Who needs hallucinogens for a trip? Just run a half-marathon.
All jokes aside (I do not endorse hallucinogens or any other drugs), my first half-marathon was nothing short of a mental adventure. Those 13.1 miles were chock-full of contemplation ranging from simple (how badly I needed to study for my biology test; what I was going to eat for lunch after the race) to painstakingly complex (exploring potential career paths; reviewing – from memory – details of graduate programs I’m interested in).
I consider myself a runner, but the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans half-marathon was my first real race longer than a 10k (6.2 miles). I started training for this race in October 2017. Though I had six months to prepare, I know I could have prepared better. I ran all of three times during the month of January, and throughout February I only ran once a week. I was still doing other workouts – CrossFit, weightlifting, cardio in forms of the Stairmaster and rowing erg. So, while I remained in good shape overall, I wasn’t in prime running shape.
My goal time was 2 hours, 10 minutes. That equals out to about a 10-minute mile pace, which seemed doable. I’m excited to say I finished in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 17 seconds. I held a 9:30-mile pace on average. Miles one through three were frustrating. I wanted to speed up my pace, but knew it was a bad idea. I kept telling myself, “Chill out, Amanda. You still have 11 miles left.” I continued to trudge along at a 10-minute mile pace.
Right as I passed mile three, I realized I had to use the restroom… And I had to use it bad. But every time I passed a port-o-potty, the line looked 20 minutes long. No way I was wasting that much time. I kept running, and around mile five I realized I forgot I even had to go. I decided that if I made it five miles, I could hold it the rest of the way.
Somewhere around mile seven, I think I zoned out. Or in. Whatever you call it, I completely forgot I was running. I missed the eight-mile marker, and I must have come back to reality somewhere halfway through mile eight. I thought I was still on mile seven, and I whispered out loud, “No way I’m still on seven…” Shortly after that, I passed the nine-mile marker and said (again out loud), “I knew it! Only four more to go. I can do this.”
However, it was right around mile nine that the pain started to set in. I’d picked up my pace without realizing it, and despite running the first three miles at a 10-minute pace, my watch said I was averaging a 9:15-mile pace. I realized my left knee was hurting, my hip flexors felt sore, and my right big toe was on fire. I assumed I had a blister. Later, I realized I bruised badly underneath my toenail – meaning, yes, my toenail looks like I painted it black.
At mile 10, I hit a mental roadblock. Did I really still have three miles left? This was when I had to battle myself. I wanted nothing more than to stop, pull off, or walk the rest of the way. I had to remind myself that this was a mental game. My body already made it 10 miles without stopping. It could go three more.
My body didn’t need convincing. My mind did. As I reflect on the race, I’m proud of myself for keeping my momentum. The voice telling me to stop was incredibly strong. My knees and hips were aching, my feet were throbbing, and my muscles were burning. I was on the verge of wheezing and it was getting hot. I had so many reasons to stop, but I didn’t. I threw back a cup of Gatorade halfway through mile 10 and pushed through. And I’m so glad I did.
As I approached the finish line, I was greeted with an overwhelming wave of joy. I almost started to cry, but I swallowed the lump in my throat because I needed to keep breathing. Thousands of people cheered on the finishers in City Park in New Orleans. We ran through a canopy of oak trees and crossed the finish line into a sea of volunteers offering chocolate milk, bananas, Gatorade, and granola bars.
Strangers hugged one another, giving congratulations on the finish. Now I let myself cry those tears I held back earlier. It might sound silly to cry over a race that doesn’t really mean anything in terms of competition. I mean, I wasn’t like so many there running the full marathon to qualify for the Boston Marathon. So why was this so important to me?
To some, completing a half-marathon might be a small feat. For me, finishing this race without stopping is one of my greatest accomplishments. It proves that my mind is stronger than my body. I am stronger than my strongest excuses.
What's your biggest fitness accomplishment? Send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you!
About the F-Word
"Food" is the F-word. And the F-Word blog is all about helping you find your food-life balance. After battling an unhealthy relationship with food and body image for years, I'm dedicated to helping others avoid those misfortunes. Read on for nutrition guidance, lifestyle tips and stories from other bad-ass people who also overcame disordered eating.