So hey, I ran a half marathon yesterday.
I know 13.1 miles is something that a lot of people do all the time, but to me, this race was something I never thought I’d be able to do in a million years. Two years ago, I was over 100 pounds overweight, had high blood pressure and couldn’t even walk a mile. Running 13.1 miles was the impossible. In all honesty, yesterday didn’t go well (at all). Even though this wasn’t “my” race, I am still so incredibly proud of crossing that finish line and getting my medal.
Rewind back to the beginning. My alarm went off at 5am yesterday morning. Even though I thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink, I managed to get a solid 6 hours or so (thank you, Tylenol PM). I felt well-rested and excited. With everything laid out the night before, I was able to quickly get dressed and scuttle downstairs to make some breakfast. I know I tested out overnight oats for my last long run, but toast with peanut butter and banana seemed the easiest and quickest route. Also tossed on some ground chia seeds on the sammy (a new product I’m testing out) and washed it all down with a small cup of coffee.
I have a super nervous stomach, so I was worried I would be too nauseated to eat, but everything went down just fine. The coffee even tasted so good, that I wanted more! Of course, I didn’t. The last time I had lots of coffee before a run was bad news.
While breakfast was digesting, I gathered up the rest of my gear: filled up my CamelBak, put everything in my waist pack, and pinned on my bib number. One last bathroom trip and then our ride showed up. My sister’s friend Ashley (who, coincidentally, I had written a profile on for a local magazine, but never met in person) offered to drive us to the start. Thanks to her husband’s sweet government parking pass, we were able to park right downtown and go in his office building to use REAL bathrooms. Such a luxury!
Which was even more awesome when we stepped outside and realized the lines for the porta-potties looked like this:
Yowzas! 40,000 runners=a lot of potty breaks.
Ashley and my sister (Mandy) decided they wanted to run with me during the whole race, which was incredibly sweet. But, we all had drastically different corrals. Mandy was in F, Ashley was in N, and I was in S. So we decided to spilt the difference and head to corral N. Normally, I wouldn’t have jumped corrals, but Mandy said that she thought the dividing line between walkers and runners was O, and we definitely didn’t want to be stuck behind 10,000 walkers. No idea why they put me in S.
At this point, we said good-bye to Babyface, who was starting in F. Which was waaaaay up front.
They were actually being super strict about corrals, having a race official at each entrance checking corral letters. We had to kinda sneak me into corral N, by covering up my bib with my CamelBak. But we made it in. And honestly, I’m glad we did. The people we were running with felt like a good pace.
Hey look, matching shirts! It wasn’t really all that planned. Mandy just said the night before, hey, I think I have that shirt, too!
Ashley and Mandy started chatting and it was nice distraction from the chorus of “Oh god, I have to run 13.1 miles. My toe hurts. I can’t stop coughing, I’m gonna throw up.” going through my head.
At this point, I started feeling pretty good. I was so nervous during the drive to the start and walking to our corral that I thought I might puke right there, but by the time we were settled in our corral and it started to fill up, my stomach calmed down and I felt confident.
And then. The beach balls started. OH GOD THE BEACH BALLS. It looks cool in pictures and seems like a fun idea, but there were so many beach balls that it was stressing everyone out. I’d say they dropped 100 beach balls in each corral of 1500 people. They were coming from all directions. I got hit in the face no less that 10 times. I wanted to stand there and get focused and prepare myself, but no, I was attacked from all sides by beach balls.
Thankfully, the national anthem started and that put the beach balls to rest.
And then, we were off. Only not really. We were too far from the start to hear the gun go off. We did do a group count down, but it was at least another 5 minutes after we did “3, 2, 1…” before we even started walking. Once we started walking, we had to walk over all the beach balls that had made their way to the ground. I had to watch every step to make sure I wasn’t going to break my ankle on a beach ball.
About half way to the start, there was woman in a cherry picker pumping everyone up. I totally want this job!
Eventually (as in almost 15 minutes later) we made it to the start. I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken if we started in S.
I knew from about 100 yards in that this race was going to suck. I haven’t run since I got sick two weeks ago and almost immediately, my lungs were like, “WHAT THE HELL, DUDE?” I started coughing and pretty much rode the hacking train to the end. Thanks to the coughing, I wasn’t breathing anywhere close to evenly or normal (as my sister says, I was “suckin’ air”). And at about a 1/2 mile in, I got my first side cramp.
But, I felt like we were doing a good pace and the first mile was a blast. We ran past about 5 bands and the Indianapolis Zoo. Where there were lots of furry animals out to see us.
An elephant even popped his trunk over the fence to watch us run past.
Even though both my sides were cramping and I was coughing up a lung, the first mile seemed to blow by.
We had decided early on that we were going to blow past the first “Pit Stop” and head onto the second one. Which was good, because I desperately needed to stop and stretch out my sides to try to alleviate the cramps. After the first water stop and bank of porta-potties at mile one, the crowd started to thin out a bit. This was about as thin as it ever got. Have I mentioned this is the largest half marathon in the country?
Mile two was more of the same. A lot of coughing. Lots of pain in my sides, but generally feeling okay never-the-less. I just desperately wanted to get to the next pit stop to stretch.
Sweet glorious porta-potties! Mandy and Ashley waited in line, while I ran ahead and stretched out everything I could, paying particular attention to my sides. When I stopped, I felt my knees stinging really badly, but I thought it was just sweat on freshly-shaven legs, but turns out, my knees were chafing.
Once they were done, we resumed running and my sides felt a million times better. I was still coughing and struggling with breathing, but at least it didn’t feel like I had metal stakes in my sides. At this point we saw some firefighters running in full gear. So inspiring!
One even had a CamelBak strapped to his tank. Which I thought was adorable.
Somewhere between mile 2 and 3, I started to realize my pinkie toe on my left foot was stinging pretty bad. The night before the race, I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, playing with my sister’s 150+ pound Mastiff when the dog jumped, landed on the bottom of my foot and poked a small hole in my left pinkie toe. It stung like hell, but wasn’t really all that big of an injury to be too worried about at the time.
Protip: when running 13.1 miles, little injuries become a big deal. More on that later.
The third mile marker came and went. I said something about how crazy it is that a 5K seems super short now.
And then the cramps came back. Stretching helped for about 3/4 of a mile and then they were back with a vengeance. At about mile 3 1/2 is the first time we walked (for about 30 seconds). I had a thought go through my head at this point that was basically something like, “Oh shit. I’m going to die if I have to do 10 more miles this way.” I was still coughing. My sides were in pain. And with every step, it felt like my toe was on fire.
In other words, this was not a good run.
At this point, we all walked a bit and took some fuel. Three Shot Bloks and some water later and I was cruising into the town of Speedway.
We saw a bunch of runners with these super cute shirts. Indiana University’s graduation was yesterday.
Mile 5 hit us in downtown Speedway. Even though I was still feeling like crap, I loved this section. I’ve been coming to Speedway, Indiana during the month of May since I was 11 and it was so cool to run through it. At this point, we were doing a bit of a run/walk interval. I’d say running 5 minutes, walking a minute.
Plus, I knew my parents were waiting for us right around the corner.
I totally cried when I saw them. I felt like total hell, but when Dad asked me how I was holding up, I lied through my teeth and said, “Fine.” No reason for him to know how much pain I was in, yet. It gave me an awesome boost of energy to see them. Plus, as you can see right behind Mandy’s shoulder, they were standing in front of the part of the course I the most looking forward to, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was so very, very cool to run up the tunnel into the track. This was a crazy steep hill (the only hill on the course) and I barely even noticed it because I was so excited to be in the Speedway. A giant thanks to Ashley for manning the camera during the Speedway for me.
We hit the 6 mile marker right before we got onto the track surface. At this point, I was so excited to be on the track that my cough, my breathing, my cramps and my toe were all out of my head.
I had been warned by a few people that the lap around the track was actually the worst part of the race. See, the track is 2 1/2 miles long. When you watch a car go around it, they can do it in about 40 seconds. It took me, oh, decidedly longer. But I figure that there is no way anything about running on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could suck. We got onto the track and I totally teared up a bit. You have no idea what this place means to me.
And then it started sucking.
The track was really, really fun for about 1/2 a mile. And then I started to realize how truly long this thing is. I felt like we were in turn 3 for at least 15 minutes. Beyond all of this, the entire track is banked, which means you aren’t running on a flat surface. Oh, and it started raining here. All the appeal of being on the track was gone pretty quickly. My sides were hurting more than ever and I felt like I couldn’t get any air in. I think we walked all the way to the next mile marker.
As a point of reference. Mile marker 6 was between turns 2 and 3. Mile marker 7 was between 3 and 4. LONG TRACK. Note how much better my photos get from here on out because there was a TON of walking. Walking>running for photography. We walked up to the famed yard of bricks, which I kneeled down and kissed twice. Amazing.
As I was standing up from kissing the bricks, I felt a really terrible tearing in my pinkie toe and knew that was pretty much the end of this as a “running” race. I also scraped my already chafed knees on the track. I was handling my coughing, side cramps, trouble breathing, and a little bit of toe pain. But now that my toe was probably bleeding profusely, I made the decision to walk it out. As what was probably an omen, there was an adorable group of hip-hop dancers performing to that song as we left the Speedway. I took it as a sign the universe was saying, “Dude. It’s cool. Walk it.”
Hit mile 8 right after the yard of bricks.
Finally made our way out of the Speedway and stopped at some porta-potties. Thanks to the rain and the long track, it seemed like everyone was a little worse for wear. Even Gumby(s) and Pokey.
One great thing about the track is that you enter the complex at mile 5 1/2 and the next mile marker afterward is mile 9. That was nice!
At this point, it started really raining. And miraculously, I finally stopped coughing. We had flip-flopped our previous interval and were walking 5 minutes, running a minute and I think my lungs seriously appreciated the switch. That didn’t help my sides, though. My cramps were getting worse with ever step, as was my toe.
Even though I was getting pretty beat up, my spirits were still up. I was determined to finish this, even if I had to crawl across the finish line.
Mile 10! Only a 5K to go.
At this point, I started hurting. Everywhere. We all were. None of us had trained for a walking race, and we were definitely using different muscles that we would if we ran. For me, I think I also kept changing my form when I was running to try to alleviate my cramps. Every part of my body hurt.
But then the sun came out! Walking in the rain was making us all pretty cold, so the warm sun was welcome.
Mile 11 came and the people around us started to have some fun. There were stops at the liquor store, shared beers, a lot of laughing and dancing. Even though I felt terrible, it was so much fun to be running in a group of people who were having fun. They weren’t trying to PR, they just wanted to come out and run it with a smile on their faces and that was exactly what I needed.
At this point, I started to feel some chafing other than my knees. I have never, in any of my training runs had any problems with chafing, but I think the wet clothes were causing issues. Also, my stomach had felt totally fine for the whole race until I hit 11 1/2 miles. I got such an intense wave of intestinal cramps that I said to Ashley and Mandy, “I HAVE to stop at the next set of porta potties.” But by the time we got there (only 1/4 mile away), the cramps had totally passed and I felt fine again. I didn’t end up using a single porta potty during the entire race.
By mile 12, the sun was shining, we were descending upon Downtown Indy and all I wanted was to be done. We had pretty much stopped running at this point (Ashley and Mandy were cueing off of me). We made the last turn and headed down the long straightaway to the finish line.
I knew I wanted to cross the finish line running, but I didn’t want to start too early and seize up, cramp or pass out. So we wait until we were 1/4 mile from the finish line and then booked it. When we first started running, we were all so stiff from all the walking, but we sprinted through the finish line with our hands in the air, looking proud.
I had tears in my eyes as I crossed the finish line. It was a mix of disappointment and pride. This wasn’t the race I wanted. But because of that, I think I am so much more proud of myself than if everything would have gone smoothly. Even though I walked the majority of the last half, I think I put out more effort and heart into that race than I ever have in my life. I ran half as much, but I think I worked twice as hard to finish this race than I did to finish my 12 mile training run.
I didn’t even look at the clock as I crossed the finish line, I was just so proud to finish. But here are the official stats:
After crossing the finish line, I immediately started searching for Babyface. He said he’d find us afterward. While looking for him, I pounded back some water and scarfed two chocolate chip cookies.
We walked to the photo area and then I saw Babyface run up to me. He grabbed me into a hug and I started to cry. Mandy and Ashley were amazing during the whole race, keeping me distracted, giving me tips, making me feel better, but it was so nice to see my husband after such a painful three hours.
He said he had a really rough race, too. But still totally rocked it!
We walked over to the photographers and did a few combos of pictures and then headed out in search of chocolate milk!
It sounded amazing. And tasted amazing at first. But then as it hit my stomach, it felt not so good. We stayed for a few minutes longer to snap some photos.
And then we were all too sore to walk around the after party, so we meandered our way back to the car. The walk was short, but we were all feeling it. Muscles were seizing up, joints were hurting, oh, and my sides never stopped cramping. I don’t think it helped that we were all in wet and cold clothes.
Ashley dropped us off at my sister’s, I popped in to say, “Hi!” to my parents (who had made it over in the meantime) and then went and took a shower while my stomach churned. It was seriously unhappy with my decision to run 13.1 miles. All clean, I put on my race shirt!
I found myself a nice patio chair in the sun, and didn’t really move for the next hour. My niece’s birthday party was happening, so all my family came up to my sister’s. There are lots of runners in the family, so there was a lot of talk of the Mini and my brother’s 50-miler next weekend.
My side cramps finally stopped (YAY!) but my stomach was super unhappy. Mandy recommended that I eat some protein to help. So protein I ate. A burger, baked beans and some macaroni salad.
It was simultaneously the most amazing and disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten. Each bite was like, “Oh my god, this is so good.” and then “Oh my god, I’m going to throw up.”
My brother also said he drinks a coke when he needs something after a run. If it works for a ultramarathoner, I might as well try it! Had half a cup of root beer.
The food seemed to help quite a bit. After my niece ate cupcakes and opened presents, it was time for me to get up from my super-comfy patio chair and for Babyface and I to head home.
The hour drive home, my stomach still felt a little off, but mostly I think it was because I was so hungry. Even with all the walking, I still managed to burn 3500 calories and I only took in 200 calories of Shot Bloks during the race. So, once home, we planted ourselves on the couch and ordered pizza.
I ate no less than a million breadsticks. It was amazing. I also had a Mountain Dew. Two cokes in a day? I’m not sure who I am.
After dinner, it was time to remove the bandaid from my toe and see what kind of damage had been done. I gathered my tools to do minor surgery.
It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be based on the pain I felt. It had definitely split some, and there was some blistering, but I think I’ll survive. I also put on some Neosporin and some bandaids on my chafed knees.
And then I went to bed. And slept awesomely.
This morning, I am more sore than I have ever been in my life. I was totally beat up on that course yesterday and I can feel it all over my body.
So you are probably going to ask, “Will you do another one?” And my answer is, “I don’t know.”
What I do know? I’m really, really proud I saw this through. And I am really excited to have my Sunday mornings back. And to be able to drink beer on Saturday evenings. And to focus on weight loss again. And build back my muscles. And have fun at the Warrior Dash. That’s as far as my brain can figure out right now.