Can I still consider myself a novice runner? I have now officially completed my first half marathon—the Stillwater Half Marathon. Thing is, I still don’t feel like I’m one of those uber-runners. I’m just a novice out there seeing what I can accomplish.
Sunday, May 30th at 7:00 am the gun sounded and roughly 2,000 runners set off on their journey, some the 12K, some the half marathon, some the 20 miler, and some the full marathon. I got out of bed at 5:30 and showered to wake me up and to warm up my muscles. I am not a morning person, much less a morning runner, but my excitement (and nerves) were running high. Number pinned to my shirt and Gu in hand, my husband and I headed out to find the starting line. Once near the starting line I grabbed a bottle of water (which may have been a mistake – I’ll explain later), sucked down a Gu packet and shoved the rest of the packets into my sports bra for later, and got in line for the bathroom.
Ahh. Necessities out of the way, now to find my pacer, Tina. I decided to join up with the 2 hour, 20 minute pacer. She was amazing—a cheerleader of sorts. Once the gun sounded we were off. Per usual it took awhile to cross the actual starting line, but I remembered to start my stopwatch as I crossed. I like to keep my own time. The pace was steady and felt slower than I was used to so I got my breathing rhythm down early. This is where a pacer is a great asset. I learned that when I run at home I must start off too fast and it will be something I work on moving forward. I met Pam who had run several half marathons and we decided to try and run together. This lasted until we reached the second bathroom/water stop. Remember that bottle of water I drank before the race? Yep. I needed to stop. Apparently so did a number of others as I ended up losing Pam, my pacer, and about 10 minutes. Unfortunately I needed to stop again at the next stop, but from there (about mile 7) I was good until the end.
The run itself was a gorgeous course that started out along the St. Croix river and then turned further inland into scenic rural countryside. Unlike my first two races this one was quite rural (at least for the middle section) so there were fewer people cheering along the way. The ones that did station themselves in the more remote spots were both enthusiastic and welcome. We ran in shade for the first few miles, but then we lost the shadows, the sun was hot, and there was virtually no breeze. The water/Powerade stops were much appreciated. My favorite stop was just past mile 9 near the Minnesota State Correctional Facility where all of the volunteers were dressed in black and white prison striped t-shirts. Going into mile 10 my energy was starting to waver, despite the Powerade, water, and my Gu packets. I ended up walking up a rather beastly long hill, with a number of my fellow runners. After that I ran again and a kind homeowner along the way had set up a “shower” with a garden hose. Cool water never felt so good! He was the first of several that had make-shift showers for the runners and there were even a few little kids along the way handing out freeze-pops. You gotta love the spectators! Closer to the end the crowds increased and I started seeing fellow runners that had already finished cheering on the rest of us. The heat was taking its toll and my energy was waning. Just one more hill, ugh. I had to walk it. The last mile was downhill—whew. I finished in 2:36, sixteen minutes off my pace time, but I was ecstatic anyway. I made it! I finished! The crowds were cheering! My husband was there taking pictures! I got my finishers medal! What a feeling!
Am I nuts? A little maybe. What’s next? Well, I’ve signed up for three more races—a 5K, a 10K, and yes, another half marathon. My goal next time is to run the entire distance. The Mankato Half Marathon is not until October so I have all summer to train. The next one will be even better than the first.