I was never a big runner when I was younger. In fact the only times I ran was when I was being chased, when I was made to in PE class or the odd event at the athletics carnival and even then I usually placed dead last. If you had told me back then that I would ever participate in a half marathon I would have laughed at you. I started running on and off a few years back to train for a few triathlons. Up until this year the longest distance I had run was 8km (5 miles) but I needed to run longer distance to qualify for the City2Surf race later this year. I ran a 10k (6.1 miles) and 15k (9.3 miles) a couple of months ago and the next step was to run a half marathon. I was talking to my friend Kristin who had also started running longer distances and we talked about running a half marathon. I told her about the Dismal Swamp Stomp, that it was in April so it wasn't too hot and it was flat. We both decided that if we were ever going to run a half marathon that this would be the race so we signed up and continued to train for the race.
Due to a very busy schedule it had been 5 or 6 weeks since my last long run and race day was here. My original goal was to finish somewhere between 2hrs 15mins and 2hrs 30mins but with the lack of training I would settle for finishing and if my time was under 3 hours I would be happy. My plan was to simply pace myself and hope that I didn't run out of energy and have to walk the last half of the race. The race started and I settled into a nice rhythm and continued down the course. To my surprise I was able to continue running for the first few miles without stopping. In fact I felt really good and figured if I kept this pace up I would do just fine. Mile after mile I kept running and keeping a steady pace and felt like this was the best race of my life.
I got to the half way mark, (6.6 miles/10.5km) then the 15k/9.3 mile mark and I still hadn't had to stop and walk. Shortly after this point I did need to take a quick break and walk a little bit. I was still very happy as I was somewhere between the 2 hr and 2hr 15min pacers and I had run non stop for much longer than ever before. I knew at some point I would run out of energy and have to walk more than I ran and that was during the last 3km/2 miles. I was excited that I had made it this far without major issues but was wishing the race was only 11 miles instead of 13.1. I tried to run when I could but I had to stop and walk a number of times.
I had just under a mile to go when I met a fellow runner who encouraged me to continue running with him. We talked as we ran and I learned that this was his 3rd race and that someone ran with him for the last mile to encourage them and it was time for him to pay it forward. This definitely gave me a boost and I was able to cross the finish line much quicker than if he hadn't come along. The best news was that not only had I finished the race, I had finished the race in 2hrs 12min 30secs, much faster than I had ever hoped. If I hadn't been so tired I probably could have done cartwheels I was so happy!
Kristin finished about 8 minutes ahead of me so she was waiting at the finish line. We both had a great time and are already planning our next half marathon. With some luck and proper training maybe one day I can break the 2 hour barrier. If you have ever thought about running a race I recommend just getting out there, training and giving it your best. You may not win the race but the elation of finishing will be just as good as winning the event.
Below is a link to the finish line video. (I wasn't able to embed it onto the page)