ALAMEDA, Calif. — Ever since I lost my pregnancy weight running — I gained between 48 and 50 pounds with each of my two kids — my friends have been pushing me to run a half marathon. I wanted to do it, but like every other mom out there, I had no time.
As a New Year’s Resolution, I signed up for the See Jane Run half marathon — 13.1 miles, by the way — in Alameda, California, which took place this past Sunday, June 5. Before I go into the details and pictures, I want to speak out for every runner, cyclist, or endurance-sport athlete out there: great job. I have such renewed respect for those dedicated enough to practice regularly and compete in their sport. With jobs, families, and other responsibilities, it is not easy. What a feat.
The other consideration is not only the impact these sports have on our bodies, but the amounts of air pollution we are taking in just practicing. Family, friends, and lurking readers: if you want to honor my accomplishment or that of a loved one who enjoys running or any outdoor sport, please write to the EPA to support tough new mercury and air toxics standards. It will take you all of 30 seconds.
Runners and cyclists especially inhale a lot of air pollution because we are on the roads, huffing and puffing to car exhaust and other toxins spewed by businesses like coal plants. But even the happily self-described “couch potato” is affected by air pollution. I was shocked by this map — scroll down in the article — of how many pounds of mercury we inhale every year. Keep in mind that this figure does not include the other fatal toxins we are breathing, like arsenic and carbon dioxide.
If you are as concerned as I am, here is the link to e-mail the EPA. If you have no time to do anything else, just sign the letter.
Now onto the fun stuff. Running a marathon is very much like parenthood. It is exhilarating…and exhausting. There are times when there is nowhere else you’d rather be, and other times when you are wondering what the frick?
A day after I have run the race, my leg muscles are so sore that I am walking with a limp. But I feel like I can accomplish anything. It’s the same feeling I had when my two precious children were born. I want to repeat this experience!
Here is the breakdown of my race on Sunday:
Miles 1 to 5: A lot of runners have passed me, but I know I am maintaining a good pace and will finish the race. I made one mistake this round — I refuse the water at mile 1.
Miles 5 to 8: I feel pretty good. I have hit a second wind and I am riding on it. Then my energy drops at mile 6, and I ask a fellow runner if the “6” sign means we have run 6 miles or we have “only” 6 miles left. “We have run 6 miles,” she says. Uh oh.
I refuse to drink water or take any of the gel packs offered to me at mile 7. (My second and third mistakes.) By mile 8, I drink water at a water fountain — the only time I stop for less than a minute. Then I keep running.
Miles 9 to 11: I reach mile 9, and my friend Monica’s husband, Joe, and their adorable son, Max, are standing at the side of the road. “Finally, someone I know!” I yell.
“Elisa!” little Max yells back. Joe snaps a picture of me at the 9-mile mark:
At mile 10, I come to my senses and accept a cup of water offered to me at one of the stations. I drink, water dribbles all over my shirt, and I throw the cup by the side of the road. (Don’t worry, volunteers were on hand to pick up the cups!)
Miles 11 to 13: At mile 11, I ask one of my fellow runners how long we’ve been on the road. “1:47,” she says.
“One hour and 47 minutes?” I ask incredulously as I have never run 11 miles that quickly.
“Yes,” she responds.
“This is my first race!” I share with her.
“You’re fast for a first-time runner,” she responds, as she easily breezes by me.
I pump my fist in the air, refuse the gummy bears offered to me at mile 11 (my fourth mistake), and pick up speed. The excitement lasts all of a minute, and then I hit a wall. Those last two miles were grueling and took me 28 minutes to complete.
My final time: 2 hours, 15 minutes. That is a 10-and-a-half minute mile.
Considering that my goal was a.) to jog/run the whole way through — the water fountain at mile 8 was my only stop — and b.) make it under 2 hours and 30 minutes, I smashed my goal. But looking back on it, I probably would have fueled throughout the race. I mean, why else was I offered all those cups of water and gel snacks? Duh.
My husband, a cyclist, couldn’t believe that I completed a half marathon with such little water. No matter, I drank plenty of water and ate delicious Ethiopian food with my family after the race!
Any runners out there? What advice do you have to complete a half marathon?