Half Marathon - A Whole Lot of Fun
Anyone who has ever run a marathon, a half-marathon or even a 10km fun-run, will know that it is not only physical fitness and stamina that is required to finish, but it’s also about having a healthy mentality and impressive self-discipline.
While running can be fun for some – for many, running is a tedious task that can become incredibly boring, repetitive and often cause you to overthink. (This could be because there isn’t anything better to do with your brain while trying not to think about just how far you have left ahead of you.)
And if you have ever completed or attempted one of these long races for yourself, you will be well aware that there is an unusual, slightly crazy and increasingly odd train of thought that accompanies the lead up to a race and the race itself. Often it's a lot of regret, self-doubt, self-pity, and negative self-talk.
However, I do feel the need to inform you that it is all worth it to feel the indescribable sense of pride, joy, accomplishment and fulfilment when you finish such an endeavour.
There really is no feeling quite like it!
SO as much as the following blog may incline you to deter from indulging in such a journey yourself, I definitely do recommend everyone try a challenging run at some stage in their life! Do it for a cause, do it for the fulfilment, do it for the challenge, do it for fun or do it to prove to yourself that you’re stronger and more capable than you thought.
I was invited to attend the NIKE Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco recently. Having a spontaneous personality and being a little fearful of missing out (FOMO), I tend to jump at almost any opportunity life presents ... the crazier the better! So of course, when the chance to go over to a foreign country and do something insane like run 13.1 miles (21km) just for fun came up, I swiftly jumped at the idea!
Now, I have done a half marathon before.
Last year I personally decided to participate in a Gold Coast half marathon (in my hometown at the time). I’d been running a fair bit and wanted to challenge myself to see if I could complete something that had previously seemed so unattainable. I don’t remember a lot about it, but I remember it was a lot harder than I had imagined! So in retrospect, I have no idea what form of sorcery (or stubborn stupidity) tempted me to agree to do another one! ESPECIALLY considering I had not been training for such a feat this time, and had mostly only been doing yoga as fitness (not exactly the kind of training that would assist me in completing an aerobic cardiovascular run with my head still attached to my body!). And throw into the equation a fractured rib that, in the early stages, had me wincing at every breath.
So, I knew it would be a challenge, but it wasn’t until the night before the big day that it truly hit me what I had signed myself up for.
It was 2am and I still wasn’t asleep.
We’d had a mission trying to find somewhere for dinner on the Saturday night as the Mexican restaurant we had reservations at had a random power outage and was only serving cocktails and salads. Not exactly ideal conditions for a bunch of girls about to run a half-marathon. Once we did eventually find a table elsewhere, we had an extended and impatient wait for our meals. In the long run, fish and risotto seemed like a better choice than spicy Mexican tortillas anyway. I don’t remember ever hearing a story about someone having a good experience while combining spicy, metabolic stimulating foreign foods and a big bowel-stimulating run.
Then I needed a shower and to prep and pack for the next morning. These were some of my thoughts:
- What undies will be best?
- What pants to wear? Will shorts be too cold? Will tights make me overheat once I warm up?
- Do I have a hair band tight enough to hold my hair for that long? Bun or ponytail?
- I can’t find matching socks!
- Will this sports bra be supportive enough?
- Should I wear sunscreen in the morning?
- Do I moisturize or will it drip off?
- Do I wear a jumper? I don’t want to run with it tied around my waist, but also don’t want to freeze to death pre-sunrise and during the early miles of the run!
- Which pair of joggers to wear, these Nikes or the other Nikes?
- Where do I put my room key while I am running?
- Have I got all the badges, numbers and wristbands I need?
- Will I take my phone?
I fell asleep sometime between 2am and 5am when my alarm went off. We were meeting downstairs in the lobby at 5:30am so that all the Nike girls could head over together.
- 5am alarm goes off.
- I hit snooze on the alarm … twice.
- 5:15 rolls around and I finally force myself out of bed.
- Air feels cold, and I’m definitely tempted to crawl back under the covers. The sky is still dark and it doesn’t exactly look like a “warm” morning.
- I rush to get changed.
- Scull some coconut water for hydration, but not too much because then I’d be sick or get a stitch.
- Scoff down a banana.
- I rush to put my shoes on.
- Do I wear jumper or not?!
- Remember the room key!
- I rush out the door.
- Rush back into room because I forgot deodorant (eek!)
- Run back out of room.
- Meet in lobby and no one else was even there — apparently we were meeting closer to 6am (damn it)!
- Eat another banana.
- Decide to leave jumper and room key at reception.
Realisation – I am probably mentally unprepared for a half-marathon at 6:30am while also being incredibly jet-lagged (not thinking clearly may be a good thing?).
- We leave hotel anyway and begin the warm-up walk to the start line.
- Realised we were on the wrong block and found our correct start line a few minutes before “GO!”.
- Soaking up the atmosphere into my goosebumps (where is the jumper when I need it?).
- Stretching out legs.
- Jogging on the spot to warm up.
- The song 'Shots' came on the loudspeaker and we all relaxed a little and danced badly for a few minutes.
And then the race officially started!
We weren’t even lined up near the front, we were about mid-way into the crowd of 25,000 people and even still, my stomach dropped when I heard the countdown! 13.1 miles wasn’t going to be an easy task for a yogi!
It actually took about 15 minutes for us to reach the start line, in which we enjoyed the aura, ambience and sense of empowerment that laced the air. This vibe only increased to a greater level when we started to hit a running pace!
It felt like a solid force; a stampede of females (and the occasional male) running alongside each other to prove themselves wrong, prove their friends wrong, challenge themselves, run for awareness of a cause or cancer, run for a loved one, run just for fun or even just running for some endorphins, to fit into some skinny jeans or for the celebratory drinks that would be had later. Regardless of why each individual started, we were all packing together in hopes to finish in semi-decent form (or to finish at all!).
Fog covered the city, and we planned to burn through it all! A sunrise over a view of the Golden Gate Bridge would have been an incredibly memorable experience.
It didn’t happen – the fog was so grey and so dense that at one stage I wasn’t even sure if I was dripping with sweat or dripping with condensation! But I think the fact that San Francisco provided a typical or stereotypical misty morning was equally memorable and beautiful anyway, it was like running through a fairy garden or a mysterious forest!
The sun may not have been shining in the air, but it certainly was steeped in the atmosphere. Plenty of bright and vivid colours scattered throughout the streets and countless smiles and cheers! I distinctly remember wearing a beaming smile on my face for the first three miles, simply because it was impossible not to be touched, inspired and moved by the energy!
Mile one seemed to approach almost too quickly. And completing another 12.1 appeared to be more than attainable! People were screaming and cheering – excited to have started the race!
Then came mile two. At every mile there was a large purple flag with the distance covered printed on it. Mile two seemed longer than the first, and hitting a slow, steady pace seemed like a good strategy at the time! We curved a bend (all the runners hitting a curve was one of the best things I’ve ever seen! It was like a fluorescent, rainbow, Mexican wave!)
Then came our first hill (yes first – there was more than one!). I had planned on attempting to run the whole way. I didn’t mind how slow I was, I just wanted to run the entire 21kms. I failed to run, (or maybe I just readjusted my goals). I got about 40 steps up the hill, and as the fog covered the vision of the peak, I decided to walk and use the hill as a “stretch” for my calves which would more than likely be burning within no time! And I didn’t feel so bad as I noticed a lot of other girls had the same tactic as me (great minds think alike ladies)!
I remember smelling cinnamon donuts as I approached the top of the hill, and that gave me a weird sense of motivation to finish sooner. The quicker I finish, the quicker I can eat some well deserved, warm cinnamon donuts.
I stepped over the hill’s peak, and began long steady strides downward (a downhill run had never felt so good!!).
From that moment on, my mind began conceiving a series of quirky, odd or completely irrelevant thoughts to entertain me on the run:
- Just keep running!
- Water stop!
- Free electrolytes?!
- Electrolyte never tasted so good!
- I wonder what time it is back home?
- This was a dumb idea.
- More electrolytes!
- I can probably run another marathon after that power punch!
- Speed camera! Don't run too fast Sjana, you might get caught! (Yep, I laughed at my own joke, obviously going slightly delusional).
- My shoelace feels too tight, should I shop and loosen it?
- Nah, be strong Sjana. Don't stop!
- Oh, look. Cheerleaders!
- A DJ!!
- Shoelace is definitely too tight. I'm stopping to fix it.
- Free wipes? Why would I wipe my face when I'm only going to get sweatier?
- Free oranges!!
- Now my hands are all sticky. Oh, THAT'S what the wipe was for!
- Silly Sjana
- I like that guy's tutu!
- Free chocolate?!
- Grab two, they won't know!
- Karma is queen, chocolate was a terrible idea!
- Run next to this girl; her iPod is loud and I like this song.
- Downhill = heaven!
- Seven miles? I speak in kilometres and I'm bad at maths but I'm pretty sure that is past halfway! Woo hoo!
- More water.
- Missed the cup bin, damn. I don't want to litter. Do I just hold the cups for the next 1.5 miles?
- Don't have to use the toilet, but I will stop at the next portal for a tactical/secret rest stop anyway... sneaky, sneaky!
- Hill.... use the momentum to get up the hill!
- Momentum failed.
- I can't tell if this is sweat or fog.
- Electrolyte lollies? That's pretty awesome!
- Too bad they taste like medicine.
- Nine miles? I feel strangely good.
- Wait, 9.3 miles? Longest mile ever!
- I don't even sweat this much in hot yoga.
- More chocolates? Avoid them Sjana. It's a trick. They make you feel yuck! Even though they taste sooooo good.
- Ten miles down.
- Hill. Okay, that's a very big hill.
- The map showed a hill at mile 10, but that is more of a mission.
- The hill never ends!
- It's STILL going up??
- I can see the top! Salvation!
- And now we go downnnnn, weeeeee, weeeeeee, weeeee all the way home!
- No, wait. Going down hurts my knees now! Running down a hill is hard?
- Oh, look! A photo op!
- Eleven miles! Only 2.1 miles left, I can run that!
- More chocolates? Well, maybe just one.
- I wonder if anyone would notice if I jumped on the back of that guy's bike?
- Twelve miles! Only one more!
- Another purple flag already?!? The finish line is in sight! Blisssssss!
- Oh, wait. That says 20km. Why would they intentionally deceive us like that? We've been speaking in miles the whole way. Cruel, cruel world! Another kilometre left!
- Walk a few steps.
- Run a few steps
- Knees will give out soon.
- Thirteen mile sign, just 0.1 miles left! Home stretch!
- Why are there so many people watching us??
- Act like you're not even in pain.
- That face wasn't fooling anyone Sjana, nice try!
- I can see the finish sign!!
Somehow gain supernatural speed for last 0.1 miles and feel silly for ever walking!
Cross line, smile, lose all leg coordination
- Free water bottle? Yes please!!
- Free chocolate milk? Not for now, I will probably be sick, but I’ll take two for later!
- Free foil blanket? I’m sweaty but I’m sure I’ll be cold later – I’ll take five, thanks!
- Goodie bags! Woo hoo!
- I get a Tiffany & Co. necklace for finishing?! That’s awesome!
- Stretch down zone?! With yoga mats and foam rollers?! Yes, yes ,yes!!
- Wholefoods tasters!
- I’m so hungry.
Me: finds VIP tent, shows armband, eats 6 plates of hash browns, bacon, pork sausages, fruit, yoghurt, muesli, porridge and scrambled eggs. Then finds other Nike girls and laughs all about our favourite signs we saw!
Home-made signs and posters may seem silly, but when you are running and you’re a little mentally bored, or physically exhausted, a humourous sign can make you smile and even give you back a bit of energy and motivation by lifting your spirits!
Similarly with a group of cheerleaders, pom-poms, a crazy outfit/costume, a cow-bell or a clapper! So, thank you to anyone/everyone who has ever or will ever make a sign or cheer others on in the future!
These were a few of my favourite posters:
“Got Tequila” (the man holding this sign was also holding a flask out!)
“Go random stranger, go!”
“13.1 miles? You’ve done smarter things drunk!”
“Don’t stop, keep going!” five metres after was another sign that said “That’s what she said!”
“Next time, do it naked”
“Run like you're escaping Alcatraz!”
“Skinny jeans ahead”
“Finish = massage” (it’s true! There really were huge massage tents at the finish line!!
“Run now, poop later”
“Free hugs!!” (I took advantage of the hug ... sorry that I was sweaty, wonderful hugging stranger!)
“Burn the fog!”
“Whine now, wine later” (I was surprised how many people had the stomach to down alcohol right after a race! But cheers to you girls! Especially claiming five Bloody Mary’s as five serves of vegetables, hahaah!)
“Who runs the world? Girls!”
All in all, it was a spectacular day!
Running 13.1 miles is never an easy feat, but it certainly was the best way to start the day and I am so, so glad I did it! I had a smile ear-to-ear the entire day! And it made sleeping an absolute treat!
Congratulations to anyone else who participated!
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
For those of you who are thinking about potentially doing a half-marathon, marathon or long run/race in general – I definitely recommend it!
You’ll love it! :D
* Results from BAM may vary. Strict adherence to the program is required for best results.