My First Half-Marathon

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Completing my first half-marathon on May 28, 2016 was one of the proudest accomplishments of my adult life! As a runner, I’ve progressed at a ridiculously slow pace. I had zero running ability as a kid, and couldn’t even run laps in marching band without feeling suffocatey. When I was in my late 20s, I decided to attempt short sprints during my walks around the neighborhood and at the gym. That was all I did for years. It never felt good, and I decided the whole “runner’s high” thing was a myth. But for reasons I still don’t understand, I kept doing it… until, one day on the treadmill, I reached my usual stopping point and didn’t feel like I might die. So I kept going. And then I did it again and again. I was probably running a 20-minute mile, but I felt as gleeful as Dash running on water in The Incredibles. I’d put myself through seemingly pointless suffering, never expecting the situation to improve. But by persevering, I conditioned myself to do the very thing I thought I couldn’t do. I think about this lesson often.

On my birthday two years ago, I ran the Elvis 5K at Graceland. I’d walked many 5Ks previously, but I was determined to run this one without stopping. That 3.1 was a huge achievement for me at the time. I hung at that distance for about a year. When I ran the Cooper-Young 4-Miler last fall, something shifted. Suddenly I could run further and further with less effort. I decided I wanted to work up to 10K by the end of the year, and I did it on New Year’s Eve day. Then I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in February. After that went well, I figured if I could run over nine miles in freezing conditions, I was legit! So I registered for the inaugural Memphis in May Great American River Run. I could think of no better first half-marathon than a brand-new race celebrating the city I love.

To add to the excitement, my SIPster and co-adventurer Bethany decided to fly up to Memphis and join me. She’s running a half every month in 2016 and needed a May race anyway. (I know.) Her flight in on Friday was delayed five hours, so we didn’t get a ton of sleep, but we still felt pretty good on Saturday morning!

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The half-marathon route started downtown and passed most of the landmarks I wanted to show Bethany anyway. If they keep that route in the future, I recommend it as a quick and fun way to see the city! For the first few miles, the temperature was pleasant, and I was overflowing with thankfulness and goodwill. But miles 5-8ish were up the boring back side of Mud Island, with no shade or points of civic pride, and it started to get hot. Still, I never felt like I couldn’t continue. I’d memorized the list of things available at different mile markers, and I knew there would be cool towels at mile 9. I rounded the top of the Island, saw the river, felt the breeze, and claimed what turned out to be a Grizzlies growl towel. I think we were supposed to give them back, but I knew immediately that this GRIND towel was coming with me. I felt so re-invigorated, I sent Matt a selfie with the towel on my head. While running.

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Bethany had passed me at around mile 5, but I caught back up to her around mile 12. Getting to cross the finish line together was great! Alanna was waiting for us there, and the official race photographer caught her excitedly jumping out from the sidelines and running with us for a minute before deciding she probably wasn’t supposed to do that. Hilarious. (For the record, we finished in 2:49. I wasn’t shooting for a specific time, but realized early on that I could finish under a 13-minute mile, so that became my spontaneous goal and I achieved it.)

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I was extra happy that Debra, Lance, and my nieces came in from Nashville to meet me at the finish! Debra has done the Music City half twice, and gave me lots of good advice while I was training.

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Overall, I’m very happy with my first half-marathon experience, and it won’t be my last. Only a few days later, Matt and I registered for the St. Jude half-marathon in December! It’ll be my first St. Jude (and his first half), and I’m excited. I also like that it’s far enough away that I can take a little break and mix things up. For a while, I had to run so much that it was the only exercise I had time or energy for (other than yoga here and there). I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve gained about ten pounds in two months, most of it at the end, during my most intense training. I never ate very differently than my usual, or devoured entire pizzas or stacks of pancakes – I tried to make good decisions. It feels discouraging and unfair, but I’m forcing myself to stop obsessively Googling “half marathon weight gain” and give my body time and grace to balance itself out. I have a strong body that can do awesome things like run 13.1 miles. That’s worth celebrating!

If you’re a late-bloomer runner like me, I encourage you to stay true to yourself and your own progress. Over the years people have tried to convince me to take on distances and challenges I didn’t feel ready for, and sometimes it felt really lame and/or lazy to turn down potential glory. But I’ve listened to my body and done things on my own terms, and it’s made every milestone that much better. Trust and believe in yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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8 Responses to My First Half-Marathon

  1. Congratulations! Running half marathons are such a great experience! I’ve done 7 so far and I’m registered for my next race in November. In February of this year, I rolled my ankle and it hasn’t healed yet. I’ve been off running for two weeks at least. I can’t wait to get back to it! I never realized that gaining weight after a half was a normal thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve been through that though. Boo!

  2. Kim says:

    Very inspirational, Brenda! Congratulations on the accomplishment and thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of us!

  3. Milissa says:

    Awesome! So proud of you. I never actually checked 1/2 or full off my list. Even when I was running a lot…for several years. I’d get stuck at 10…sick or injured or life…fall off training…start back at less mileage (for my long runs) and on & on the cycle went until I discovered weightlifting.

    That weight gain…that’s exactly why I gave up running for weight lifting. Running NEVER changed my body…I *needed* to lose weight…I kept running…I ran sprints & hills…I added mileage…I tried to eat better…it didn’t matter. I got better…better cardio fitness, better at hills, more efficient strides, & faster…but my body did not change. My younger self was long & lean…what *I* think of when I think of a runner’s body. So I expected that if I just ran enough, then I’d get back to that. No luck. Lol. My grown up body is just not the same. And I know lots of really great runners that are efficient & fast & cardiovascularly fit, but not thin. I don’t know how or why that’s possible with all that running. So not fair.

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