Warning: this is a long one. Feel free to skip ahead to the result 😉
This weekend just gone, I headed to Reykjavik, Iceland, for my first ever half marathon!
As always I had three goals when it came to this race:
– Plan A: Finish under 2:00
– Plan B: Finish under 1:55
– Plan C: Enjoy the day and don’t make my calf injury worse
If we’re being honest, part of me did want to try to hit sub 1:50, but given that I’d never raced a half marathon before, I wanted to be conservative. After all, there’s nothing quite like getting your ass handed to you at a first-time race!
I was pretty knackered the day before from the 5am wake up for my flight, and then a day of sightseeing by foot and the 4 mile round-trip to the expo. Oops. But I had some big meals and headed to bed nice and early. Come race morning I woke up at 6am, purposefully before anyone else, to make coffee and breakfast, and then headed out to the garden of our Air BnB to sip on my coffee whilst everyone else made breakfast, showered, etc etc.
I ended up doing about 40 minutes of glorious yoga on the deck- I was completely out of sight of everyone else and just got to chill, loosen up my muscles, and meditate on the challenge ahead. We were only two blocks away from the start of the race itself, so with about 10 minutes to spare we all jogged down there together, and did a few loops around the nearby streets to get the legs going.
The Race Itself
I started with the Sub-2h pace group, but soon realised I was actually feeling very fresh and ended up surging ahead to catch up with the 1:55 pacer. From then on, I could feel myself running a good pace with minimal effort, but really tried to rein it in a bit, since I still had a long way to go! The route took us along the coastline, and conditions were perfect- sunny but crisp, without much wind! The halfway point was weirdly in quite an industrial area, and there was a big song and dance about the whole thing, but I hit it without much ado.
Following the halfway point, things started to get hard. The route took us along the coast again, but there was an undulating, never-ending out-and-back section that just went on forever. Once I got to mile 8 I started to wain, remembering that I still had 5 miles to go and starting to feel the strain in my hip flexors. I kept myself occupied by looking out for other LCAC runners passing me on their way back to the finish, and they were on top form, which motivated me. But still, the turnaround point didn’t seem to get any closer. Fuuuuck. I wanted to stop, either to walk or “stretch” and just take a break, but thankfully I managed to summon some willpower and made it to the 10 mile turnaround point.
Realising I only had a 5K left didn’t actually help me at this point, as I was starting to get slightly existential and angsty, knowing that I had to go back along the never-ending section that had almost broken me. But then my Garmin beeped at mile 12, and the thought of running any further just killed me. About half a mile later I stopped to walk. I wish I hadn’t, and I knew even at the time that I would regret it, but it was inevitable at that point. Mentally, I was done. I knew that I could literally walk the last mile and still hit sub-2h; a realisation that probably didn’t do me any favours. I walked briskly for about a minute, before kicking myself up the butt, and reminding myself that yesterday, sub 1:55 had seemed achievable.
The last mile seemed to go on forever, but thankfully there was a ton of support, and I managed to summon the strength to not stop again, at the very least. Then, as the finish clock started to come into focus, I saw that I was nearing 1:55, and so, with legs that felt like lead, I picked up my sorry ass and made the best attempt I could at a sprint for the last 400 metres or so. Half marathon: done.
I felt relieved to have finished, and later realised I’d smashed my goal, with an official finish time of 01:53:01. Yay!
- Mile 1: 8:51
- Mile 2: 8:19
- Mile 3: 8:28
- Mile 4: 8:22
- Mile 5: 8:22
- Mile 6: 8:23
- Mile 7: 8:19
- Mile 8: 8:33
- Mile 9: 8:43
- Mile 10: 8:45
- Mile 11: 8:45
- Mile 12: 8:40
- Mile 13: 9:13
- Last .1: 8:05
I mulled around the finish for a while before having a stretch by the lake. Weirdly, some negative thoughts started to creep in as I did this- mainly about the minute or so that I’d lost whilst walking- but I decided to try to block those out, and focus on how far I’ve come. Last March, I signed up to a half marathon, and the whole endeavour seemed entirely out of the realm of possibility, even with the six months I’d have to train. (I ended up getting injured, and didn’t do the race, which kind of reinforced my negative thinking). To think that I’d travelled to a different country, on a whim, to run a half marathon without any training- and that I’d actually finished, and within my time goal, gave me great sense of satisfaction.
I celebrated with another strong cup of coffee and a rundown of everyone else’s race- we had four PBs, and one of our runners finished 6th, as you do. We all had a celebratory drink, despite it not even being midday, and headed off for naps. Don’t say runners don’t know how to party!
What did you learn from your first half marathon?
Lots of love,