I ran my first half marathon yesterday.
I started running regularly late last year, and a few months later, I resolved to build up to a half marathon. Specifically, I picked the Brisbane Running Festival, and over the last 3-4 months I have been building up my distance, from 5km to 8, 10, 12, 15, to 20, in order to be confident about being able to do 21.1km for the actual event.
I woke up early, in order to get to the race start at the Riverstage in time to meet my friends Meg and Tom for the start. With 3000 or so people signed up to run, the start was chaotic, although nothing like my bad experience with the Bridge2Brisbane a couple of years ago. Starting with 2 laps of the botanical gardens made things very crowded, particularly once the front-runners started lapping people. I had intended to try and follow the 1:50 pacerunner, but by the time we were over the Goodwill Bridge, I had long lost sight of him. By the time I did catch a glimpse of the bobbing red balloons, I was 4km into the race, and it was 8km until I actually caught him.
When we turned near the West End ferry stop, and I passed Meg and Tom, who were both running nicely behind me, I felt good, and was well ahead of the 1:50 pacerunner (and could even see the 1:45 runner, which should have rung some alarm bells). Over the next few kilometres, though, I flagged badly, and I essentially cracked at about 13km. For the remaining 8km coming back through Southbank and around the base of Kangaroo Point cliffs to the Storey Bridge, I was reduced to a mix of walking and jogging, all the while being very frustrated at myself1, for not having the fitness and/or not having judged my early pace better.
The many supporters along the route, either manning drinks stations or just standing by the course calling out words of encouragement, helped me to run more often and longer than I otherwise might have, and did much to lift my spirits. The occasional photographer also gave me a lift, as I dug deep to avoid being photographed walking, but despite these things, I probably walked a couple of kilometres, on and off. Meg and Tom caught me coming back past Kangaroo Point with a shade over 2km to go, and I got a bit of a lift, running with them for a few hundred metres before I soon flagged and had to walk a little longer.
I eventually crossed the line in a "gun time" of 1:56:20 or so, and a "chip time" of 1:55:13.6 (results are here). Before the race, I had really struggled to set myself an aim, hovering between "just get across the finish line" and the dream of challenging Lee's time of 1:48 when she ran her first half. To be honest, I'm still hovering. I feel like I had a pretty bad run, walking a lot more of the race than I wanted to, and cracking much earlier than I had hoped. I feel like with some better judgement, I could have run somewhere close to 1:52 or even 1:50.
To be honest, one of the things I've learnt while building up my distances is that I probably get more enjoyment out of a 10km run than I do out of a 22.1km run. That might be down to my level of fitness, but I like the idea that I can push myself a little bit. If I was to be asked whether I'd do another half, my reaction before the race would probably have been no, that I'd stick to shorter distances. Having run it, though, and not run it as well as I would have liked, my competitive instincts would probably make me lean towards doing another, just to prove to myself that I can do a better job than I did this time.
As a final word, I should give a huge qualification to what probably comes across as a bit of a whiny post. I am very proud of having done the race. Even if it wasn't my best run on the day, when I started running last year there was no way I could have done a run like this, and I'm really satisfied at the dedication (which has never been my best attribute) I've been able to sustain in running regularly to prepare myself. I didn't break any records, but its not everyone who can run a half marathon in under 2 hours, and I'm proud to be able to count myself in the group that can.
1: As Emily very astutely pointed out earlier this year, getting annoyed at myself is something I do a lot. I very rarely get angry at others, but I quite frequently get angry at myself.