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My First Half Marathon

Oh, I like typing that title! I had to look it up, but it was at the end of September that I decided to run in a half marathon before the end of 2009. And, after the Metric marathon that I registered for was cancelled, due to weather, I was not sure if I would achieve this goal or not.

The week before the race flew by. I was not sure how to approach running and exercising that week. I had tapered the week before and needed to taper again in case I ran in the half marathon, but I did not want to lose another whole week of training. So, I took it easy, but not as easy as the week before. I watched the weather for Fredericksburg, VA closely. Early in the week, the forecast said snow on Saturday and rain on Sunday. Uh,oh . . . I thought . . . another repeat of the weekend before. By mid week, the forecast changed to no snow, just rain on Sunday. I could handle rain. Thursday and Friday, it did not look hopeful. The rain had changed to freezing rain! I was sure that the race would be cancelled. At least I had not even bothered to sign up for it. But, by Friday evening, the forecasts had turned back to just rain, so it was looking hopeful.

My hubby decided that instead of me driving down the morning of the race by myself, that we would all go down the day before. We were lucky enough to find a hotel that was within an easy walking distance to the start of the race. Plus, the hotel had an indoor pool and gave us free hot breakfast! What more could we have asked for?!?!

The morning of the race, I woke up at 5 Am and ate breakfast in the bathroom! Yes, I made myself peanut butter and honey crackers in the bathroom so as not to wake up the rest of the family. I headed over to the start of the race at 6:20 AM and got there at about 6:35 AM. I registered, got my bib number and timing chip, used the port-a-potties and warmed up a bit. I was so nervous. To be honest, I had no idea how to run a race this length. I knew the basics; start slow and then pick up the pace as the race went on, but I really had no idea how to put that into practice for 13 miles. When I first decided to run the half-marathon, I set my goal finish time as 2:30:00. While training, I ran 13.2 miles in 2:26:--, so I knew I could run faster than my goal time. I just did not know how much faster.

The race started at 7:30 AM in a strip mall in front of the VA Runner. It was drizzling outside and cold, but it was not too bad. Mile 1 went by in a crowd of people. By mile 2, the group started to stretch out. Miles 2 and 3 are always the worst for me. My body has not quite gotten used to running yet and so my breathing is a bit faster (and my heart rate probably is too) during these miles. Somewhere in mile 2, we ran down a huge hill. That was my first look at the hill that they warned us about. It was BIG. I tried to enjoy running down it and not think too much about the fact that I would have to trudge up it at the end of the race. The course then travelled onto a canal tow path. At around mile 3 it started to really rain. Miles 4, 5, 6, 7, and even 8 were good. I felt good. I was hitting my target splits for the most part. Somewhere in mile 8, though I began to notice the rain. Oh, gosh, it is still raining. Steadily. I am getting cold.

During mile 8 I had decided to take a short walk break. So when I came up to the water/Gatorade station, I walked though it to make sure I could really drink all the Gatorade. I still have not figured out an efficient way to get water from a water station and drink it all and still run! At this point too, I called my husband. He wanted me to call him so that he knew around when I would finish. Plus, I wanted to tell him that it was way too cold and rainy to bring the boys to the finish line. I told him to stay at the hotel and I would call when I was done. But, he asked me to call him again, when I got closer to the finish.

Well, between the phone call and the "water break" I lost some ground that mile. The next mile was tough to get back up to speed and I did go slower. And, during mile 9, I began to realize that there was water dripping from my hat. Sweat? No, I was soaked with rain. Suddenly, I began to feel pain in my legs in places I did not even know muscles existed. Normally, when this happens, I can just pray through it and listen to my iPod, but NOTHING was working that day. I think it was because of the rain. I was having a hard time focusing on just running. By mile 11, I thought, Oh, no, that hill is coming. I started to really worry about it. The course was what they call and "out and back", so you run half way, turn around and run back. Once I got off the canal tow path again, I quickly tried to call my husband to let him know I was almost done. It took me several tries to figure out how to dial the phone . . . . it was like my brain had left my body. I had to walk again to actually call him. It was a short conversation . . I told him, "I am past mile marker 11, bye!" Then, the hill was before me. I had no choice, in my mind. I was running up it. The hill stretched out for a good 1/2 mile and it was steep! I ran up the whole hill and I actually felt fine when I got to the top. At the top, the course marshals were yelling, "Only a mile and a half to go!" I thought, OK, Katie, no time to let up now.

The rest of the course was flat and I ran hard. I slowed down once, though. As I was running, I saw someone walking. She looked like she was in pain and like she felt defeated. I had met her at the start of the race. She had said it was her first half marathon too. So, I slowed down a bit, touched her arm and told her 'You can do it! You are almost there! You have almost finished your first half marathon. You can do it!" I do not know if she started to run again . . . I looked for her at the finish line, but I did not see her.

The course turned back into the strip mall, I passed mile marker 13. I was almost at the end. Then, I heard a familiar car horn beeping. I looked over and there was my husband and my boys in our van in the parking lot waving at me. I was so happy to see them! I crossed the finish line at 2:07:19. I got my finisher's medal and my t-shirt. My boys think these are the coolest of my race shirts and medals yet . . . the race was called The Blue and Gray Half Marathon and its logo is a cannon!

Within minutes of finishing I realized that I was cold. I was soaked through. The jacket could only keep the rain off of me for so long. The "after the race party" was outside. There was a bunch of food from the local restaurants in the strip mall; pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, chili . . . all of which would have sounded great if I had not just run 13.1 miles!! I had a piece of pizza, but I wanted REAL food. And I needed a nice hot shower. So, we headed back to the hotel so I could shower and eat breakfast. And, I ate more food at that breakfast than I thought would be humanly possible for me!

Today, two days later I am still slightly sore. Because of the rain and cold (and the 1 1/2 hr trip home), I did not stretch out as much as I needed to. But, I am so happy that I ran! And, I am looking for another half marathon to run in January. I really want to run one under 2 hours.

This was an email I got about the race later in the day of the race: Congratulations Katie you finished the VA Runner Blue & Gray 1/2 M on December 13, 2009 with a chip time of 02:07:19. You placed 328 of 557 runners, 101 of 258 Female runners and 17 of 46 in the Women's 35-39 division. You scored 800 Grand Prix points in this race. Weather on Race day was 35 degrees, rain.


  1. Oh my gosh... I just read this entire post in amazement! Then, when I saw the weather report at the end, I became even more amazed!

    I hope you are so proud of yourself! Congratulations. Truly.

  2. Congratulations! What a wonderful memory for you! I was cheering for you throughout the whole post :)))

  3. YAY!! You had an awesome time! I have not been running as much due to the weather. I am doing aerobics/kickboxing classes at the gym, and running short distances on the treadmill. i hope I can still run my half in March. I need to do it just to put a 13.1 sticker on my car...what pride!

  4. Colleen- I have to laugh about the sticker, do you know that was one of the reasons I was happy that the metric marathon got cancelled . . . the metric is more than 13.1 miles and although it is 26.2K, I guess I could have put a 26.2 sticker on my car, but I would feel like I was lying!

    So, I was happy to be able to run the half and get a sticker. My hubby knew I wanted one . . . he was so good to buy one right after the race. And, yes, it is already on the van!

  5. Katie, I have an award for you on my know, when your hands aren't so full ;)

  6. Found you through Martin Family Moments! How amazing this story is. I truly admire a woman who has the time and dedication to push themselves like this. What a feat! Congrats:)

  7. Ahh! What is wrong with me? I started crying at the part with the familiar car horn. :) I'm sorry, but that is SUCH an inspiring story. I can't help but tear up lol. GOOD JOB!!!


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