Running My First Half Marathon: The Vancouver Fall Classic
This Sunday I ran my first half marathon!
I signed up for this race all of 8 weeks ago, googled “last minute half marathon training plan”, and proceeded to get totally hyped up and excited about the idea of finally running a half.
I’ve trained for multiple half marathons over the past four years, but have always ended up getting injured. As soon as I up my weekly mileage, I tend to get runner’s knee. This time I was careful. I went to physio and actually followed their instructions, I focused more on speed work and less on distance, and got a lot of my miles by running on softer trails instead of the hard pavement.
2 weeks before the race, school got crazy, and I abandonned my training schedule completely. I started to feel nervous as the race approached. I felt like I was completely unprepared. On the day of, Parker woke up with me at 6am to go to the course. The environment was totally uncompetitive but I was still dreading the crush at the starting line.
I found my marker, a woman holding the 2:00 sign, as the announcer started their incomprehensible pre-race drawl. At the beginning of my training I had aimed to do the race in under 2 hours. As my training progressed, I told myself that I shouldn’t aim for a specific time on this first race, but I (not so) secretly still hoped to get it.
The race started, and I felt excellent. Running with so many people was exhilerating! I never run with other people. Running is my ‘me’ time, it’s very meditative, so I don’t want to talk to anyone. Running with this crowd was different, though. I felt like we were all in it together and wanted each other to succeed. It was also interesting to see how different people managed the race: who started slow and built up speed in the middle, who’s pace remained consistant… There were a couple people who stayed near me the whole race and I started to feel like we knew each other.
I finally tuned into what the little Strava voice in my ear was telling me. I was running at 5:00 min/km for the first 3 kilometres. In order to run a half in under 2 hours, I knew I needed to run 5:39 min/km, so that’s usually the pace that I trained at. I knew I needed to slow down, but the pace felt good so I just went with it, I didn’t feel like I was working hard.
The 2 week taper before the race turned out to be a good thing for me. Any pains I previously had in my knees, shins, and feet were gone. I was able to take full advantage of the downhill parts, letting my body go as fast as it wanted to without feeling any joint pain.
The course is a big loop that you run twice, and it’s laid out so that you get to run past everybody else when they loop around. It was super inspiring to see the lead runners go past. They looked like they were sprinting, their bodies were so efficient! It was also cool to run past the tail of the racers, people were dishing out highfives, and everyone was pumped. Halfway through the run we looped past the starting line and spectators cheered us on. I didn’t realize how nice it would be to have people highfiving you and cheering for you but it was so motivational and I felt rejuvenated for the second half.
My energy kept up all the way until the 18th kilometre. I started drinking the gatorade that people at the stations were handing out, and when I realized I was soon going to have to pick up my pace to finish the last few kilometres strong, I accepted a gel pack that was handed to me. Anything to give my legs a little bit more fuel, as they were beginning to feel wobbly.
In the last kilometre I wasn’t breathing hard, but my legs started to feel pretty surreal. I found that I couldn’t run any faster than 5:30 min/km. In the last 100 metres, when I could see the finish line and the cheering crowd, I was able to finally break into a sprint.
I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:55:48. I couldn’t believe that I had finally completed a half marathon and that I’d done it under my goal time, despite completely undertraining. It didn’t feel real, I couldn’t believe the race was over. I think I had convinced myself that I was just going to keep running forever.
Running this race was more exciting and inspiring than I had ever imagined. I’ve been running my whole life, but I never participated in races after highschool. I didn’t understand why people did races. You can run a half marathon on your own, why would you pay to run it with a mob of other people? Isn’t that so much more stressful? I get it now, though. It wasn’t stressful, it was inspiring. Here are three reasons why I think runners should race:
The good vibes and kindred spirit of other runners and spectators push you to try your hardest. Nothing will lift your spirits more than a highfive from a random guy in a giant chicken suit, who showed up on a rainy Sunday just to cheer you on (because, let’s face it, half marathons aren’t the most entertaining of spectator sports).
You get concrete results that you can feel good about. There’s no stopping at traffic lights in a race, or fiddling with your playlist. The time you get is an accurate measurement that you can use to set future goals.
You can give it your all without worrying about injury. When you run every day you are so concerned about hurting yourself that a race is one of the only times you can really give it your all. Also, the pre-race taper ensures that your legs are at their freshest- and it feels amazing to run on strong, rejuvenated legs!
You worked hard to prepare, and when you cross the finish line you know for a fact what you’re capable of. I understand why people get addicted to doing this- I’m already planning my next race!