First 1/2 Marathon Under My Belt!!!
I had to give myself a couple of days to, not so much recover but reflect on what a major accomplishment I did in my life. Getting married, graduating from college, raising a family, these are all high of my list of accomplishments but what I did was a long time coming. I remember growing up in NYC, (Da’ Bronx), watching the NYC marathon on TV every October. As always, the news reports would show a variety of runners from young to old. Why couldn’t I do this too? I tried for a bit when I was in Junior High School but never stuck with it more than a week. Nonetheless, I had always wanted to do this but never gave it much thought. I fact, I never thought about it for almost 30 years. But as fate would have it, my year-long unemployment was almost a blessing in disguise. Since I couldn’t find work, my family and friends had to go to work and school, I had nothing else to do. My depression, which I’ve always dealt with food, was not getting better. There were times I wanted not to be here any more. I felt worthless with nothing to show but of course, that was when the ING Marathon in 2012 came in to focus.
I had always been a walker because living in NY that is what you do; you walk. Here in Miami, in the hot, sweltering, and humid stickiness, I continued to walk and to boot with a backpack. Yes, the walks were draining but this was the extent of exercise. When the ING rolled around, this is when I decided to challenge myself to walk 13.11 miles. I just wanted to prove to myself that it could be done; that I could do it. 3+ hours later, in pain and barely able to stand, I did what I set out to do. For some reason, this is the exact moment when I thought to run in the ING the following year. In the 10 years that the ING was running, I never paid attention to it until 2012. In the following weeks, I used the Couch 2 5K app on my iPhone and I was on my grueling way.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was unemployed and had nothing but time on my hands. I went through the app in 1/2 the time and did it a second time. Once I was able to run for 30 minutes straight, yes I was tired and in pain, I knew that running a 5k was not out of reach. And once I achieved this goal, a couple of months later, I did a 10k. Just as I thought, I had pushed myself to the limit, I did not stop training. Along the way, the countless hours of running in the day and night, not once did I say I am not going to run the 1/2 marathon. The only thing stopping me was $$$. When I got my job back as a librarian, I ran during lunch on my first day back and continued to train even harder. On my first or second paycheck, I paid my fee to enter in the 1/2 marathon 2013. There was no turning back. Despite my wife apprehension about not even racing in a 5k, I never thought I couldn’t do it. In December 2012, I ran 12.6 miles with a run pace of 6-1-6 (run 6 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 6 minutes). I miscalculated the distance on my Nike+ app as I was trying to convert the kilometers to miles in my head. Still, I went beyond anything else to date. I had to do it again but I held off until the day of the real race.
The night before, I had to finish up a library homework assignment after work. When I was done with this, I head to the Sports Authority to get some last minute supplies. I got a new white Nike cap, body glide and a couple packets of GU Energy Gels. I still needed to have some type of pasta for dinner and came across the Rockfish Grill. By this time, it was already past 10 when we were done. My kids had to sleepover at my in-laws house as I had to get up around 4am with my wife. By the time I got into bed, it was a little after 12am. My wife was out but I was still wired with the knowledge that I was going to do something I thought I was never ever going to do.
3 1/2 hours later, I was up. I could not sleep anymore but I let my wife sleep a bit more. Having done my research, I did not have coffee or any caffeine on the day of the race. The 4am alarm goes off to the tunes of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are Gonna Go My Way” and I’m doing some slight head banging to the opening. My wife gets up and I go do my warm up stretches in the next room. By 4:30am, we are out and about (or aboot if you’re Canadian, eh). Of course, traffic is light until we get to downtown. Having parked a couple of blocks away from the American Airlines Arena, this was really happening and boy did I have to pee.
This was an amazing feeling to experience to run with so many people. I started to get overwhelmed with emotions when I attack my first incline. I was heading east and saw daylight ahead. I promised myself not to focus on taking pictures during the race but I did…twice. This picture was me on that first incline.
Once I approached my first 15 minutes, I remembered to stop running and to walk for a minute. I had practiced this so many times that I had to make sure I actually did during the race. I had to remember I was only competing with myself and no one else. The only gripe from this moment on was the lack of water until the 3rd mile. I know I read the water stations would begin after the first mile but I was getting worried that this was not happening. However, after seeing a crowd pulling over to the right for water made me happy. While the sun was just rising, I was starting to feel the effects thirst.
The second picture I took was this older gentleman with a black t-shirt with 13.1 on the back. This became my elusive goal. Every 15 minutes, I would get close enough to over take him but then the 1 minute walk would kick in and he would be further ahead on the course. The next 15 minutes, I made up for the lost time and distance but to only lose those gains during the next walk. This went on for several miles and lost time after mile 7.
Around mile 8, I smudged my glasses as I was wiping away the sweat from my brow. I had nothing to properly clean them so I put them in my pocket. At mile 9, I started to hit “The Wall”. I wasn’t a matter that I was worried about not finishing the race but my muscles were becoming sore and stiff. The pace of 15-1-15 was dropped to 10-1-10 but I couldn’t do that. I opted for 6-2-6 which got me through the next two miles. At mile 11, I had to drop my run time to 3-2-3. The pain was increasing and my goal of finishing the race 2 hours and 30 minutes was going to happen. By mile 12, I grabbed several cups of water and Gatorade which I needed desperately. I still get going because I was already in the home stretch. I just need to just go – walking or running – it didn’t matter. I had to finish this race no matter what.
With a several tenths of a mile to go, I get a text from wife with words of encouragement. Right then, I stepped it up. I really started to press down hard to gain some speed. At one point, my app was telling that I was about to be finished with the half marathon and I sped even faster – weaving in and out between the runners in my way. And what I thought was a finish line was nothing more than a freaking banner. I was wondering why no was stopping and starting cursing as I still had about a 1/3 of mile to go.
Finally, when I headed into the homestretch, I saw the crowds cheering us on even more. I saw the grand stands which meant the finish line was close. And as soon as I saw the banner, I went balls to the wall and ran my heart out. I did not want to finish this race by just walking in. I wanted to end on a high note. Again, I was weaving between the runners. I wanted to yell, “Rabbit coming through!!!” I still don’t know why I was channeling Bugs Bunny but none of it mattered when I crossed the line. That’s when I all came to a head and started to cry into my towel. Not that I’m afraid to cry but I did not want to share this moment with anyone. I kept walking with my head down to regain my composure. By this time, my phone’s power was down to 2% and could not get through to my with. Eventually, we found each other and hugged her as hard as I could. While I would have loved to have my kids there, my wife made up for it. I called up my mom to let me know that I was ok and that I did complete the race. She started to cry and told me how proud she was of me.
From that moment on, I had to make our way back to the car, head home, rest, and go to my daughter’s birthday party. After that, I had to finish another library homework assignment which was due. By the time, everyone was home and in bed, I had been up for about 30 hours straight. And I still went to work the next day.
What is in store for me in the future? Well, this past Tuesday, I registered to run the ING next year but for the full marathon. I will be running during the last couple semesters for school but not training as hard until August. From that point on, I will be in full training mode for 2014. Yesterday, I ran again during lunch because I just had to… again. I started to think about another future goal. When I turn 50 which will be in less than 5 years. I want to prepare myself for the full Iron Man Triathlon. This was another spectacle that I watched growing up which I never thought about doing myself. Now, that has all changed. I’ll keep you posted along the way.