Since today is National Running day, I want to talk about the day I ran my first-ever half marathon. It was such a momentous and exciting day for me and I wanted to share the story and experience with all of you.
On the morning of Sunday, September 20th 2015, after training all summer, I ran my first 13.1 miles in the Fox Valley Half Marathon. This was something I had wanted to do for years, but never thought I would ever be able to cross it off my bucket list. Training had been brutal – waking up at 5am so I could fit in my long run before it got hotter and then having to run in 80 degree heat and 90% humidity anyway. Nevertheless, it was all worth it because the race was such a beyond-amazing experience and I feel so blessed than I had the opportunity to run and also the strength to train well so I was ready to do my best on race day.
It was pouring rain on the Friday before the race when Austin and I drove an hour in a thunderstorm with flash flood warnings after work to go pick up my packet at the expo. Thankfully all went well and I was able to pick up my packet and bib so I’d be ready for Sunday.
My alarm went off at 4am on the morning of the race so I could have time to shower, eat, and get ready without feeling rushed. As we drove an hour from our home in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago to St. Charles, Illinois, I was excited, but not nervous. I knew I had trained well and that I had set myself up for success. (So many hours of training in the hot Chicago summer and crushing amounts of humidity and blisters on my feet.) I was just ready to finally conquer this after the nine months I had spent knowing it was coming.
The starting line was right by the Fox River and it was such a beautiful morning. Weather was in the 50s with highs in the 70s for later that day. Perfect.
As I waited with my pace group, I chatted with some other runners and texted my parents and my grandparents. My Nana had been my running coach all summer as I trained and she and my Poppop were running their own half marathon that morning in Maryland so we could do it together.
I am so amazed by the running community. Everyone there was supportive and encouraging. So many people woke up early to be out to volunteer and hold signs. Kids were giving high-fives to passing runners and the people passing out water at the hydration stations were such a welcome blessing. Seriously. The running community is the best and I am so thankful to be a part of it. Shout out to Fox Valley Marathon for putting on a fantastic race. It was well-organized and ideal for this first-timer.
Soon we were at the starting line and it was time to run. I stuck to my plan that I had made while training – tried and true. I had my hand-held water bottle with me and my Cliff Shot Bloks. I brought my iPod with a new audiobook for just-in-case, but I didn’t end up listening to it much. I was too preoccupied taking in all the new sights and making small talk with some of the other runners.
I cannot begin to say how gorgeous and perfect the course was. (Except for the dead raccoon on the side of the road.) We ran through Downtown St. Charles, along the Fox River, and through beautiful Japanese Gardens. The course was mostly flat with only a few tiny hills. The scenery kept changing which kept the run interesting.
While I was running, I was surprised by how easy it felt. It felt just like one of my long training runs and I had to remind myself that this was the real deal. Around mile 4 I stopped and waited in line for a bathroom break and at mile 6 I got a side stitch – but once I walked it off I was fine and it didn’t come back.
I was so excited to see the 10 mile marker! I stopped and texted Austin and my family to let them know I getting closer to the finish.
By the last mile, I was starting to feel tired and I was ready to be done. I pressed on as I screamed at myself, “You’re almost there! You’ll be done soon!”
When I had about a quarter of a mile left, I saw my in-laws standing by the course with signs. It was crazy. I had no idea they were going to be traveling up for the race and after running the entire race seeing people with signs, it took me a moment to recognize them and realize that these were for me! Best surprise and exactly what I needed to be my final push across the finish line.
…and I finished! This girl conquered the Fox Valley Half Marathon!
A volunteer placed the medal around my neck and I was surrounded by other finishers and everyone was congratulating each other. I was so unbelievably happy as I made my way over to the food tent to grab some water and a banana. Once I found Austin I stretched and we made our way back home so we could go out to lunch with his family. It was such an amazing day and I could not have asked for a more perfect first half marathon experience. The whole thing felt like a dream and I had to keep reminding myself that it had actually happened. I ran a half marathon!
God is so amazing! He gave me the courage to undertake this challenge and the discipline to see it through. Everything about this was outside of my comfort zone and it was certainly an adventure that I will never forget. I am so thankful for perfect weather and the strength I needed to persevere and for the friends and family who supported me and cheered me on along my way.
Hopefully there will be another half marathon in my future one day.
Do you have any racing stories?