I did it! I completed my first half marathon on April 30, 2017. I finished The New Jersey Half Marathon in 1:58:00. I averaged a 9:00 mile pace and finished 1,039 out of 3,664 overall, 106 out of 246 in my division, and 641 out of 1,555 for males.
It has been quite an experience these past few months with training and preparing for this race. I feel I’ve come a long way since I first started training. Originally, my goal was to simply finish. Prior to this, the longest I ever ran was a 10K during a triathlon I completed back in 2005. In the past few years, the longest race I ran was the Ashenfelter 8K each Thanksgiving morning. Making the jump from 4.98 miles to 13.1 miles seemed so far out there to me.
As I trained, I started adjusting my goals. About half way through training, I told myself, you’re going to break 2 hours. Work for it, get your pace down, see yourself crossing that finished line with a 1 and not a 2 in the hour place holder.
Then, I ran the Garden State 10 Miler and I honestly thought I could run somewhere between 1:50 and 1:55. I felt like I hit on all cylinders that day. Training continued to go well. I kept with my schedule and felt great the week of the race.
I took Friday off as a rest day prior to the race. I ran 2 easy miles on Saturday morning. After my daughter’s soccer practice, we had lunch and then got in the car and headed down to the Expo.
The Expo was nice. It was at the Monmouth Park Race Track, where the starting line was, and it was pretty easy to get through everything. We picked up my bib, parking passes, swag, took a family photo, bought a couple of things, and then walked around the booths. We chatted with reps from the Chicago Half, Bermuda Half, and RWJ Barnabas Health. Eventually, I think I’d really like to run Chicago and Bermuda.
After the Expo, we checked in to our hotel, unpacked and then went to dinner. I had pasta with broccoli and chicken. I don’t think it agreed with me too much as my stomach was just off during the race. I realized this was the first time I wasn’t cooking my pre race dinner. Next year, I might end up going to the Expo on Friday, so I can eat dinner at home prior to driving down to a hotel.
I was in bed early, around 9:30 and then up at 5:00 am on Sunday. I had a bagel and drank water/Gatorade. I showered, glided up, and got dressed. I was out of the hotel by 5:55 am and drove the 1.7 miles over to race track.
Parking was easy, as volunteers literally just put one
car after another. I took my time in the car, used The Travel Stick to roll out my legs, and then headed over to the starting area and bag check. I checked my bag and then headed over to the porta potties to get in line. After that, I warmed up by jogging around 3/4 of mile and stretched. I got my FlipBelt squared away and headed over to the corrals.
I was in Corral 4. All I thought to myself was, don’t embarrass yourself by being in a corral that you end up not finishing in the selected timeframe. I don’t know, I’m still new to a lot of this and sometimes I look around and feel like people are like what is this guy doing in here haha. I know I shouldn’t but I’m sure with more experience it will go away.
The Bugle player got us all ready for the start, which was really cool, and then they blasted Born to Run by Bruce. Considering The Boss got his start around this area, it was kind of cool to hear.
The race was off and it wasn’t nearly as congested in the beginning as I thought it would be. According to the race results, I ran the first 10K (6.2 miles) in 53:56 for an 8:41 pace. I felt good early on. My lungs/wind was not heavy and I was loose. The only thing that caught my attention was that I felt like I started to sweat heavily within the first half mile. I normally sweat a lot but it generally takes me a few miles to get like that. I should’ve thought ahead and prepped but I didn’t.
There weren’t too many spectators early on in the race, but I didn’t think it was a problem. At that point you had so many other runners around you, you felt like part of a group.
The course had plenty of signage along the course. Some homeowners have signs up, a few were blasting music, some had couches out. It was really cool. The funniest two signs I saw were a 2 or 3 year old holding a sign that simply said “Beer” with an arrow on it. The other was of an older woman that said something like “Wow you have great stamina, give me a call”. That one actually had me laugh out loud as I ran by. The people and volunteers along the course were great cheering everyone on. There were plenty of police, EMS, and firefighters too that you felt safe and in good hands if needed.
At the water stop around mile 6.2, one of the volunteers was a friend of mine from college. I went running by yelling her name out and got a huge shout and smile. It was awesome. Just before this point, I had another good laugh as one guy behind me goes to his buddy, hey just think, we only have 20 more miles to go and they laughed about it. You have to love the humor you hear while running a race. At that moment I was glad I was only doing the half.
Around 7 miles is the relay transition. This can play some mind tricks with you. You pass by these runners waiting to start. Well, you’re 7 miles in already and next thing you know, you have runners passing you and you’re thinking to yourself wtf is going on. Then you realize oh, these are relay runners just starting out with fresh legs.
I kept chugging along but when I completed mile 7, I noticed my pace had dropped a little. I thought, no big deal just pick it up. But around mile 8 was a little bit slower than mile 7 though. Going on mile 9 was where the wheels started to come off a little. I knew I wasn’t moving as fast. My lungs/wind felt OK still but my legs felt like they just weren’t working right.
As I continued and hit mile 10 I realized the issue was probably more due to dehydration. I was taking water at almost all water stations but I definitely wore more than I drank. I continued to push through and it definitely helped that from about mile 10 until you hit the boardwalk there are a lot of people along the streets giving great encouragement.
I finally hit the boardwalk and told myself not much longer. I kept pushing it but the extra kick I had on all of my practice runs at the end just wasn’t there that day. I knew breaking 1:55 was out at this point but I knew I could still break 2 hours and that is what I was pushing for.
The boardwalk part of the run was not really windy at all, which was a relief. The view was spectacular. It did seem longer than I was expecting but I knew eventually I’d hear and see the finish line area.
As I got near the finish line, I decided to put up one finger to note this was my first half marathon ever. Not to say I was number one lol, but to note it in pictures.
As I was crossing the finish line, I saw my wife and kids. I got my medal, which is really cool, but felt wonderful to put on . My wife and kids were so excited and it made my day. I quickly got and chugged a container of water. Then met them at the fence. I was definitely tired but so happy to see them. I grabbed another water, Gatorade, banana, snack box, and cover and walked over to them. I felt like that walk was taking me forever. I stood and talked to them for a few minutes and then decided I just wanted to lay down for a few seconds in the grass lol.
I thought the race had plenty of water/Gatorade stations throughout and porta-potties along the course. I know I hydrated plenty leading into the race. I don’t know why I sweated more than normal, but even looking at my FitBit heart rate levels confirmed it for me as I was in Peak way longer than I should have been. I think this race taught me that my next long race, I have to alter what I’m doing for fluids, especially during the race.
It’s amazing how for months you’re training for something and then you wake up the day after you’ve achieved your goal and you kind of don’t know what to do. It was weird waking up on Monday morning. I used Monday and Tuesday as rest days to allow my body to recover. I did a little research on upcoming races but haven’t made a decision on what I’m going to do. My plan is to run a few shorter races, like 5 and 10Ks throughout the summer and then aim for another half marathon in September or October.
So I did it. I was probably hard on myself at points after the race as I didn’t run the perfect run, but I realize it was still a great race and I had fun. My family and friends were all great with their congratulations and that they were proud of me.
I liked this race enough that I’m planning on coming back next year. Oh, and my goal will be to beat that 1:58:00. :o)