On November 8th, I did something I never thought I could do. I ran my first half marathon. About three years ago, my girlfriend, Muffy, got me into running. We did some 5Ks that I really enjoyed, and I began to run those pretty often, but that was the extent. I always looked at half marathoners and thought they were crazy for running that far, but also thought that I couldn’t do it. This past spring though, Muffy convinced me to run Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon with her. As the time got closer to when I would need to start training, I realized how intimidated I was by the event. Looking back now, I’m sure I’m not the only one to be intimidated by such a run. By sharing this though, I hope that anyone who has had second thoughts about running a half marathon realizes that it is not so bad.
Beginning the training for my first half marathon was a little daunting, admittedly. Every time I thought of running these long distances, I would get in my own way. I would tell myself that it is too long. However, using the training program I had, I found that it was really not that difficult, or even that time consuming. It only really required two half hour runs after work during the week, and a longer run on the weekend (usually in the morning). Once I got into the groove, it was so easy!
The weeks went by and I found myself running longer and longer distances. The biggest milestone for me was hitting 10 miles for the first time. Something about running into the double-digit miles is just awesome. It is a huge sense of accomplishment too. This is something you have to do to truly understand.
Finally, race day had arrived. Leading up to it, the weather reports were suspecting rain during the race. As we got to the race site, we found that the weathermen were right. Luckily we had some ponchos, but they only did so much. Although we were in Florida, it was still chilly enough at night that the rain still nipped at us. Despite that though, we readied ourselves in our corral. As anxious as I was, I was also excited: excited to see how my training turned out; excited to see what I could accomplish; but mostly excited to see that I was a part of a huge event like this!
Finally they released our corral, and we were off! The conditions were not great. We stepped in puddles and got our feet wet. We overheated from the ponchos, but got too chilly in the rain. We even heard of people slipping during the race, but we kept going. Given everything that was not going in our favor, it would have been so easy to quit. A race this long is much more mental than physical though; you have to be able to push your body past the limits you thought it had. Having a great race partner is good for this too; they can push you when you think you can’t. Finally, we reached Mile 13. Muffy and I agreed to run the last 0.1 mile no matter what, so off we went. We crossed the finish line, that glorious goal that had been set 13.1 miles ago! We received our medals, and waited for the rest of our group to finish. As we waited, I had the greatest feeling of accomplishment. I thought that if I could do this, I could do anything! If I hadn’t kept my mind on the end, I may not have been able to.
The trip back home was not easy. My legs were so sore it was rather difficult to walk through the airport. However, in a couple of days, the soreness went away. All that was left was the accomplishment itself (and the fancy medal they gave out as well).
So, for everyone who might be reading this wondering if they should run their first half marathon or not, I recommend that you do it! While there is a good bit of physical fitness that goes into it, it is much more about overcoming mental barriers than it is anything else. There were so many times in my training that I wanted to stop, or just do shorter runs. But by pushing myself, I found that I could do something I hadn’t thought I could do before. If you can put your mind to it, you can do it. (And if possible, try not to run it in the cold rain!)
Run Well Everyone!!
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Cameron McDaniel is a 3rd year graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, working on his Ph.D. in Microbiology. He has been running for the past three years, and enjoys doing 5Ks and fun runs. When not running or in the lab, he spends his time reading or working on various art projects.