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My first Half-Marathon

by Brian Pehrson 4 months ago in goals
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And my thoughts.

My first Half-Marathon
Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

In my life, I have done many things which resulted in friends and family questioning my decisions. However, none more so than what I just accomplished. A half marathon, 13.1 miles, 21.0975 KM, 69217.51969 feet, or a long way to run for most everyone. Myself included. Let’s skip over the 12-week train up which consisted of a ton of running, Epsom salt baths, wireless headphones, smartwatch choices, and so many other things. Let’s get right to race day.

So, what does a first-time half-marathon runner think and feel? I can’t say for everyone, but let’s take you through my day.

2100 the night before- Man what a sleepless and restless night. My wife and I slept in a hotel room near the race start point in Richmond, VA. And like most hotel rooms this one was loud and uncomfortable. We were so close to the elevator that we heard “DING” all night long followed by the predictable barking of our 7lb guard dog (watch out for your ankles).

2200 the night before- Finally the dog has fallen asleep so my wife and I can sleep now too. Unfortunately for us, there seems to be a truck backing up for about 20 minutes straight “BEEP BEEEP BEEP.” All I can think of is that this driver needs to hurry it up so I can get some sleep. I need my rest for the race tomorrow. I need all the energy I can get!

Maybe I should go down there and drive for him?

Ok, it finally stops at 2220.

Early as can be in the morning, 0345 to be exact, my alarm awakens the entire room to the tune of “toss a coin to your Witcher” (I know…. I am a bit of a fantasy geek). The dog starts barking and my wife and I barely roll out of bed. As our feet hit the floor so does my phone. The alarm quickly cuts off as my phone shuts off unintentionally.

Crap…I need the phone to play music. Luckily it turns back on for me and did not do any major damage. My wife and I hop in the shower to wake up while our morning coffee is brewing. We know we have a few hours before race time at least. After we enjoy our coffee and a small protein bar breakfast, we throw on running gear. Compression socks first, then thermal pants (it was about 30 degrees out) short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve over the top of it. Grab our hat and gloves and kiss our daughter goodbye.

Don’t worry grandma was in the adjoining room to watch her.

We slowly make our way 8 blocks to the starting line in the freezing temperatures. On more than one occasion we avoided groups of drunk college students and homeless people who were harassing other race participants. Just then a police cruiser hit their emergency lights and the college kids and the homeless people down the street fled into alleys. To be honest I hope they are ok. It is freezing out here.

Fast forward the other hour and a half of waiting in the cold, stretching and making small chit-chat with other racers.

Ten minutes until our race starts, we start to line up by estimated finish times, in what can best be described as cattle shoot full of nervous, anxious, and a few really happy and excited people. Not sure why though, they are about to run 13.1 miles.

I look around and realize that most of the people around me are in really…. really...really good running condition. Most of them were kids, so like early 20’s compared to me, and all had some sponsored gear on.

I think I am in the wrong starting area.

I asked a guy next to me what he thought he was going to finish in and he was kind enough to say “ahhh bro I am going to take it easy today and do this in like an hour and a half.”

I was definitely in the wrong starting place! I turned around and did the starting shoot walk of shame to an area more where I felt comfortable. Around the two-hour mark according to the sign. Here I found people more like me, happy, nervous, trying to listen to their music, and even one guy throwing up. Ahh yes, this is where I belong. Just then my stomach started to cramp and rumble.

Was I about to join Henry the heaver over there? My stomach turned more, bubbles in my stomach started to brew. I inched to the side just in case and it all stopped. Must be nerves. I got this.

0800- Start time! I turned on my Spotify playlist, connected my headphones, ate a gu, and said a prayer. Just then the gun went off for my starting block and the people inched forward. As I crossed the starting line all my nerves…. left. They just melted away. It was amazing.

I hit play on Spotify to start my premade running list and the first song that came up was “let the bodies hit the floor.” Maybe I should have organized the list better. But the beat got me moving, singing and hitting those impressive air drums. And it got me plenty of weird looks too.

Mile 1- I am feeling great! My pace is better than I thought, keeping it around 8:28 per mile. I am passing people left and right, I am feeling my stride and so proud of the start. I got this.

Mile 2- Still feeling great! Keeping my pace and sipping on my water. I love this! I should run more of these I think to myself! Of course, some people are passing me here and there…. some are getting passed. I and a few other people have formed an unofficial running group, encouraging each other to keep going and talking about what we are going to eat and drink after the race.

The comradery I found in miles two was amazing. I got this!

Wait…. where are the water points? Wasn’t there supposed to be one here…. crap.

Mile 3- Ok this is still going great!!! I just passed a sign that said “free puppies at the finish.” God, I hope that is true lol. My music list has hit my 3EB section and it gets me into the running groove even more. YES!

Wait…. did that guy just pass me juggling three tennis balls? Yup, I got passed by a guy juggling three tennis balls……show off. Just so you know…he beat me in the race and juggled the entire way. He ran under a 1:40

Mile 4- Ok I am getting tired now. But I know I can do this. I hit the next water spot and take a cup of water and slam another gu. In case you do not know, a gu is a small packet of…well…gu that gives you a boost of energy and was specifically designed for sports. They are amazing. I got this…. right?

Mile 5- As my pack and I are running it starts to thin out some. Don’t get me wrong we are still passing people and getting passed. The crowd of runners is thick as peas. But I am loving it still. “Free puppies at the finish” and “want a uber yet” signs seem to be everywhere. Those signs give me a bit of a chuckle and I think to myself…. ok Brian only 8 more miles to go. You got this. Keep your pace…. run your race…. o snap…is that guy handing out doughnuts! Yes, he is….one won’t hurt.

Mile 6- More gu and water. Still in the groove. The pack of runners I was with disappeared. They all dropped way back. I am still running an 8:28ish average. Almost halfway Brian! You do got this!

Mile 7- Halfway! I am starting to wonder how people do this for fun though…. I am tired…. I am hot. My legs though still feel ok, the lactic acid buildup is not bad at all thanks to training, hydration and well I think God helped a ton on that one. Although mentally and physically I feel like a wall is approaching. Ummm I should have this…I think.

Mile 8- I bumped a guy kind of hard. We were running side by side for a bit and he tripped into a person to his right. That person was not a kind runner and pushed him to the left. Which is exactly where I was. We bumped together and luckily did not fall. I gave him a gu and picked up my pace a bit to create some distance.

Ok, maybe I was wrong about that wall approaching. I feel tired but I got this!

Mile 9- I hit the wall. And let me tell you that wall was made out of a few layers of bricks (not hit a wall the runners' wall I mean). I felt like I was moving through a few feet of water physically. Mentally I was slow to process things and I felt dazed a bit. Damn wall. So, I popped a Gu and slammed some Pedialyte! While that was kicking in, I thought “Why am I doing this? This is freaking nuts! I have four more miles to go! Come one……this was a bad idea…. I should stop. I mean…. who pays people to make them run 13.1 miles…? I must be crazy.”

I don’t have this. I know I need to get this negative Nancy out of my head. It is hard though as I already ran 9 miles.

Mile 10- More gu and water down the hatch! Why am I doing this…. yo @#$% this! No Brian, you can do it. You survived Afghanistan twice….20-years in the Army as a police officer…. you just did a sprint triathlon…. your wife is in this race too and she has raced the Athens marathon. You can do this. But…can I? was the thought repeating over and over again. Why am I doing this? What is wrong with me?

Mile 11- Wait…is that a junk food stop!? Eww no, thank you…. Nachos and hot dogs. That can’t be a sponsored stop…. Nope, it is not sponsored. About a half mile later a guy was puking on the side of the road. Looked like he ate the nachos. He chose poorly I would say.

I made it through the wall! Mentally I was clear again and physically I did not feel like I was running through a few feet of water anymore. Don’t get me wrong…. I was tired, I was sore, I was ready to be done. I may have this. Why did I sign up for torture?

Mile 12- This is where my legs started to cramp up. I had to change my running form a bit to avoid injury. My mental toughness was pretty much gone. I was cursing like a sailor in my head and sometimes out of my mouth. I was getting passed fairly regularly now. About every other step. I was hurting…. I seriously thought about quitting. But just then. I was passed by a lady in a wedding dress. For the record, the dress was not too large or bulky. It had been slimmed down for running. She was even wearing a veil. I was impressed, and I thought to myself…. if she can do this in a wedding dress…. I can run the last 1.1 miles! So kicked it into overdrive (ok so I picked my pace back up to 8:28)!

Mile 12.5- O cheese and crackers, as my daughter says, this is the longest mile ever! Everything hurts but I can hear the announcer at the finish line. I need a good song to come on….” let the bodies hit the floor” which starts to play again.

No. Not this song. I said to hell with it and just took out my headphones. A half-mile left.

Mile 12.8- What is this last half mile made out of! It is taking forever. In my head, I am saying. “Left foot…right foot” …over and over. You can do this!

Mile 12.9- AHHHHHHHH come on man! I feel like I was running forever and I went .1 miles. %#^$W&%^&^#&%#@^#! Is all I have to say about that .1 miles.

Mile 13- I see the finish! All downhill from here! I open my stride…try to look good for the cameras. I try to make the painful look on my face go away. I feel excited that I am going to make it. I feel joy to finally stop running. I feel…. hungry…. really hungry.

Finish line- I made it! Take that half marathon! As the Rock used to say. You can take that half marathon, shine it up real nice. Turn it sideways and stick it straight up your candy $#@!

I did it! As I crossed, I did a weird…air fist pump…. which was more sideways as I could barely lift my arms over my shoulders. My time was 1:50:38. Better than I expected it to be!

So, there it is everyone. I did it. It hurt. It was really fun. I questioned my choices and my sanity. I hit a wall. I was humbled. I was honored. I finished. I am proud of what I accomplished. Where is the traditional post-race beer?

And that is all that matters in any race you do. Finish. Apply that to everything in life. Finish what you start. Because you are stronger than you think, you are tougher than you know.

Running a half marathon was challenging mentally and physically. But it is possible. If I can do it, so can you. I hope this story helps someone out there to make that commitment and try it. Heck, start with a 5K race (3.1 miles).


About the author

Brian Pehrson

I am a 38 year old retired Army Military Police Officer. I am married to my absolute best friend and the most amazing, supportive and intelligent woman I know. We have three children and currently live in Virginia.

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