When I Run a Half-Marathon #2

Remember that time I ran my first half-marathon? My recap was my second ever post on Powerfully Quiet! (Whoa.) Well, glory be, I’ve run another one. (Whoa #2).

Since my first half, my running workouts have been quite sporadic. I fell in love with running while I was training the first time around, but the recovery and self-congratulatory period that immediately followed was enough to keep me away, for whatever reason. I was probably thinking along the lines of I deserve this break. Look at what I just accomplished! It’s no big deal that I’m not running right now. I’ll get right back into it easily enough. Well, things definitely didn’t happen that way — and from what I’ve read (yep, I’m still following and loving reading blogs about running! New fave: Hungry Runner Girl), that’s not unusual.

I can’t quite remember when I started getting back into the running groove, but I think it was around the same time that I decided a second half-marathon should be on the horizon. (No surprise there.) I had finally gotten a gym membership in Thailand and felt like I had the equipment and drive to pound out commitment to a running schedule. And, to be honest, I love training plans. So I went back to the ol’ trusted and true Hal Higdon plan, this time without a sure half-marathon date in mind but knowing that I wanted to run one sometime this year.

Well, I ended up signing up for a really beautiful September race in Kanchanaburi, Thailand (pictured in this post), which is one of the first places that I visited when I moved to Thailand two Junes ago.  If you’ve been reading PQ over the past month, then you’ll remember that I didn’t end up making it to the race. I WAS REALLY UPSET. Then came along a semi-impromptu trip back to America and the opportunity to be in Durham, North Carolina — one of my all-time favorite places in the world — for a weekend and to run my second half-marathon there! Perfect!

So that’s what I did. I registered for the half-marathon option of Durham’s Bull City Race Fest (October 19), which, gloriously enough, also included a post-race Food Truck Rodeo. #YES.

In the weeks leading up to the race (and you’ll know this, again, if you’ve been following PQ for the past while), I trained on the gym treadmill. Not my preference, necessarily, but it turned out to be a good thing because I ended up falling in love with it and feeling like I’d broken through yet another mental barrier of running long distances on the treadmill! My longest “long run” before the half was 14 miles — so by the time race weekend came along, I definitely thought I was capable of finishing, and hopefully finishing with at least the same time as my first half.

Well, things didn’t go exactly as expected. The sights along the race route were lovely, but the course itself was hilly. For the first six to seven miles, the hills were annoying (unexpected!) but do-able — kind of gentle, neighborhood-ly hills. But somewhere around mile eight, the hills got pretty gigantic. I’m talking severe inclines and declines. Now, I definitely had not expected this. I had even researched this particular race and the course ahead of time, and I’d actually found statements about how the course had been made less hilly for this year’s race after receiving complaints last year! So I’d thought I’d be good to go. (Read: I definitely had not trained on hills, and my right knee had been acting a little wonky every now and then during training = not a good pair for a hilly race). All that to say, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that my mental game was on point but that my knee totally gave out by mile ten. It had been acting up a little beforehand, so I had an idea of what to expect over the last few miles of the race and talked myself into being okay with taking walking breaks as necessary. But by mile ten, it became apparent that I would have to be okay with walking for long stretches of time — potentially even the next few miles. (My stomach was also cramping up pretty badly by this point.)

Everything is pretty much a blur now, but from what I can remember, I walked a good portion of miles eleven and twelve. I ran very slowly for very short stretches of time when passing particularly enthusiastic spectators, but the pain in my right knee would always remind me to cut it out. Spectator energy along the final stretch is what got to me run the last few tenths of a mile and cross the finish line, but it was paiiiinful — and I headed straight for the medical tent to get some ice on my knee.

Some thoughts about race weekend overall:
-Packet pick-up went very smoothly and was very well-run (haha): lots of helpful, kind, and patient volunteers + a cool, streamlined process (there was even a technology section for scanning your chip to make sure it was working!)
-Maybe this is a new thing, but I loved that the chip was stuck on the back of the bib. So much nicer than having to tie it through your shoelaces!
-The expo was very small but, despite its size, had a lot of good quality merchandise: fun t-shirts, hats, stickers, compression socks, headbands, etc.
-This year was only Bull City Race Fest’s second year, so I’m sure they are still figuring things out. But in comparison to my first half (the Cohick 13.1 with Bass Pro in Springfield, Missouri), spectators were definitely lacking. I only saw spectators holding signs for the first two miles and then rarely saw any again. (The signs are one of my favorite parts!) The course went through a lot of neighborhoods as well as the downtown Ninth Street area and some of Duke University’s East Campus, but everywhere was pretty deserted. The most non-participants that I passed were police officers who were either blocking the road or allowing traffic through (not awesome).
-I was impressed that most of the water stations had both water options and sports drink options in paper cups with lots of volunteers handing them out. There were also at least three trash cans at each station so that it was very easy to throw your cup away whether you were running or walking through the station.
-I was very disappointed with Bull City Race Fest for making it seem like the course would not be very hilly this year. A friend who I’d been staying with over the weekend came to the finish line and said that she saw a lot of people hobbling over the finish line and looking very unhappy — which made her think, “Whoa, that must have been a tough race.” It definitely was. And considering that Durham isn’t a very hilly place, I wonder if many participants hadn’t expected the hills either.
-Hooray for all half-marathon-ers receiving a medal! But, for whatever the reason, the half-marathon medal was the same as the 5-mile medal, so there was no mention of which race you had actually run on it. (Sidenote: I don’t want to complain too much, but I will say that I was a little surprised that the medals weren’t put around our necks after we crossed the finish line; we had to put our medals on ourselves.)
-Lots of food trucks = lots of lines. It was hard to decide what was most necessary right after crossing the finish line: free massage and foam rolling or food trucks. It seemed like you pretty much had to pick one or the other because there wasn’t a lot of time to do both. I opted for ice first and then hit up Chirba Chirba for dumplings and Hibachi XPress (I think that was the name of it?) for steak, chicken, and veggies over rice.
-OMG, PARKING. Totally smooth before the race. Totally a disaster after the race. My parents and I walked around the general vicinity at least six times talking to different locals and parking garage attendants to try to figure out where the heck I’d parked. Everyone had a different answer. Finally, after about an hour, we found it. (And there were only three garages open for race participants! Why was it so difficult for us to find the garages after the race? Oy!)

Overall, I am really, really happy that I was able to run half-marathon #2 last weekend. I’m also pretty pumped about my time given the conditions: cold weather (cold to me, at least — I hadn’t run in the below-70s for two years), wind the last thirty minutes of the race, and crazy hills that caused my knee to give out. (Sidenote: I’ve taken this week off from running, as I was literally icing my knees and quads for three days after the race.) I ran my first half in 2:20 and my second half in 2:29. Bummer since I’m sure I would have PRed if my knee hadn’t gone crazy, but oh well. I’m happy!

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 6.04.06 PM
*Bonus points if you noticed that my bib for my first half was #2387 and that my bib for my second half was #2857! Close enough = cool beans.

Have you ever run a half-marathon? If so, where did you run it and how did it go? If not, would you ever consider running one? 

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