For anyone in the Seattle area looking to run his or her first half marathon, I can highly recommend the Lake Sammamish Half. The course is flat, easy to navigate, and the view along the lake is gorgeous, giving you plenty to distract yourself with. There are enough out running so you get that good feeling of running a big race, but not so many that you feel completely overwhelmed.
My main goal was essentially just to cross the finish line in one piece, although finishing around 2:30 seemed reasonable for my first time out, based on my training pace. I ended up finishing at 2:14, feeling happy, accomplished and as if I’d left everything I could out on the course. 13 miles is a fairly long distance so I had plenty to ponder along the lakeside trail, and I found my thoughts ranged from mundane to introspective.
Around mile 3 I realized that I’m actually a fairly competitive person. Up until this point I’ve lived fully committed to the idea that I am not a competitive person. My dad is competitive, my sister is competitive, but I am not competitive. But as I was angling to get around people in the first couple miles of the race I let myself open up to the idea that maybe I am a competitive person, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I had just confused a lack of competitive attitude with the idea of being a good sport. I don’t really have an issue with losing, which I’d always associated with a lack of caring or competitive edge, but during this race I realized it’s not that I never cared; it’s that I’m a good sport and know that sometimes you have to celebrate someone else’s win over your own. If I weren’t competitive, I wouldn’t have gotten straight A’s in school, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to start running this race in the beginning, and I wouldn’t feel any pressure to perform to the high standards I’ve set for myself. I’m always trying to improve upon myself, and that’s not the attitude of someone who doesn’t care. Being competitive isn’t a bad thing; it’s okay to care as long as you understand how to lose gracefully knowing that you tried your hardest.
I picked up a buddy around mile 4 and we stuck together until about mile 9. I probably should have said something to her or gotten her name, because finding her in the pack was honestly one of the highlights of my race. We alternated from side by side, to one of being slightly in front or behind the other a good deal of the race and I found comfort in the familiarity of the sound of her footsteps. I trained by myself, which was my own choice, but I’d forgotten it’s kind of nice to have a buddy to run with. There were a couple others who I recognized for the majority of the race, and it was nice to find solidarity and the push to keep going in their familiarity.
At mile 7 I was surprised to find that I was still feeling good, and being halfway through was exciting and motivating rather than discouraging.
It took me until about mile 9 before I started to realize 13 miles is actually pretty far. But as soon as I hit 10 I felt rejuvenated by the fact that I basically just had a 5k left to run. At that point I took way too much enjoyment out of the fact that I had become one of those people who easily thought things like “oh I only have to run three more miles.” Because three miles isn’t exactly a stroll through the park.
After all was said and done, I’d received my medal, cooled off a bit, and had taken full advantage of the free samples from the sponsors and booths around the finish area, I looked around felt at peace. I’d just spent the past four months training to run 13.1 miles and not only had I done it, I’d felt good doing it. I felt strong, and fast, and empowered. It also occurred to me that while I’m sure it’d be nice to be one of those people who could wake up the week before a half marathon saying, “hey I think I’ll run that,” there is something to be said for the training process. I put a lot of heart into finishing this thing and being able to finally say “I did it” is sort of indescribable. I wasn’t certain exactly how I’d feel about the entire endeavor, but at the end of the day, when I’d had a few moments to process everything, all I could think was “sign me up for the next one.”
I feel at this time it would also be appropriate to thank my unofficial training sponsors: chocolate milk, the musical stylings of one direction, and my brooks running shoes. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.