Just about one year ago around this time of year, I ran the first mile of my life. This past Sunday, I ran 13.1 of them at the Portland Marathon/Half-Marathon event.
I had been anticipating my first half for several months and was a serious bundle of nerves all week leading up to the race. There were so many things I could imagine going wrong. While I kept trying to tell myself that I shouldn’t worry about time (it’s my first one, just get through it and be proud), I certainly had a goal in mind. In fact, I had two of them. I had my public goal – the one I would share with others if they asked. This goal was solid, but achievable. According to this goal, I wanted to finish in under 2 hours and 10 minutes.
But I also had a secret, private goal that I only really told a couple of other people. My secret, private goal (by which I was really measuring myself, even if I tried not to) was to finish in under 2 hours.
My final time?
Woo! I am so pleased with this outcome. Not only did I beat both my public and my secret, private goal, but I felt really good doing so. It was important to me to feel good at the end. I wanted to finish strong and avoid feeling like I had to struggle across the finish line and I was able to achieve that.
Here’s a breakdown of how things went:
Friday/Two Days Pre-Race: I went to the Marathon Expo to pick up my bib, timing chip, and goodie bag. I scored a long-sleeve Brooks running shirt for $17 at the Expo, snagged plenty of tasty free samples of running-friendly food, and overall enjoyed being in a place with so many other fellow runners preparing for the big day.
Saturday/One Day Pre-Race: Oh man. How difficult was it for me to not get up early and head out for my usual Saturday morning long run? I was anxious and thrown off all day. With my nerves building and not being able to work them out by running, I was a bit of a mess. Oh goodness.
Sunday/Race Day: My alarm was set to go off at 4am, though nerves woke me up at 3am. Race time wasn’t until 7am, but it was recommended to get downtown by 5:45 in order to avoid traffic delays and road closures. Being the early bird that I always am, I followed that recommendation and arrived at 5:45 with my amazingly supportive partner, Mr. Move Eat Create, and our friend/roommate who was kind enough to wake early and come to cheer me along. We followed other runners and made our way to the race area. We had some time to kill, so we milled around a bit before I went my own way and headed over to my assigned corral area (Corral B). While I waited for the start, I found it interesting to watch other runners go through their pre-race routines and see how different they all were. Some jogged up and down the block, others stretched slowly and deliberately, and plenty just waited around chatting, snacking, and trying to keep warmed up.
7:00am: Corral A runners are cheered through the starting line promptly around 7am and my group, the second to go, follows a couple of minutes after. I’m off!
Miles 1-3: I had a million and a half things going through my head during the first few miles. Did I start off strong? Would my freezing hands warm up? Should I run on the inside of the street where there were more people, but slightly shorter paths or outside where I would be adding a few feet to my distance, but would have fewer people to maneuver around? Was I going too fast to start and would I have enough left at the end to finish strong? So, so many thoughts.
But, I also observed those around me and took in the experience. It was great. I listened in on bits of conversations between other runners about their race goals and training. I smiled at people cheering and holding signs along the side of the roads. I also enjoyed the scenery. I love my city and I love running in it even more. I hadn’t run in this area before, so it was a nice, new experience and allowed me to just settle in to the rhythm of things.
Average pace for miles 1-3: 7.0 mph
Miles 3-6: Okay, I had made it through the initial few miles and realized I was running just a bit faster then I really intended to be. I really wanted to be able to have some kick in my step at the end and not burning out too fast was the key. I slowed it down a bit, which did allow several runners to pass me, but I silently reminded myself of a couple of things. I was there to do MY run the way I felt good doing it. I wasn’t there to beat anyone else, only the course itself.
Settling in to that frame of mind, I really got to enjoy some of the entertainment along the way. There were cheerleaders and musicians and even pirates at various points along the route. I think my favorite was a group playing some sort of rhythmic drums and beats on an overpass as we ran underneath.
Average pace for miles 3-6: 6.4 mph
Miles 6-13.1: Oh, the last half! I remember miles 6-8 feeling long. I was anticipating the turnaround point and when you have a specific marker stuck in your brain, it always feels like it takes forever to reach it, right? Plus, at this part of the route, we weren’t really enjoying lovely scenery. It was asphalt, train tracks, and warehouses at this point. I was thankful for my iPod here.
Once I made the turnaround, things were great. I knew there was only about 1/3 of the race left and my legs felt good. I tried to still keep it somewhat easy and then after I passed the 11 mile sign, I picked it up. I was able to build back up to speed and pass some other runners along the way, which felt a bit exciting. The breakdown offered at the Portland Marathon website tells me that in the second half of the race, 19 runners passed me, but I passed 43 runners. Not too bad, really.
When I saw the finish line in sight, I pushed for it, not having any real idea of what my time was, but wanting to do everything I could to finish under 2 hours and finish strong – and it felt fantastic!
Post-Race: The volunteers at the end (and also along the route) were great! I gathered my medal, souvenir coin, finishing shirt, a rose, food and water. I passed on the seedling tree, just because I have no place to plant it. For what it’s worth I LOVE that a tree to plant is one of the finishing rewards. It says so much about this city.
Finally, I reunited with my cheering squad for post-race pictures and . . . a Voodoo doughnut. Oh man. You all don’t even know. Doughnuts are my healthy eating kryptonite. My favorite of all treats and something I very rarely eat. But a chocolate covered raised doughnut was waiting for me at the end and it was DELICIOUS.
I have to say, that I really couldn’t have dreamed of a better experience for my first half. I feel proud of my performance, the event was organized well and the unpredictable Portland weather was on my side.
Next up is the Holiday Half on December 16th!
And . . . I might be starting to plan for my first full marathon.