How My First Half-Marathon Made Me Want to Run a Real Marathon

On the day of the spring mile run in fifth grade, I wore the wrong shoes. My teacher took one look at my bright pink Teva sandals and told me to come back later to run the mile on my own. I convinced my mom to go back to the path near the school where we ran and time me on her phone. I don’t know if it was that I was underestimating the two-and-a-half laps I had to run or my mom was struggling with her 2011 phone, but there is no way I actually ran so fast. Somehow my time was over a minute better than my fall time (and took a few years for me to beat): 7:55. But that didn’t matter— I was suddenly interested in running. I’d run to my old elementary school, then our town center, taking plenty of breaks to walk. I wasn’t naturally good at it (especially anything involving sprinting), and I didn’t always find myself particularly liking it in the moment, but as I got older, I never stopped.

Training for this half-marathon was hard, but at the same time it just felt like cross-country season with an extra day off. I started to train in early August, but I lost two weeks after twisting my ankle, so it was more or less delayed until I came back to BU. Living near this area my whole life, I’ve always imagined myself running along the Charles River, but there was always a slightly closer and more convenient run. Starting college was the perfect chance. I became an observer of life in the Boston area, in disguise, during my runs, running to Harvard square on Friday afternoons, through swanky Brookline neighborhoods, and countless times over the bridge to MIT with views from every angle of the Boston skyline. One time the sunset was so pretty, I added four minutes to my mile time trying to take pictures. On my ten mile run, I ran to Castle Island and stopped for a five-minute swim, even though it was September and I was the only person swimming. One of my high school friends goes to Emmanuel and did the race with me, so I was able to see her more frequently for runs (and for smoothie bowls after). There were days that I could feel myself making progress, days when I wasn’t tired for the last mile and I’d speed up, trying to get rid of my extra energy at the end.

 Photo Credit: Olivia Bible

A picture I took on one of my runs.

But I’d be crazy if I said it was easy. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with running. I don’t think there was a single run I didn’t dread at least a little. Every time I went out, I felt scared of the inevitable pain I’d face for the next hour or two. I struggled like crazy to fit my runs into my schedule. Running in the city at rush hour was a real picnic. I’m bad at (and hate) sprinting and running on grass, so I decided to sprint on grass. Even though it probably couldn’t have been a better time of year in Boston weatherwise, there were times when it was too hot, times when it was too cold, times facing shin splints that wouldn’t go away. I swore to myself that this was it, after this I may never run again, let alone run a marathon. 

On October 13th, race day came around and I was terrified, especially after having missed a few weeks of training. Half marathons were too long a distance to be for ordinary runners. In my mind, half marathons were only for good runners: people who logged ten miles six days a week and had to force themselves to take rest days and complained about their sub six minute mile times while eating grain bowls. Half marathons were not for people that did JV cross country in high school. I didn’t even think I could mentally take over two hours of running. If sitting for a few hours is boring, how would I be able to stand running for the same amount of time?

But somehow, it was amazing. I was sure every second would feel like agony, but I got swept up in all the people and energy around me and for once I wasn’t dying to stop every second. There were some good signs people had to cheer us on (one of my favorites: “Find a cute butt and follow it.”), and the energy tents were helpful. I took a picture at almost every mile marker. It definitely helped that I was jogging a lot slower than I had been practicing, and I was able to get negative splits. I only really wanted to stop for the last two miles, and even then wasn’t the worst I’ve ever felt while running. The fact I hadn’t run much in August didn’t seem to make a difference, but maybe it’s because those were some of the easier runs that I missed.

After crossing the finish line, I was glad it was over, but I knew immediately it wasn’t enough. I wanted to do what I would have laughed at the very idea of before: run a real marathon. Maybe not right away, but someday I want to cross that finish line with twice the distance. I’m not some serious runner, but it’s all about the destination. I never would’ve thought I could even have done this. I’ve heard that running can be addictive, which I never understood before. I think it’s just that despite all the immediate pain there’s some inexplicable joy to it, something that is hard to give up. I’m sure training for the marathon will be hard, but I still know I will at least try it out. What’s the worst that could happen?

 

Photo credit: Olivia Bible

I didn’t really think this would go well, but it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. So if there’s a race you’re thinking of signing up for or a challenge you’re thinking of taking on but you’re unsure, just do it. Unless you have a real reason why it could end badly, it’s worth it in the end.

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