For many years I’ve been saying that I want to run a marathon. Knowing the amount of work that it will take to prepare has had me putting it off for just as long. But this January I decided to start taking steps in the right direction. I decided that instead of setting a goal to run a marathon, I’d set more reasonable goals that will get me closer to my ultimate goal.
The previous summer I had started running. I’ve always been pretty active, so getting up to 5km in my first two runs didn’t feel like too big of an achievement for me. My next run I decided that I was sick of these little runs so I went for my first ever 10K. That run knocked me back down to earth as I was unable to complete it without walking for a bit. I was happy to still be able to finish it in just under 55 minutes. I kept doing shorter runs, trying to focus on my speed and within a month I had run my first 10K right through in just over 50 minutes.
As the summer went on, I started to run less as the new addition to the family (my son Samuel) made me want to spend more time with him than on my own running the streets. I eventually tapered off to the point where I went almost two months without going for a run. And then January came. A time where everyone makes their famous resolutions which usually last until mid February. I wanted mine to be different and was inspired by a blog that I read about the difference between goals and resolutions. So instead of making the resolution of saying that I was going to run more, I set goals to get me out running 3-5 times per week, slowly adding distance and speed to my runs. I also registered for a half marathon in Toronto along with two of my brothers. If anyone knows how I am with my money, they know that when I’ve paid for something, I’m going to get my money’s worth.
So, on January 10, 2013 I set out for my first run of the year to start my training for a half marathon. 10K was the farthest I had run to that point, so I started with a 10K run that took me 00h:59m:23s. My goal was to do 2-4 short runs on week nights, then a long run each weekend. Each long run would be 1km longer than the last. After that, I would set new personal longest runs every week for 10 consecutive weeks! By the end of March, my goal was to be up to 20km. With over a month to spare before the race, I would have the distance almost covered and just be able to focus on speed until I ran my first half marathon.
My running was going off without a hitch. I would head out in the evenings after I put Sam to bed. Jenn would have some quiet time and I’d have my running time. My weeknight runs would range from 3-6km at the beginning, dressing in many layers and running on snow packed streets. Those numbers slowly went up as my weekend runs got longer and longer. By the time I reached 19K, the weather was getting nicer, my weeknight runs were between 6-10km, and I was feeling unstoppable. Sadly, my first roadblock was hit on my first ever attempt at a 20K run. I was wrapping up my long run and feeling pretty confident. I ran down a hill knowing that home was just 4km away and it would be relatively smooth and easy on the route I was taking. But a lot of rain that week left my path flooded meaning that I would have to turn around, climb that hill, and take a much longer route back home. After the hill I ran out of gas. After walking a bit I tried to finish strong, but couldn’t get going again.
I had heard that if you can run 15K, you should have no problem running the 21.1K on race day. The adrenalin, the crowd, everything about a race makes it that much easier to go. So I took a couple of weeks of shorter runs (10-15kms) before trying for the 20K again. With two weeks to go before the race, I decided to try again and was thrilled to be able to complete that before my race. It took me just under 1 hour 46 minutes, but now I had a milestone to beat on race day. My new goal was to run the half marathon in less than 1:50:00.
More bad news came as my brothers officially had to drop out of the race in the weeks leading up to it due to injuries. I know what it feels like to be sidelined from sports because of injuries all too well, but my brothers told me they’d still be there for me, and I would just have a larger cheering section!
To sum up my training, I ran 57 times between January 10 and May 2 covering a distance of 488km (about the distance to Oshawa and back) in 43h:48m:59s. My fastest 10K was done in 00h:49m:16s. On April 21, 2013 I ran my first 20K in 01h:45m:55s. In less than 4 months I doubled my longest distance run with a significantly faster pace! As I look back at the last 4 months of training, running 3-5 times per week in the snow, wind, and rain, I knew that I am ready for the half marathon. Another huge step in my goal would be met!
I had heard from other racers leading up to the race to beware of the vortex at the start. Don’t get sucked into running too fast and burning out early. So I went a bit further back to avoid that thinking it would be better to pass people than to be passed by people. However, I overcompensated and got off to a much slower start than I would have liked. I spent the rest of the first kilometer finding the pace I was comfortable at and trying to make up some time.
By the time I hit the 5km sign, I noticed that the GPS on my iPhone was telling me that I had run farther than the signs were saying. I just kept running my race at my pace letting the GPS tell me my pace. When my GPS told me I had hit the 21K mark I was looking for the finish line, but instead I only saw the 20K marker. That was a bit disheartening, but I motored on. There were more and more people cheering along the side of the road the closer we got to the finish, so that kept me going.
When I finally saw the finish line, I looked around and saw my family cheering for me, so I gave all I had left to sprint to the finish before having a bit of a lie down on the grass on the other side of the finish line.
When I initially planned to sign up for this race, my goal was to finish the race without walking. Once my training started, my goal was to finish the race in less than 2:00:00. As I got closer to the race day, I knew that I’d be disappointed if it took me more than 1:50:00. My official time ended up being 1:51:07 from gun to finish, but with it taking almost 2 minutes from the time that the gun sounded to the time I got to the start line, I ran my first ever half marathon in a time of 1:49:13. I was the 948th person to cross the finish line (891st fastest time from start to finish) of 4635 that finished. That put me in the top 20% of all runners in this race! I was 661st of 2065 of men to cross the line (635th fastest time from start to finish), and 114th of 328 in my age group of 25-29 year old men (113th fastest time from start to finish).
I think my goal to run a full marathon will wait a few years yet as I can’t wait to run this distance again competing against my time this year!