Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Ever Half Marathon!

Friday morning I got up early before work and did a quick 3km on the hamster wheel. I knew I would have had time to run after work because I had to go down to the runners expo at the CNE to pick up my race kit.  The expo was okay, it was mainly like any "show" at a convention space but it was a good one stop shop for picking up the nutrition I needed for race day along with a new running shirt.  I also picked up a great tip from one of the ladies working at the booth I made my purchases.  We were discussing layering and she suggested bringing a garbage bag just in case of rain.  She was very helpful so I made sure I bought my gear from her booth.

The actual area for the race kits was very organized and I didn't have to wait in line to get my bag.  They directed me over to guys activating the timing chip and that was it, the rest of the time I wandered around looking at different things. I ended up seeing John Stanton at the Running Room booth. 

People gathering in the corrals

Saturday I did some running around but tried to just relax and stay off my feet when I was at home.  My entertainment for the evening was doing laundry to wash my favorite running socks and pants and watching the hockey game.  I called it a night and went to bed around 10:30 but probably didn't really fall asleep until at least midnight. 

The alarm went off a 6:00 am followed by my back-up alarm about a minute later.  I hit snooze and got up maybe 10-15 minutes.  I got myself ready and made an egg and bacon sandwich for the drive into the city.  We stopped for a coffee and the way and I saw a women wearing "running" clothes and figured she was racing too.  We were on the highway and moving eastbound through oakville and mississauga in no time.   I started to feel nervous with a few butterflies about the time we got to the gardner. 

Fauja Singh (100 yr old Marathon Runner)

We got into the city just after 7am and found parking pretty quickly and close to the starting line. We made our over to University and there was already a ton of people getting ready and moving into the starting corrals.   We wandered around a bit and I got myself ready, before I knew it we were queue up and getting ready to start.  We saw Fauja Singh (the Centurion running the marathon), he started in the same corral as me so we snapped a few pictures of him,what an inspiration!  

They played Oh Canada and pretty much after that the firstround of runners were out of the gate and on their way. I started from the purple corral, which had me in the last group going out about 10 minutes after the start.  Tony gave me one last hug and kiss and told me how proud he was and then I was on my own to walk my way to the starting line. I got my play list queued as I was walking around University and then I was off.   As I was maybe 200 meters out of the gate I heard a guy yell "just a little bit further" and chuckled to myself.  The crowd at the starting line was awesome, there were so many people waving signs and cheering us on. 

Adjusting my garbage bag

The first few kilometers felt somewhat surreal for me.   I was used to running solo on my long runs and this was very, very different.   I felt more comfortable on the side of the road and tried to keep an eye on my heart-rate as much as possible. It was a little high at the start but I figured that was normal for race day.  I was probably in about 2-3km when I got warm enough to toss the extra t-shirt I had worn for an extra layer.

Running felt different during the race, at the beginning it felt like it didn't require as much effort, maybe I was just feeling the buzz and
getting energy from my fellow racers.  I made my way down around through the city streets passing both the old Castek offices and remember some of the good times I had at both places.  I continued down lakeshore passing the main arteries of the city and started to make the climb up the one hill on the lakeshore I think it's around Spadina, I was about an hour in at this point I think when I started seeing the guys running to qualify for London 2012. It was amazing to see them coming back past me already.  Us slower runners were cheering them on as they passed, you could totally see the effort they were putting in and I think it probably made all of us perk up a bit and push that little bit harder.

Just a few 100 meters off the start line
They had the distance markers along the way and kept thinking the 10km point would have been the turnaround point at Windermere but I was wrong. I kept seeing the markers on the second half but the distance was adding up in my head and I was having a hard time because of it.  I should know better by now to stop trying to do the math in my head when I'm running because usually I am totally wrong.  I just want to get to the turn around point and start my way back.  It wasn't until I starting seeing the sea of runners making their way eastbound did I realize how many people were running.  It was incredible to see everyone.  I noticed only 1 person wearing the "glove"like shoes although I'm sure there were more and I actually saw a guy running totally barefoot, gross for a few reasons! 

I never turned around to see who was behind me on the west bound leg. Part of me was scared to see if I was last and part of my didn't care how many people were back there.  I finally got to Windermere and made the turn to start coming back to Bay Street and I got an idea of who was closer to the back of the pack.  I admit that I was happy to see a few people back there still coming down the west bound lanes but it was that long until I saw Fauja Singh and his group. I thought I better get moving, I can't get passed by the 100 year old! 

a sea of runners

I ended up making a pit-stop around 2:15 hours into the race I think I was around 13kms in.  I didn't want to stop but the first half I kept thinking I should stop but the lines were so long so I waited until I couldn't wait anymore.  My initial goal was to finish in under three hours, 2:59:59 would have been AMAZING but after I stopped I realized with the distance I had left, there was no way I was going to be able to come in under three hours and I was okay with it.  I still pushed and and tried to keep my heart rate as high as I could without maxing out. During this time the 5km racers starting flying past me andI was pretty happy when I saw the 18 and 19km markers and so relieved when I so the 20km marker.  When I saw the 20km flag I starting running faster, I checked my heart rate and it was in the high 170's but I didn't want to stop or slow down, at that point I just wanted to get to the finish line.

I made the turn at Bay and Lakeshore and saw the "500m to go" sign and thought to myself, okay that's just a bit more than a lap around the track.  I passed through the tunnel at Union and starting making the climb up the hill to Front Street. For the record, a climb to the finish line at the very end of the race is a little cruel...anyway, I saw the 200m to go sign and keep pushing.  It was such a strange feeling seeing all the people waiting at the finish line, the sides of the street were packed!   At the very end they had two lanes with the finish time clocks and I ended up going in under the 5km clock. I was a little worried and thought my timing would have been messed up but there wasn't anything I could do.  I crossed the finish line and heard the beep of the time chip and was so relived. 
Approaching the last 100m marker

The time to complete my first ever half-marathon was 3:10:29 and I was pretty happy with it in the end  I checked my 20km training run and I spend 3:26 that day so considering I went a little further and I finished 16 minutes faster.  For nutrition I started off with a pack of the jelly beans, 3-4 gels, a few cups of water and gatorade from the stations and a pack and half of the fruit chews.  After crossing the finish line I inhaled a bagel and half a banana while I waiting in line for my massage (best money I could have spent) and had another G2 on the way home.

I tried looking for Tony but I had no idea where he was in the crowd or if he was even able to find a place to watch at the finish line but it was nice to know that he was there with me supporting me the whole way.  He supported me from the very begining when I was so upset after my first RR night. He never gave up believing that I could do it.  He joined me when he could for training runs always encouraged me to dig a little deeper and run a little faster, I couldn't have done this without him! I love you babe!

All in all, am amazing experience and I can't wait for the 10km race on Nov 5 and what ever races I end up registering for after that.  I am already thinking about sighing up for the Mississauga Marathon but probably another half. I figure I have to get down to between 2-3 hours before I go for a full 42km and I learned a few lessons for my next long race:

1) Don't stop for a pit stop (if I HAVE to stop, it better be an emergency!)
2) Don't use the water stations - bring the liquid and nutrition I plan on using


  1. Way to go Amanda! What a fantastic time!!! I always knew you could do it!

  2. I wouldn't have even considering running in this race if it wasn't for you! Thank you Adena, for so much!!!