Sunday, December 5, 2010

White Rock Half Marathon

Today I ran my first ever half marathon...

...and I got this cool medal to show for it.

The experience was amazing. I can't wait to do another one.
The day started kind of rough. It's never easy to get up and out of the house before 6AM with three kids. Plus, it was very cold outside - about 35 degrees with wind (the one time the weather forecaster was right, darnit). The race was scheduled to begin at 8AM. We planned to leave by 5:30, actually left some time after 6. At 7:40, when I was supposed to be lining up in my starting corral, I was instead stuck in some major traffic. We finally got within about a mile of the starting line at about 7:55 or so, and so I bailed out of the car and jogged to the start along with several other late arrivers. Fortunately, the race was running late. I ended up having plenty of time to hit the port-o-johns and find my starting corral. I was in starting wave "J" and my wave didn't end up actually starting until about 8:45. So all the stress about running late was for nothing. Plus, the jog to the starting line ended up being a decent warm-up, and so I wasn't too cold waiting for the start.

Waiting in the starting corral was actually kind of fun. There was alot of energy and excitement, and mixed emotions of runners around me, many of whom were first-timers like me. Some were running their first half marathon like me, and others were running their first full marathon. People were really anxious to get going, but were mostly joking about it rather than complaining, which was nice. I guess people were just feeling too excited to complain.

When we finally got up to the starting line, we heard the countdown we had heard many times by then, and then we were off! The first few miles were pretty typical of an early part of a race. Alot of people jockeying for position, and I was focusing on trying to get warmed up and into a groove. And then, miles 4-10 just seemed to tick off more quickly than I could believe. The water stations were every 1.5 miles (and were well-stocked and run by friendly people). It was funny how it seemed like they kept coming up so fast. I would see one and think that they must have worked an extra one in, then I would check my Garmin and be surprised to see that another 1.5 miles had actually already passed. Then the last few miles seemed to drag on. I think because by that point I was more focused on finishing than just running. Finally with about 2 miles to go we merged with the full marathon route (we split from them I think around mile 8), and then mile 13.1 - the finish line! The area around the finish line was really packed with spectators, and there were several giant video screens and music and noise - it was really overwhelming, especially when combined with the emotions of completing the run. It was an experience I just can't describe.

One cool thing  was that at one point near mile 11 I heard a police motorcycle coming up from behind me, pulsing his siren. He passed, and was being followed by another motorcycle that had a rear-facing passenger with a big video camera. Behind them was a woman marathoner running a really fast pace. I'm guessing she may have been the lead female runner. It was kind of cool to be running near such an elite runner, even if only for a moment as she made quick work of passing me and the others around me.

One of the things that struck me about this race was the amount of spectators. I'm used to seeing alot of spectators around the start/finish area, and occasionally I may see some here and there along the course. But this course was pretty well covered from start to finish with spectators. Some stretches were lighter than others, and some spots had some pretty good crowds. But I don't remember ever being in an area where there weren't people watching and cheering us on. That makes such a huge difference, especially when I see kids. It really gives me a boost and lifts my spirits to see people encouraging us on. I wonder if most of them realize how much runners appreciate them. I also love it when I see a kid reaching out for a high-five. I always try to get over and oblige. I gave about a half-dozen of them today.

So looking back, I think I will definitely do another half. I'm not sure about doing a full marathon, but I suspect I probably will at some point. I realize now that it's not so much the race itself that's the challenge - it's the weeks and months of training that allow you to finish the race that is the challenge. And while the weekly long runs might sometimes seem like a grind, it is so worth it on race day to be able to go out and spend a couple of hours with several thousand others on a nice run for a good cause and having a great time.


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