13 days ago I ran the Melbourne Marathon Festival Half Marathon. I’m still pretty in awe of myself! Someone suggested to me in June last year that I could run a half marathon and it seemed like such a hilarious and unrealistic idea. But it didn’t take long for it to become an achievable goal for me.
There are a few angles I could take when writing about this – I could focus on what I had to overcome; the 3 months off running to rest and rehabilitate my feet, the daily exercises set by my physio, the wondering whether a half marathon would even be physically possible for my body. I could focus on my training plan; I mostly devised it myself and it wasn’t that great, and there were many runs missed due to minor injuries/niggles, school holidays and sick children, and a bout of the flu. I could focus on the people who helped and inspired me; but to be honest there are too many.
Every time I start typing I realise in order to recognise everyone, I need another 1000 words. So I’ll just keep it old school and write about the event itself.
I was super excited the morning of the event but also quite nervous and a little bit emotional. I lined up at the start line with some of the OpMove team – Lee, Emily and Nikki; my aim was to try to keep up with Lee, who was aiming for a 2.10 finish time. It was an ambitious goal for me to go that fast but I figured I could start out that pace and just take it from there. I was running a distance that was 3kms more than anything I’d previously done, and all my previous long runs had been at an easy pace, so I was really unsure of how I would go.
When the race started it was so busy and crowded that I couldn’t position myself next to Lee, however I could see her up ahead and I kept her in my sights for the first 5 kms or so. Although I wasn’t running flat out I could soon tell that I was running at a pace that wouldn’t be sustainable for me over 21kms. So I let go of my 2.10 dream and just concentrated on keeping myself at a realistic but challenging pace. I stopped to refuel with some shot bloks at the 9km mark; it reminded me that I need some practice in this area as it took me over 1 minute to stop, open the packet with sweaty fingers, gobble them down and them gulp down some water afterwards! I was still feeling pretty good at this stage especially having slowed down slightly.
At around the 12km mark it started feeling a lot harder. My feet, legs, hips, even shoulders (what is with that?) were all hurting but I just kept pushing through it. It was also getting quite hot and I felt that perhaps Albert Park Lake was the least shady place on earth.
Running back up St Kilda road after the 15km mark felt extremely hard. I was surprised afterwards to see that I was still doing 6.20/kms at this point because I felt like I was running through quicksand. I tried to distract myself by watching the full marathoners running alongside us, and being happy that I wasn’t running another 23 kms! There was the odd runner collapsed on the side of the road, being attended to by St Johns. You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief from all the runners as we entered the shady part of St Kilda road.
I slowed to a brief walk at some stage on St Kilda road and it didn’t hurt any less than running so I figured I should keep running, that way it would all be over more quickly. I also stopped for a quick shot blok at the 19km mark, hoping that it would miraculously make my legs stop screaming (I didn’t realise they could do that). Not long after this point while running through Birrarung Marr, I spotted a blonde with an Operation Move top standing next to her bike. I immediately yelled out “Pinky!” and gave her a high five so hard that I was surprised I didn’t knock her over. It really spurred me on and I picked up the pace, I was actually overtaking quite a few people so I was feeling pretty badass.
Then I saw the bloody footbridge looming ahead…at least this year I knew it was coming! Last year it was a most unwelcome surprise. My plan was to power walk up the bridge and run like hell down it.
By the time the momentum of the downhill had subsided, I only had about 500m to go! I knew my husband and son would be waiting alongside the final straight somewhere, and watching out for them was a welcome distraction from the pain in my feet and legs. My toes, oh my poor toes that have caused me so much grief this year, they held up so well all day but they were starting to cramp and curl up in a ball and it took all my focus to keep them straight, just like my physio and I had talked about. Rounding the last bend I saw Kate, Jo, Rachel and Dannielle jumping up and cheering me! Oh those wonderful women. And then just before the finish line I saw my wonderful husband and son …. they’ve supported and encouraged me so much … I ran past them and gave my son the biggest high five ever. They looked so proud.
And then I was done. I was so relieved. I did it. I gave it everything. I did it in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I thought there would be tears but I think I was too exhausted. The tears finally came….right now, as I am typing this, reliving that wonderful day that I worked so hard for.
I couldn’t have done it without my fantastic team at Operation Move – all the advice, encouragement, laughs…running is so much more a team sport than I thought it would be.
And will I ever run another half marathon? Hell yeah!