The Darlington Marathon: My First (and maybe last) Half

Disclaimer: This is a long post with many details. Here's the gist of it if you don't want to read the whole thing: I ran my first half last Saturday. I finished first in my age group, was the fourth female and nineteenth overall. I was really happy with my time - 1:38:55. About ten minutes after the race, I started feeling horrible. We think that my potassium got low and that, coupled with adrenaline and excitement, made me feel bad. I'm thrilled that I accomplished this goal!

A few shots from the half. I wrote Ephesians 3:20 and Philippians 4:19 on my hands. 

Last Saturday, September 28th, I ran my first half marathon at the Darlington Marathon. It was a blast!

I've wanted to run a half for as long as I can remember, but I didn't ever bite the bullet and sign up for one. A few months ago, I decided that there was no time like the present and signed up for the inaugural Darlington Marathon which finished with a lap around "the track too tough to tame."

Once I was officially in, I started stressing. I'm not a huge weekly mile runner. In fact, a typical week for me usually falls between 15-23 miles. I run as much as I can while still having  fun and not taking time away from my family which is what's most important to me.

About a month ago, I decided (at the urging of my husband) not to stress about it anymore. I ran an 8 miler about two weeks before the half, and prior to that, my longest run was 13.1 one hot, July day.

I decided to take it easy on race week and only ran 7 miles Monday through Wednesday. I also decided to eat more than normal. While I love my Chickfila waffle fries and sweet tea, I try to eat healthy for the most part. Half marathon week was an exception as I ate french fries and pasta a ton.

I was calmer than I expected the night before the race. We ate dinner, took a walk around the neighborhood with Kaden in the jogging stroller and K.C. and I sat in the back of Kevin's truck and looked at the stars. I got my clothes out, packed my bag and relaxed with Kevin after we had the boys in bed. The next morning was a little different though. I got up a little after 5:00 am, showered and made some oatmeal, my typical pre-race breakfast. While I was waiting for my mom to pick me up (Kevin and the boys had a soccer game that morning and were planning to drive over after it.), I even polished my nails - Strawberry Margarita by OPI.

When we made it to Darlington, a short drive from where we live, my mom dropped me off and parked. I was really excited. Excited about running my first half, excited for the whole experience and excited because I was so excited (I'm a pretty excitable person!).

I made my way to the starting line as I looked for some familiar faces. There were around 500 runners from over twenty states included Steve Hughes who ran his 300th marathon in Darlington. I saw some co-workers, friends from run club and talked to a few seasoned marathoners/half marathoners. I ended up seeing my mom before the race, too, which was nice.

Once at the starting line, I got even more excited. I really enjoy racing and it was the most beautiful morning. I spoke to a few more people, put my earphones in and started my Garmin. It was race time!

The first few miles felt absolutely amazing. I tried to start out slower (around 7:10 pace) and enjoyed running along with so many great runners. I was in the lead group and just enjoyed looking around, feeling the breeze and listening to some great music. My "Track I'm Going to Tame" (pardon the corniness) play list had some great music on it, and I started off with some Chris Tomlin. This may not be cool to those of you reading, but for me, it was so nice listening to some praise and worship music for the first 30 minutes or so as the sun was rising. It was truly worshipful.

Once the 10K turned off from us, the crowd thinned out. I talked to a few runners as we ran along and by mile five or so, a girl I've gotten to know some through racing and I were side-by-side and chatting. Running fast and long beside someone else is definitely easier.

When I reached the halfway point, I was really pleased with my time. I was a few minutes faster than my goal for that point. Going into the race, I tried not to have any expectations and told everyone who asked that my goal was to finish in 1:45. My ideal goal for myself was 1:40 or less. Knowing that I ran it the first time in 1:35:15, I felt like I could do it in less than 1:40 even though my fastest time was under controlled conditions - on my treadmill, watching Friends and under a fan.

By mile 8, I was getting thirsty. I hadn't had water since I got out of the car and it had been a few miles since we passed a water table. I had decided not to grab water until around mile 8 because I always get horrible cramps when I drink and run. Even though I was thirsty, I was still happy with my time as I was a minute or two ahead of where I wanted to be by 8.

At mile 9, I had to stop, not from being tired, but because my sock had gotten all bunched up. It had been bothering me for a few miles, but at 9, I knew I had to fix it because there was no way I could run 4 more miles on it. I pulled off, took my shoe off, fixed my sock and started back as I grabbed a few skittles from my pouch.

Looking back, I wish I hadn't stopped because when I started back, it meant I was on my own. After that point, I stopped two other times to fix my socks/shoes and grabbed some water around mile 11 when I finally got to a table that had some. I found out after the race that the truck delivering the water on our route had a flat tire.

We ran into the track with about 1.4 miles to go. We had to run through the tunnel which led to the infield. Going down was easy, but the trek up was tough. I decided to walk it. We ran across the infield and then around three turns of the track onto the finish line.

I was so happy with my time. I finished in 1:38:55. I was first in my age group, fourth female and nineteenth overall!

My parents were there to see me at the end and I got to see a ton of other friends. It was great!

About ten minutes after the race, I started feeling bad. Not a bad as in I'm going to get sick or dizzy or anything, just a general I don't feel good. I think I was just way more tired than I expected to be. I walked over to talk to the people who run the timing company and who I've gotten to know well. As I was there, I had some bananas and water and started feeling better. When I stood up, I nearly fell down and someone caught me. It was pretty scary. They laid me down on the ground and covered me with everything they could find - sweat shirts, baby blankets, beach towels - to help me stop shaking. What we think happened was a combination of being just overwhelmed (I was thrilled with how well I did, so excited), adrenaline, freezing (it was chilly and I had sweat a lot) and a need for potassium. After a bag of chips, more Skittles and some sports beans plus another bottle of water, I was feeling better. I had finally stopped shaking (weird) and my dad drove me home. When I got home, I took a really hot bath to get rid of more shaking and felt tons better.

I don't want to let what happened after the half affect my memory of the half or discourage any of you from running one. All in all, it was an amazing experience. I'm not sure if I want to run another one (in fact, last week I said I wouldn't ever. Don't freak out Kevin and mom, I doubt I will.), but my decision (a week out) is based mostly on the fact that I really enjoy shorter, faster races. While I like longer runs, 8-10 miles are good for me.

I had a great time at my first half and I'm so glad to have that checked off of my list. I enjoyed eating everything I wanted after the race including a few donuts and about twelve pigs in a blanket as we watched the Clemson game. The massage I was able to schedule at the last minute was pretty awesome, too! Later than night, my little Kaden and I were both tuckered out and fell asleep on the couch at Kevin's parents.

By Tuesday, three days after the race, I was feeling good again. My energy was back, the soreness was gone and I felt great. I didn't have the opportunity to run on vacation (more on that in a Sapelo post), but my first post-half run was a great 4 miler in 27:35.

Do you like racing?

What's your favorite distance to race?

What was your first half marathon experience?

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