A couple of weeks ago I accomplished one of the biggest challenges of my life to date – my first half marathon! I had been wanting to run a half marathon for quite some time, but I just never had the guts to do it. But after getting inspired by some of my favourite running bloggers (like Hungry Runner Girl), I decided earlier this year to just take the plunge and sign up for the Blackmore’s Running Festival.
The months leading up to the race:
I was a bit unsure on training when I first started, so I downloaded the My Asics app and followed their training plan for the first couple of months. It went great, until we found out we had to move and find a new place. During the panicked weeks that followed, which was full of packing, apartment hunting, moving and unpacking, I actually set aside all training and focused on everything else going on in my life.
Once settled, I joined our local gym and got back into training. I had less than 2 months to go, and I was a little worried I wouldn’t be ready. But I stuck to it anyway, and trained 3-4 times a week. I stopped using the app as I was so behind on their training plan, so I just did what felt good for me. I ran short to medium runs during the week, and one long run on the weekend. I didn’t do much hill/speed training, I was really training to simply finish the race.
One month before the race:
The racing gods really tested me, because a month out from the race, I got pretty sick. I work in a small office, and once someone gets sick, we all eventually get sick. And something was going around our office that month, and despite doing my best to avoid it, I came down with a nasty cold and chesty cough. I took a week off from training, and made sure to load myself up on homemade chicken soup, immune remedies, ginger and lemon tea and I was back into my training the week after.
My last long run was 17km and was 2 weeks before my race day. I stuck to shorter runs in the 2 weeks leading up to the race to make sure I didn’t tire myself out too much or risk any injury. I also broke in some new shoes for the race during this period, a pair of Brooks Pure Flow 3’s! I had wanted more time to break them in, but timing was just not on my side. I had actually bought them much earlier, but of course the next day is when I got really sick so I didn’t get a chance to break them in until I was better. They were great though, and I loved running in them!
The day before the race:
On Saturday I went to Town Hall to pick up my bib and check out some of the stalls they had. I was tempted to buy a commemorative shirt, but I just couldn’t justify spending the $45 on it. I did enjoy a superfood ball from the Blackmore’s stand though!
(Photo from my Instagram story!)
For dinner, Jared took me out to Cafe Bello to enjoy some carb loading before the big day. I’d been eating bigger carb portions for the previous days, and this was my final big meal before the race. I ordered prawn and chilli spaghetti, and topped it off with a slice of apple pie that we got take away. I enjoyed a big piece of it in bed, with a scoop of Ben and Jerry’s and we watched Run Fat Boy, Run. I love that movie, and I said from the moment I signed up for the half that it would be the movie I watched the night before. I actually didn’t finish it though, I fell asleep about half way and got myself some good rest.
The big day!
The race kicked off at 6am, so I was up at about 4am to get ready. I had a slice of rye toast with peanut butter, honey and chia seeds and a cup of black coffee with a teaspoon of honey and coconut oil. I’d eaten this exact breakfast before every training run, so I knew that my body would agree with it!
Jared dropped me off at the station so I could head in. He was coming back to meet me around halfway through the course. I was nervous, but more excited than anything. There were a bunch of people on the train that were also heading in for the race, and once I got to Milson’s Point station, I saw the crowd of runners. There were hundreds of us at the station, and we all walked to the starting point together, which was about 10mins away.
There was such a great buzz of energy in the crowd and it was getting me more and more excited! I scored myself a free visor on the way in from volunteers there, which was perfect for keeping the glare out of my eyes and hair out of my face. I’m so glad I got one! I was in the C Group (people who expected to finish in over 2 hours), and we watched as Group A and Group B took off. I forgot completely about being nervous, and could only feel the excitement building in me! We finally crossed the start line about 10-15mins or so after the gun, and we were off!
I didn’t have a Garmin or anything to track my speed, so I just went by effort. I tried using my Asics app to track my run, but it ended up being inaccurate based on the distance markers on the road, so I stopped using that too. It was nice to just stop worrying about all that, and just take in my surroundings. We started the race by running across the Harbour Bridge which was such a great experience!
The rest of the course wound through different parts of the city, past Circular Quay, through Hyde Park, through Pyrmont and past The Star casino, along the Harbour and finished at the Opera House. It was such a great way to see the city!
Everything was organised really well and there were plenty of water stops. I had water/electrolytes at every stop, I didn’t want to risk being dehydrated or fatiguing too early.
It was so, so great to see Jared along the way. There was plenty of people cheering for you along the way, which was such a confidence and morale booster already, but to see Jared as well 3-4 times on the course made it even better!
At about the 14-15km mark, I started to feel tired and hit a bit of a wall. Not very badly, but my mind did start to play games with me. I started to think thoughts like “god, I’ve got so far to go” and “I’m never going to finish,” but I pushed on and at about the 17km mark, I felt much better. There were more people along the way cheering you on, and I knew I was on the home stretch! Mentally, I was in a much better place and I knew if I just pushed on I’d be finished soon.
The last kilometer was my favourite! I could see the finish line, the crowd at the end and the big flags welcoming me! I found the last little bit of strength and sprinted for the last 200m and over the finish line. It felt incredible!! The endorphins combined with the feeling of accomplishment honestly made me want to cry of happiness, as cheesy at that sounds! I was just so happy and proud of myself!
Some photos Jared took of me post race! (I don’t know if you can see, but I’m holding a big cookie that my girlfriend gave me earlier in the week specifically for post race and I devoured it in about 2 seconds after the photos!).
And here are some that the photographers took on the day! I laughed so much when I saw these. I look so freakin’ happy, it doesn’t even look like I’m running a half marathon!
My personal fave…. I laughed the hardest when I saw this. When you’re running a half marathon, but you look like you’re casually posing for a photo shoot….
My second favourite… the finish line!!! Look at that concentration, haha!
I checked my time later that night when it was published, and from memory it was 2:44 from the gun, but my actual time from when I crossed the start line to when I crossed the finish line was 2:33. With a distance of 21.1km, that was an average pace of about 7:15min/km. Totally happy with that! During training, my comfortable pace was around 7:30min so to be just above that mark was a great feeling!
I loved it!! I felt such a sense of achievement crossing that line! I can’t wait for my next one, and to be better prepared and more well trained for it. I might even train for a certain time, rather than just to finish too.
Before I jet off, I’d love to know of any marathon/half marathon stories from you! Have you ever run one? What was it like for you? Did you enjoy it/hate it? When’s your next one??