.
The day of the race, I felt anxious and a little queasy all morning. I arrived early to the start line in Gwanghwamun. The race didn’t start until 3pm so I arrived around 12:30pm to enjoy some pre-race festivities. I walked around a little. Prayed for a safe race. Waited for my running/racing buddy, Thi, to stretch and put our stuff in the trucks that would transport our bags to Yeouido. Getting there early gave provided a great opportunity for people watching.
I found it funny that some of the 10k runners were smoking and eating cup ramen and chicken right before the race. The mood already felt celebratory. Twenty minutes before the start we stretched a bit and got in line. It was crazy crowded and LOUD.
I have to say that the festivities were not as good as in previous years. Last year and the year before, there was a really cool drumming band. This year the emcee was annoying and loud. He kept repeating the same phrases over and over. I got tired of hearing him talk and just wanted to hear some pumped up music. On the other hand, I do have to say the organizers really stepped up their safety game this year. In fact, last year there was an accident blocking the course and many of us had to climb a 3 foot barrier to get back on the course. This time around, there were police directing traffic every few kilometers, as well as first aid people spraying us with Air Pas (Icy Hot) all along the route. Here’s how my race went:
First 5km: Feeling good, feeling strong. It’s a struggle staying behind the pack and running my own slow pace. I’m keeping in mind that I want to run faster in the second half of the race. It’s not too crowded, surprisingly. Around the 3 km mark we begin to see the elite 10k runners in their bright yellow shirts. Running over Mapo Bridge is always exciting. It’s such a long bridge.
Second 5k: Starting to pick up the pace. We can see the finish line for the 10k-ers. I passed our second pit stop because I was carrying my water bottle along the way.
Third 5k: Running faster than ever. Feeling the blood pumping through my veins, I feel strong. At 13km we see a pit stop. Thi and I stop for Gatorade, bananas and choco pies. My legs and body feel so much relief at being able to rest a bit. BIG MISTAKE. My eyes are hungrier than my stomach and I start eating more than I should. But, the bananas taste soooo good. After about 3-5 min Thi and I take off again. She is more energized than ever whereas I feel the uncomfortable jostling in my belly of too much Gatorade, bananas, and choco pie. My pace is steady at around 11:30-12min per mile. Some people pass me, but at this point many runners are simply walking to the finish line.
Fourth 5K: Between the 17km and 18km mark which happens to be the longest distance I had run on a training run, I feel fatigued. My sore legs and body struggle to keep proper running form. I feel like I’m overheating. Thi, my running partner, glances back at me, smiling, encouraging me to continue. Eventually, I stop. I start walking to recover. Then I make myself run for a bit. Then I walk. My eyes furiously search for any sign that we are near the finish. I think I see Yeouido Park in the distance. Thi is waiting for me and jogging back to me. She’s so sweet trying to encourage me, keeping me updated on our time so far. Instead, I’m irritated with how happy and energetic she still is. Exasperated, I tell her I don’t care about my time. At this point, my only goal is to finish. Later, I apologize for my crabbiness.
We round a corner, and things start to look familiar. We had run this path on a practice run. I know the finish line is close. I muster every ounce of energy. I “dig deep” and follow Thi. Finally, I see the finish line. It’s 100 meters away. I see the race clock display says “3:00:00” and my heart sinks because my goal was to run it in less than the allotted 3 hours. So close yet so far.
The finish: I sprint to the finish line. A volunteer places my medal around my neck and I see familiar faces walking up to greet us. Mike and our friends came to see us at the finish line. I grab a water and Gatorade. I’m completely delirious and out of it. We snap a few pictures. Mike asks me a couple of questions that I hear but don’t answer because my mind is still trying to catch up. Later I get a text that my official time was 2 hours and 51 minutes. Woohoo~~ I did it!! I finished my first half marathon, and under three hours!
I’m happy to say that I placed 3009 in a crowd of 10,000. So many people just gave up toward the end, but we kept going. Even though I had to walk/run the last 2 miles, I’m very proud to call myself a 21k finisher.
Final thoughts: From the race, I learned that it was harder than I expected to maintain my planned pace. I also realize that it is important to practice with eating snacks during the long runs. Another thing, it might have been easier to mentally break up the race into four 5km intervals instead of 5miles/5miles/3miles.
If you are planning on running a half marathon for the first time, let me just tell you, if I can do it, so can you! Just be sure to train for more than three weeks and give yourself plenty of time to recover from the long training runs so you have fresh legs on race day. Happy Running!