It happened yesterday. Yesterday I ran my first half marathon and I’m over the moon at having finished! I really enjoyed the Rock ‘n Roll Half, the music was a blast, the race was well organized and it was a real learning experience for me!
I started the morning like any other race morning, early! With an 8.30am start I was up at 5.30 to have my breakfast of overnight oats. I went back to bed to read for a bit and get some water into me. Then it was time to get up, get my gear on and head out the door. I walked over to where there was supposed to be a shuttle bus stop but I didn’t see any sign of a bus nor any sign of where the actual stop was! I did see the Luas was operating and some runners walking towards the Heuston stop so I joined them and figured they knew what they were doing. I made it to the start time with plenty of time to spare so I’m glad for that!
I checked my bag and then wandered off to take my usual starting line photo:
I was feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. I’d been planning for and dreaming about this race since early this year so to have it finally be the day was exciting and nerve-wracking!
I still had time before the race so I walked up and down the start line for a bit, tweeting and finding runners in fun costumers to take photos of. I particularly loved ‘Kiss’, brilliant!
I also met Danny and Ash of RunLogic who I mentioned in my pre-race report. It was nice to see people I know!
I had time to use the loo before the race which is always a prudent thing. The queues were pretty long but everyone was quick about it so I didn’t have to wait very long.
After that it was time to line up and wait for the start! I got to chat a bit to a few people around me while we shuffle walked to the start line. I was in the very last corral so it took about 10 minutes to get to the mat. But, I got there and then it was time to run!
Mile 0-1: 13:56*
Not a bad mile although I did run it a tiny bit too fast. I had a pace in mind for the race but my plan was to start a bit slower and work up to it. I ended up running this mile bang on pace though so I didn’t really run it too fast but didn’t run it slowly enough, if that makes sense. My not-so-secret goal of running the half in 3 hours also went out the window here. I had hoped to stay behind the 3 hour pacers, keep them in sight and then catch up with them if I could. Yeah, it sounds alright in theory but in practice it just wasn’t doable. I lost sight of them towards the end of the mile and never really saw them again!
Mile 1 band, Brain Donation, were brilliant. I remember thinking as I ran past that I must look them up! Very upbeat, rockin’ music which was a great sign of things to come for the rest of the race.
Mile 1-2: 13:59
Bit boring this mile, just running through the city. I kept to my planned pace though, and felt pretty good. These are streets I’m well familiar with so there were no surprises here. There was a water station but I didn’t need water at this point so I just ran past it. There was also a section where the course looped back on itself so I got to see runners heading down a hill while I ran/walked up it. By the time I made the loop myself all the barriers separating the two routes were gone. I remember thinking the road crew work fast!! The loop also made up part of mile 3.
Mile 2 band, were pretty good! I didn’t get their name and I’m not sure it’s the same band listed on the RnR website.
Miles 2-3 and 3-4: 13:56, 14:09
This was a tougher section for a few different reasons but I kept to my pace and still felt ok with it. As I ran along the quays I got to chat to a few people around me which was nice (hi Nikki!). I told one woman at a certain point that I lived nearby and having to run past the road up to my house was funny but hard, knowing how long I had left to go! Anyway, I continued on and made it to Kilmainham with no issues. This was a tough part of the course with more hills than I’m used to but I just kept going and managed to hold on to my pace. I’m not really familiar with these streets so it was all new to me.
The 4th mile was a tiny bit slower for me but this is when I decided to take on some fuel so that may have something to do with it. I had half a Clif bar and 3 Clif shot bloks. I had packaged them this way the night before so I wouldn’t have to fumble around with them in my belt pouch**.
Mile 4 band: I only remember one band on this section and it was here that I realized the bands weren’t the mile markers. For some reason I thought they were! Anyway, the band Love Shack were really energetic and interacting with the runners. It was a nice boost to my own energy levels.
Mile 4-5: 13:49
One of my faster miles which is odd considering my Garmin profile shows it was hilly! I was running more and more on my own now as I was passing walkers but not catching up to runners. I wanted to encourage a few people as I went along but noticed most of them were wearing earphones. That was a bummer! I always wear my twitter name on my back when I race and it’s a lot of fun to meet people on the course who ask me about it or comment on it. So I try to encourage others too when I can or when they aren’t wearing earphones. I think a ‘good job’ or ‘you’re doing great’ can make a huge difference in a race.
I did grab a bottle of water at the water station and dumped most of it on my head. Despite the rain earlier in the morning and the overcast sky, it was really humid and I found it quite hot out. The water was nice and cooled me down a bit.
Mile 5 band: Again I didn’t get their name and I’m not entirely sure it’s the same on on the website. I enjoyed the music though!
Mile 5-6: 13:59
This was a memorable mile because on twitter I had dedicated this mile to a fellow twitter runner who is injured at the moment.
I also used all the good luck tweets I’d gotten before the race to breeze through this mile. A few downhill stretches also helped!
It was great to get some high fives off some kids during this mile. Really does give a boost!
I did think just before I hit the 6 mile marker that I’d just run a 5 mile ‘race’ and had another 5 mile ‘race’ to go and that wouldn’t even be the end of it. I remembered back to my previous 5 mile races and thought about just how far I’ve come in my training and abilities. I think sometimes it’s important to look back in order to see ahead and it really helped here.
Mile 6-7: 13:49
I realised during this mile that I hadn’t seen any mile markers up until now. I’m not sure if I just missed them or if they hadn’t been put up but I know some other runners were asking the same thing as they weren’t sure what mile they were at. I mentioned I had seen the 6m sign and my Garmin was saying we were past 6 miles but soon enough we hit the 10k sign and passed the chip mat so it was good to have that confirmation of where we were at.
I’m not sure exactly where I took an Isogel but I think it was once I passed the 10k mark. I really can’t remember!
It was during this mile that I remembered not to take my city for granted. I was chatting with a woman (from Michigan, I think?) who travelled to run Rock ‘n Roll races but mostly in America. She stopped to take a photo of an old church because it’s not everyday you get to run past something like that. I realized that I run in this city a lot but never really look at what I’m running past, all the history that’s on display here. It was nice to see my city though a visitor’s eyes.
It was also here that I really misjudged how much I had left to go. You may or may not know that I am allergic to maths (i.e really bad at maths!) so I calculated at the mile 7 marker that I only had 5 miles to go. Yeah, I know, I can hear you rolling your eyes at the screen 😛 I realised my error soon after though so it didn’t do me too much harm.
I do remember thinking during this mile that I was still not even half way there. It was a sobering thought for me and I had an inkling that before the end I was going to have to ‘dig deep’ as they say. I’d been running for an hour and a half with the same again ahead of me. I really was afraid of falling back on my time and ending up on the cut-off bus. Not that I think anyone should feel ashamed of that but I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, I could run this and finish it. I wanted to test my training and my discipline. If I ended up on that bus…well, for me it didn’t bear thinking about. So I kept on. Kept moving. And from here on in that was foremost in my mind. Just. Keep. Moving.
Mile 7-8: 13:55
Towards the beginning of the mile I passed another great band, Created by Comets and actually wanted to dance down the road to their music. Also, because I was alone on the road for a bit it felt like a private concert. 😀 I will definitely check this band out later!
This mile was one of my favourites. It was the end of a long stretch of road and finished by turning into the Phoenix Park, which is where I normally do my training runs. As I turned the corner there was a small crowd of spectators cheering, with one guy holding up a ‘Run Forrest Run’ sign which was great. I also saw a woman with a sign here that said ‘Runners have balls, other sports just play with them’ and I had to chuckle at that. It was really great to have support as the route was mostly quiet with no spectators. Another runner beside me had people cheering for her who obviously knew her and I thought she was really lucky to have that support. It was a nice moment to be a witness to.
Mile 8-9: 14:16
More of the same. I was passing more and more people at this stage and feeling happy with the familiar route. Another rockin’ band were playing along the way and I found I was bopping my head to their music. I think it was the Lock-Ins?
Anyway, mile 9 is a long stretch and on an incline and here is where I started to struggle. I realised that I had come a long way but still had a long way to go. Looking at my Garmin I knew I still had an hour’s worth of running to do. It was here and during the next two miles also that I started seeing runners with their medals heading away from the course. I tried not to feel disheartened because this was my race and I don’t want to compare myself to others but it was hard; I guess I was mostly feeling envoius that they were getting to go home!
But again, I had to turn my thoughts inwards and reach for that voice inside me that was saying ‘just keep moving’. I found that it was also saying ‘you can do this’. So I kept going, kept moving forwards towards my goal.
Mile 9-10: 14:11
Oh downhills. How I love you. That is all.
Mile 10-11: 14:53
My slowest mile and that is understandable. I slowed down at the water station to dump more water over my head and drink some down as well. I had been slowly sipping from my water bottle during the race but was starting to run out. I also took another Isogel. I’m not entirely sure that I really needed it but I felt at that point with 3 more miles to go that anything could happen and I could fade at any time so I went with caution and took it.
This mile was also slow as it had a hill which I walked up. With the finish line still a ways off I didn’t want to risk running up the hill and fading too fast. I think it was a wise decision.
It was also during the mile that I started struggling with my inner voices. Part of me was thinking ahead to the marathon and wondering if I really wanted to put myself through this pain and effort for 6 hours? I’d been on the go for nearly 3 hours and wasn’t even finished half a marathon and feeling the pain, what state would I be in for a full marathon at this point? The other part of me was saying ‘shut up, you’ll have more training under your belt by then and you know how it feels now so get over it’. I let my voices argue for a bit before shutting them both up. I would deal with it later.
After that I also ended up chatting to another American lady here. We sort of bounced back and forth as she was run/walking so whenever she caught up to me we’d chat for a bit and when I caught up to her we’d continue the conversation.
I think it was this mile where the band here was the most memorable. I’m not sure why but the lead singer (the Luna Boys?) was giggling through the song and I just found that lightheartedness was really uplifting. It put a smile on my face and helped me ignore the pain for a bit!
Mile 11-12: 14:07
It was getting to be crunch time. So close to the finish but still so far. I knew I was fading a bit but also knew that if nothing bad happened I would make it to the finish. That spurred me on a bit and I picked up the pace. I knew the route well, I’ve raced it before, so I could concentrate here on moving forward, on putting one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. That was my one focus. I stopped caring about my time, ignored the pain in my legs and kept moving forwards. I didn’t run it all out though, as I wanted to finish strong and upright with a smile on my face so I saved some of that energy for the finish.
Mile 12-13: 14:09
In some respects this was the hardest mile for me but also the most fun. Knowing how close to the finish I was but feeling the pain and having to really push myself to keep moving. Being familiar with this part of the course was a huge help for me as I could visualize the finish. As I got closer I could also hear the cheering. It helped that someone (a volunteer? first aider?) on a motorbike was joking with me and the American lady as we moved along and he motored beside us for a while. We were also getting cheers from runners who had finished the race which was encouraging.
The American lady surged on ahead and I didn’t catch her again***, but that was ok as I needed to finish the race on my own, to chase down those voices in my head and end the argument once and for all.
The Finish 3:09:08
I’ve learned, over the history of my racing (this was my 15th race) that I prefer a short stretch to the finish instead of a long one. So a finish line that’s ‘just around the corner’ for me is perfect. The Rock ‘n Roll finish line was perfectly placed for me. As I turned the corner I wanted to cry with relief because there it was, the finish and it wasn’t impossibly far away. And then I wanted to cry with happiness because Michael, my trainer who I’ve mentioned countless times before, was unexpectedly there cheering me on!
I can’t say I quite sprinted to the finish as I didn’t have much left in the tank to sprint with, but I definitely sped up and, smiling, crossed the finish line of my first ever half marathon.
Yes. I cried.
I cried three times actually. When I crossed the line. When I was given my medal, and again when I got a hug from Michael. Brief tears, but happy ones. Very very happy tears. I had done it. I had succeeded in achieving this huge goal I had set for myself, I outran my fear of ending up on the bus and I proved to myself that all I had to do was keep moving. And I did. I kept moving and I did it. I finished my first half marathon!
Michael and I, joined by a friend of his, wandered around the finish area for a bit but it was raining so we didn’t stick around for long. Michael treated me to getting my medal engraved which is how I knew early on that my finish time was 3:09:08. I also got a taste of some of the beer that was on offer which was non-alchoholic but felt like a treat. I also met another American lady who said some very lovely and encouraging things to me after she had seen my twitter name on my back.
Final Thoughts aka TIL
Of this race report the one thing that might have stood out for you was the argument with myself about the marathon. You might be wondering if I’m going to keep on training for it. I have to admit I thought the same thing. The answer, for now, is yes.
Of course I know things change, things happen and it’s possible that down the road I might pull out.
But that moment isn’t now.
I always knew this race was going to help inform my marathon training and I’ve learned a few things that will definitely help going forward. I’m being brutally honest here so please, if you feel the need to comment on what I’ve learned please do be kind!
Firstly, my running form is all over the place. I found myself leaning forward way too much and I lost count of the times I had to force my head up to look forward and not down at the road. To combat this Michael and I will be upping the core work to strengthen the muscles that will keep me upright. I’m going to concentrate far more on my form during my training runs until it becomes habit to run tall, head up, eyes forward. And not just in my training runs. My overall posture needs a lot of work so that’s something that will be foremost in my mind.
Secondly, I’m going to step up my efforts to lose more weight. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do that because it baffles me that I haven’t lost much weight during this journey. But I’ll do what I have to, maybe go for some updated blood tests and really get to the bottom of why, despite my healthy and active lifestyle, I haven’t lost the weight I should be losing. This hasn’t bothered me before, I mean the first time I met Michael I told him I wanted to be a better runner. If I had said ‘I want a bikini body’ he would have taken a much different approach! I don’t want to imagine what kind of race I would have run had I been lighter, but I do know that losing some weight will only help my marathon training so I’m going to make it more of a priority.
Thirdly, I need to rethink my pacing and racing for the marathon. I wasn’t all out racing this run as my coach, and another mentor I’ve gotten to know through an Irish forum, both advised I run this as a training run not a race. My average pace was placed evenly between my hard run pace and my easy pace but I still struggled at the end. I’m not sure what this means but I will be talking it over with both these mentors.
Fourth and probably most importantly; I really enjoy endurance running. Ok, I’m slow but I enjoyed the time on my feet, moving slowly but steadily towards my goal. I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself forwards, of battling my inner voices and winning, of getting to know myself and my thoughts better as I went along. A six hour marathon might be the most painful thing I’ll put myself through, but I have a feeling it will also be the most enlightening. Imagine the conversations I’ll have with myself and what I’ll learn about myself! The idea sounds exhausting but exhilarating!
Thanks and appreciation
The volunteers at Rock ‘n Roll Half, you really rock. Everyone setting up the course, all the marshals (especially the cheering ones!), people handing out water, cleaning up, manning the bag drops and finish line tents, handing out medals and bananas and everything else; you made this a really enjoyable experience. Thank you!
Shona, my coach and mentor, whose training plan, support, advice and encouragement have been invaluable.
‘Dubgal’, my other mentor, whose understanding, compassion, patience and advice have been more meaningful than I can say.
Michael, without whom I couldn’t have come this far and wouldn’t dream of going farther.
Ash and Danny of Runlogic, who keep me kitted out and who are always uplifting with their encouragement. Your generosity with your time and advice is very much appreciated.
All my twitter friends and followers. Your good luck tweets got me through the race. Your congratulations afterwards were amazing and helped me grasp what I had truly achieved. I couldn’t do this without you. You blow me away with your support and encouragement.
One last thing
You all know that after a big race I like to treat myself to a little reward. The evening after the race I enjoyed a take away, a bottle of Tiger beer and relaxed with a lighthearted film (Sister Act 2 if you must know :D). It was the perfect way to finish an exciting, exhausting and emotional day.