My First Half Marathon Story!
It’s 3:59am, I’m awake and my nerves are jumping, I flutter my eyes and start dancing and smiling in my bed, I am nervous. 4am, my alarm goes off, my LED light is flashing and my phone is playing Lady Gaga’s “Applause,” its time to hop out of this bed.
I’m getting ready, going through my normal routine, washing my face and brushing my teeth. As I start to get dressed, I turn on the TV at 4:15am and decide to put on Dancing with the Stars on demand and listen to the music while I get ready.
My heart rate monitor is on, my bra is on, followed by my sports bra. I have on my compression tights followed by my colorful tights that I want to wear. I sit down to watch a particular dance and I realized it’s now 4:26am. Damn, I need to be out the house by 5:15am the latest.
I throw on my marvel superhero shirt and make my breakfast. Whole wheat toast with peanut butter and bananas, this should work. I take my breakfast with me into the bathroom so I can eat and do my hair at the same time, got to save time somehow.
Oh great, my hair is done, I get my socks and sneakers and put them on, I’m gathering my belongings from my room and from my Brooklyn half pre-race party bag. I stuff everything in my fanny pack and take a look outside. “Oh the sun is rising, what time is it?” I glance over at the clock, “Damn, it’s 5 o-clock, I need to get the hell out of here.”
My mother is awake at this time; she explains to me that I need to take a sweater because it’s cold, but we also discuss that the sweater I take I’m throwing it away because I’m clearly not going to run in it.
I figure out that I am taking a black and pink sweater to throw away since it doesn’t fit anymore because I’ve lost some weight. I’ve asked my mother to meet me at the finish line with my gray sweater because I know I’m going to be freezing after awhile.
I take a couple of pictures of my outfit and post it on Instagram and head out the door.
I walk to the train station and of course at 5:30am I encounter a man, looking for directions, he missed his stop, and wanted directions, we talked and I tried to explain to him that he needs to get on the on coming train and take it back to his stop, he does, we talk some more, transfer trains and I watch him get off. He was clearly drunk.
I see a girl with a Brooklyn half bib on, she sits next to me and I ask her how she is getting to the start because the trains are always running different routes on weekends, she explained it to me and I realized that wasn’t going to work for me because I had to meet my friend Josette at Grand Army Plaza.
I get into the 2 train station at Hoyt Street and wait for the next 2 train to arrive, which is going to be in 11 minutes, I look down at my phone and it’s almost 6am, “Damn,” I say, “I have to meet Josette at 6:30.” I see my friend Miriam come into the platform and we exchange greetings, I know she’s running late at this point because she’s in wave 1 and I’m in wave 2, she has a coffee in her hand and she eats a Luna bar. “Man, I forgot to pack a second breakfast, hopefully I’ll be alright.” I say to myself.
A train comes and it’s so full that we can’t even get on it, no room anywhere, not even for one of us to fit. So we stay on the platform and wait for the next train to come, which is in another 11 minutes.
Miriam has her clear bag with her to check in, but she realizes that she doesn’t want to check her bag in and she wants to drop it off back at her house. Luckily, I’ve been texting my friend Aubrie and she was in a cab not too far from us, Miriam decided to run back to her house and then Aubrie picked her up from there, I decided to stay on the train platform because I still had to meet my friend Josette at Grand Army Plaza.
The second train comes and I get on, there are massive amounts of people both on the platform and on the train but that’s fine, I make room for myself and get on the train, I couldn’t afford to miss two trains.
The train empties out at Grand Army Plaza and everyone is making their way to the start point, I’m confused at this point, I don’t see Josette so I call her twice, went straight to voicemail. I can’t wait though, its already 7am and corrals close at 7:20, I don’t want to be late and miss getting into my corral and then I can’t run, that would suck.
I follow the group of people and head towards the start, of course it’s going to take awhile until I actually get to that point because I have to go through security, the lines are long and crowded, but that’s expected. Josette calls me and tells me she’s out of the station, however at this point I can’t see her because they are only letting runners in at this point. We talk a little bit, and I see a man getting dragged out of the area by police. He didn’t look like a runner, so why was he back here in the first place?
Aubrie calls me, she wants to know where I am, I tell her and she spots me, she’s with Miriam, we walk over and meet each other, but I have Josette on the other line, I talk to her for some more and then hang up, she had a final to take and she’s didn’t need to be late.
Aubrie, Miriam and I get through security and line up in the last corral, I realize I needed to use the bathroom but of course the line as just long as ever, so we wait until everyone moves up and we can shimmy our way into a spot. But Miriam and Aubrie spotted some friends at the race and they chatted with them, I’m just nervous.
I take off my sweater and leave it on a railing, “hopefully it goes to someone who needs it and not just get thrown away,” I say. I wouldn’t want me throwing a decent sweater away just to end up in the garbage, but I guess that’s the point of throwing something away? Eh, oh well.
People are walking, somewhere, guessing to the start point, some bathrooms open up so I jump in one, it’s disgusting, there shouldn’t be this much urine around the bathroom so early in the morning, whatever I don’t sit on the seat anyway. I come out and give Aubrie a fair warning of what’s to come.
She comes out and we head to the start line, there is a woman and a man talking over the loud speaker but I don’t really pay attention, I’m just nervous at this point, I can’t believe I am about to run my first half marathon, I just kept telling myself, “I know I did the training, I know I did the work and how here’s the action.”
All I could remember Aubrie asking me is “Do you want to take a picture of the start sign,” “No” I say and as I set my Nike running app to track my run and then we start running.
Mile One: We’re running through some part of the area that I’ve never seen before, it looks like a forest almost. Already I can feel my left calf tighten up and I know this isn’t going to be good, I readjust my running and my calf feels better, no worries.
Mile Two: We run up a street and we can see runners on the opposite side down the street, guess there is a turn somewhere and there was. When I turn I look over to my left and a see a couple of runners straggling in the back. That could have been me. I see a girl with some shot blocks in her belt and a gray shirt on, “hey, I have those same shot blocks in my fanny pack, she’s going to be my pacer.” Another thought I say to myself.
Mile Three: We hit the mile three marker and I say damn, that was fast, we are running in the street, with traffic on the opposite side, I hear cars blowing their horns and I’m talking to Aubrie at the same time. Mile three already? This might be easier than I thought. I’m feeling good, no pain anywhere, keeping a nice pace and good breathing, I’m impressed at myself.
Mile Four: We’re inside prospect park and I already know what’s coming, I’ve ran this park so many times I know it like the back of my hand, except this time. The park looked different, I couldn’t make out any distinct makers or routes, the course felt completely new to me, but I was still going strong. There’s the 2:30 pace leader passing us, good I say that means we will finish before 2:30.
Mile Five: Hey hill buddy. NOT! It was hard to run up the hill as it was many times before, I tried to keep the pace of running the hill but Aubrie told me we should walk briskly and then run when we catch the downhill, I agreed and walked. Stupid hill, I hate you.
Mile Six & 10K mark: Wow, mile six, we are getting ready to exit the park that was a fast almost first half of the race, did I really just do that? I guess so. I’m still feeling good and thinking that I can keep this pace for the rest of the race. Oh look, there goes the 2:30 pace leader just passing us again. “That’s great,” I say to Aubrie and she concurs. I also see my gray shirt shot block friend who passes us while we get some water. At least I know I was running faster than both of them.
Mile Seven: We just made it out the park, thank goodness! Now we can get unto some flat roads and knock this race out the park. “There are no more hills after this point,” Aubrie says. Lies, as we were coming up on a bridge. I give her a glare and she laughs and says, “I promise, no more after this one.” Since we came over the bridge we now had to run on a steep decline, but I loved that.
Mile Eight: I know it’s a straight path from here to the finish, but I don’t feel as powerful as I thought I would, I wasn’t feeling terrible but I wasn’t feeling like how I started. That’s ok I think I’m still making good time. However I don’t see the 2:30 pace leader anymore, no matter, I can’t worry about that anymore. Now all I have to do is run.
Mile Nine: My calves are feeling tight as we run down Ocean parkway. We decided to stop at a tree and stretch out our calves. I didn’t know people did this during a race but I didn’t care if they did or didn’t, but it needed to be done. And it helped. We continued down the parkway and Aubrie sang her song “do you wanna build a snow man.” My response was always, “No, because it’s spring time.” But I knew she did it to keep my spirits up.
Mile 10: Water station, Gatorade, everything. I am in pain now, I can feel my calves killing me, the left more than the right, but I don’t care about that, I just want to finish. The sun is on my face, I’m on Ocean parkway, passing Kings Highway and coming up on avenue U, oh yes mile 12, mile 12.
Mile 11: What? This is only 11? I thought I was passing mile 12, can I even go on right now? My eyes start to fill themselves with water, I wanted to cry right then and there, I couldn’t believe I made a stupid mistake, am I getting delusional? Has the heat gotten to me? Then split thoughts come into my head. “What were you thinking running this half marathon,” “You’re not going to be able to run a full marathon if your feeling like this,” “Why am I still running right now?” It must have been writing all over my face with every negative thought because the next thing I heard Aubrie say was “I want you to get every negative thought out of your mind right now and just think about running.” That came at the prefect time. I could feel the tears trying to come back but I wouldn’t let them, so I just focused on the people around me and try to keep running. But we stopped for a bathroom break, of course all disgusting.
Mile 12: Oh look there goes shot block girl, she is now running in front of me, as well as these other two women who I kept seeing. Aubrie has just finished telling me “find someone you want to beat,” I felt like I couldn’t do that at that particular time, but after seeing shot block girl, I knew I had to beat at least her and the two other woman I kept seeing, that was a mental note I kept in my head. My legs and calves hurt, still not sure how I am going through this but I am getting through this. I can vaguely see the boardwalk and I can see people running in front of me. That means I’m almost done right?
20K & Mile 13 Marker: Here is it, the turn down Surf avenue. The part where the race is almost over. There are people flying by me at this point because they knew the finish line was just ahead. I can see people lined up on the side cheering us on, I see wave one finishers drinking beer and walking down surf avenue, “someday that will be me, cheering other people on.” I thought. But right now I had to focus on the task at hand, not letting shot block girl and the two other women beat me out.
13.1: The countdown to the “point one” begins, 800 meters left, 400 meters left, I had pick up my pace, I have now past shot block girl and the two other women. Aubrie quickly tells me there is an incline and then you’re on the boardwalk. “Great,” I say sarcastically. We run up the ramp and then make a run towards the finish line. This seemed like the longest stretch ever, my ankle felt funny as I ran, calves felt heavy, but I was still running, tried to fix my face because I know there are cameras everywhere and then Aubrie and I crossed the finish line together.
I cried, seriously cried, I was so upset that I was crying at Coney Island, but I was so happy I finished. Aubrie was hugging me telling me how proud she was of me, but I was still crying. I had my face in my hand because I didn’t want anyone to see me crying. We walked through the medal rack and received our medals, I wiped the tears off my face and then I spotted my mother. I ran up to her and gave her a hug, she looked so happy to see me finish because she knew the type of training I put into this race and she knew how much it meant to me.
So what was my official time? 3:02:59. I was very disappointed when I found out this was my time at first. Because I wanted to finish this race in under three hours and if I could I wanted to do it in 2:30:00, but I realized that didn’t matter, I finished, I am running the Staten Island Half in October, I can use that as a PR and I can get better, faster and stronger. So I’ve proudly accepted my time of 3:02:59 and used it as a building point for the next races.
My Nike running app isn’t reliable. I say this because I thought I was running an 11:30 pace and according to NYRR I was running a 13:30 pace, so I need a new app that can accurately track my pace, so any suggestions on running apps? I could use them.
That’s my half marathon, check out the bling!
Next race, Queens 10K, June 22nd!