On Sunday I ran the Des Moines Half-Marathon. Ok, running would be a strong word. It felt like running, but if you compared me to everyone else, it would not be running. But again, if you compared me to everyone else I would be a fat, old person. Wait, don’t compare me to everyone else…
It was an interesting day to say the least. I am going to give a brief recap or the event (I hate to call it a race) and share some thoughts I discovered through this whole process.
It is interesting being part of nearly 8,000 people lined up down five blocks in downtown Des Moines. They try to get you to line up according to your projected pace – with the faster runners up front and the slow ones to the back. I went immediately towards the back. There really isn’t a lot of chit chat amongst the group that I could see – just a lot of people eyeing each other up and down and wondering if signing up for this thing was a huge mistake. I certainly felt out of place since I outweighed 97% of the others by at least 100 pounds. Ugh…
I was so far back in the group, I could not hear the start, so I don’t know if they just said, “Ready, set, go” or if they shot a gun. I could just see the crowd start bobbing and moving. It took a minute or so for our section to get moving and we all walked the 3-4 blocks to the start line. Once we hit the start line, people started to jog. I was very surprised at how many people planned to walk the entire thing. I spent the first mile or so zig sagging amongst the walkers.
I intentionally planned to go slower than my projected pace the first mile or two. That was not a problem with so many walkers to try to avoid. An interesting item, within the first half-mile, I saw Danny Wright. Danny was on a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” who moved to Des Moines to be near his girlfriend from the show (no idea what her name was). Danny is a fellow “large person”, so I took lots of joy as I “flew” past him! (Just kidding Danny if you read this. I didn’t take great joy, just some. It’s hard to have great joy in anything when you are running).
The first couple miles, the half-marathon people are running with the full-marathon people. We broke from each other at the bottom of a big hill. The marathoners had to go up the hill, while us “halfers” got to veer to the left avoiding the hill. Praise God!
I really felt very good the first six miles or so. I briefly spoke with an older gentlemen who had a big knee brace. I asked him if he were recovering from surgery. He said that he was trying to hold off surgery, that he needed to have some work done, but wanted to complete his running a marathon or half-marathon in all 50 states. He was from Florida and Iowa was his 49th State. He told me the last one, but being oxygen deprived, I don’t remember if he said the “District of Columbia” was his last one (is that a state?) or if it was Alaska or Washington. I don’t know, but I was impressed. I told him this was my first one. He said I was looking strong (this was at mile five). He is my friend.
My goal for the race was to get to mile ten before I stopped and walked – except during each water station. I did stop at each water station to make sure I got water or Gatorade into my system. The volunteers were very nice and encouraging. I wish they put more liquid in each cup – they only fill each cup about 1/3 of the way. I would try to drink 3-4 of these cups at each station, but that was still only getting around 8 ounces every mile. In looking back, I should have probably double this amount.
I did make it to mile 10 – which is around the bridge for Gray’s Lake. I walked around a quarter mile and started back into my slog. The walk was helpful and I felt that I might be able to finish the last three miles without walking again. Wrong…
The last three miles were HORRIBLE! As I reflect, the last three miles might be the most difficult thing I have ever done. I spent most of these miles just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. My quads felt like they were just on the verge of cramping, but so did my hamstrings. I was afraid to stretch anything because I felt if I stretched my hamstrings, my quads would cramp and vice versa. My calves, ankles and feet were also VERY sore – and tired of running.
At around the 11 ½ mile mark, you climb a pretty steep hill to cross the river. I saw the hill and immediately decided to walk to the top and then a little farther. I was feeling so bad at this time, that it sucked to even walk. I ended up walking maybe a half mile. Now, it was only a mile and a half to the finish line. I started slogging again. It’s amazing how long that last mile and a half can be.
We jogged down the road and had to turn left to head to the finish line. I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other trying to get to that turn. I expected a big feeling of relief when I made that turn and could see the finish line. I was wrong. I made the turn and did see the finish line, but it was still 5-6 blocks away. That wasn’t good. I truly was concerned if I would be able to finish. A couple times I thought how bad it would be to get within 5 blocks of the finish and have to drop out. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I hit the finish line!
At the finish line, they give you a medal and then people help you get the timing device off you shoe. I am thankful people are there to help with this, as I am sure I could not have bent over and done it myself. I also know if I sat down to do this, there is no way I would have been able to get back up!
I had hoped to hang around and see some people I knew who were doing the full marathon. After 30-45 minutes, all I could think about was getting off my feet and getting home.
All in all, I am glad I ran the half. Would I do it again? Don’t know. What did I learn? I will share about that on Wednesday’s blog.
What’s the hardest thing you have ever done physically? Mentally?