Most people consider a marathon one of the most grueling tests of endurance. A marathon is 26.2 miles and takes four to five hours on average to complete. I ran a marathon once when I was a sophomore in high school, and the final six miles were especially difficult. I wasn’t a particularly athletic person, but I trained alongside a group of people with a similar running background (aka little to none). The main goal of this group was to simply get healthy enough to finish a marathon. Although I finished the race, I vowed to never run a full marathon until I’m completely ready for it because the last six miles of the marathon were not something I would want to experience again.
Fast forward four years, with cross country and track experience under my belt, a half marathon doesn’t seem as scary if the main goal is completion. A half marathon is 13.1 miles, and most people would definitely be able to complete it if they train for it. Sure, running any distance event hurts if you run hard enough. I once ran a 5K on a golf course in 80-degree weather, and it wasn’t pleasing at all. But a month ago, I decided to sign up for the Cambridge Half Marathon on a whim. Last year, I ran just to stay in shape. Although there was nothing wrong with that, it wasn’t all that exciting. By signing up for the half marathon, I was running with a goal.
To say that I was fully prepared for the half marathon is a lie. I initially thought I did enough to complete the race. The first time I ran a half marathon was two months before a marathon, and it was a horrible experience. I got injured with shin splints and wasn’t able to get back to training for a month. So, I believed that no matter what, it would be better than the last time.
This time around, I was a lot fitter than before and felt more prepared for it, but I still had some inconsistent training due to other obligations. For the past year, the longest I ran was only seven miles. A half marathon is nearly twice as long, so I was a little weary about my performance. I was able to fit in a couple of good 5-mile runs before the half marathon, so I was confident that I was able to complete five miles feeling good, but any more than that was a possible risk.
On Sunday, it was race day. I woke up completely neutral, neither nervous nor excited. I proceeded to go through my morning routine, ate a banana and took an Uber to the starting line in Cambridge. The race started at 8 a.m. and I got there around 7 a.m., so I listened to some music to pass the time. Race officials asked for runners to enter the corrals accordingly 15 minutes before the start. The national anthem was sung, and then it was go time.
During the first six miles of the race, I felt pretty good. I had a nice rhythm going, listened to some music during quiet parts of the course and took off my earphones during crowded ones. Around nine miles in, it started getting difficult, and the final 3.1 miles was the hardest I felt running in a long time. It wasn’t as if I was panting hard per se, but the bottom of my feet were getting sore, and my calf muscles was cramping up. I had to take a couple of walking breaks as a result. There was a considerable slow down the last four miles compared to my first six miles. Nonetheless, I was able to finish in just over two hours and was just happy to be finished.
Perhaps next semester, I will give the half marathon another go. I feel that the half marathon is a long enough distance to feel satisfied to even complete, and short enough that it doesn’t get too dreary and difficult. Any sore muscles that I had after the race completely disappeared after a day of rest. There are a couple things I would change in preparation, such as implementing longer runs in my training, and little things, such as fueling. Now looking back, eating only a banana before a 13.1-mile race wasn’t the best idea. If you never ran a half marathon, you should try one because it’s a rewarding experience. And the most enjoyable experience I had that day wasn’t during the race, but after the race, watching other people cross the finish line for the half marathon, some for the very first time.