The horror story of my first half marathon

The title of this post should tell you that the race DID NOT go well (a first in blogging history?). Actually in all fairness the race was amazing, until the end. Here is my recap. I write this about 7.5 hours later, so time has given me some perspective. I hope to forgive myself one day. Here we go…

I woke up at 5:45 am this morning. When the alarm went off I jumped out of bed. I was READY! After my usual pre-run snack (see below) I foam rolled and got ready to go. I met my running buddies Molly and Kirsten and we were just so anxious to get started!

Pre-race snack: toast with Barney Butter and 1/2 banana

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At around 8am, we got started. There were over 5,400 people running this race! So much positive energy, I couldn’t help but be on cloud nine and SO proud of what we were all about to accomplish!

Molly and I stayed together the entire time. She’s amazing, really. This is her 3rd half marathon this year, and I think she decided to just be there for me at this race. I told her not to worry about me, but I was so glad she was there. It was so great seeing a friendly face the entire time. We were giving each other thumbs up every once in a while. Seriously, it was amazing! Definitely some race magic going on because we were averaging about 8:30 minute mile nearly the entire way and I felt strong!

At mile 5.5 they gave out gu. I took it and carried it in my hand until I felt the need for it. At mile 7, Molly told me she was going to slow down to a 9 minute pace for miles 8 and 9 so that she could finish strong. By the time we got to mile 8, I was definitely down with that plan. I was feeling the effect of all those miles at a higher speed than I trained at. This is the point where I squeezed some gu into my mouth and kept going. It tasted great but was so sweet I nearly gagged. Good thing there was a water station a little while later so I could wash it down (I think I grabbed water 3 times the entire time and only had a sip at a time – I’m not used to drinking while running and was afraid I’d cramp up if I drank more).

Miles 8-10 were tough but I think we still ran at a faster pace than a 9 minute mile. Definitely slowed down a bit but not significantly. At mile 10 I was so happy to reach double digits and although 3 miles seemed like a long way at that point, the end was also in sight and I reminded myself that this was it – I was finally running my first half marathon and rocking it!!!

The course began and finished at Fenway park – my old neighborhood. I knew where we were at mile 11 (the sign for which showed up twice about 0.2 miles apart – not cool!!) and the finish line seemed SO near. I think I was starting to get delusional, because at some point I thought I saw the finish line (it really should have been right around the corner but they created some extra loops to make up the distance), and I sprinted. I sprinted hard. I was very tired at this point and just wanted it to end and I was doing a great time. I left Molly behind a little bit – she told me to go. I was happy to comply. This is where it got bad, because when I saw the 12 (TWELVE not 13!!) mile marker I crashed. I didn’t have one ounce of energy left in me. I started walking.

I vaguely remember Molly catching up to me, and yelling something like you can do it, don’t walk... but I really couldn’t. I tried jogging a few times when I looked at my Garmin and realized that even a super slow pace would get me to my under 2-hour goal. I think it was like 1:40 by then or something (yeah, we were definitely rocking it) but my body just couldn’t keep going. I actually don’t remember what happened after that. Molly says she tried offering me water but I refused it and told her to keep going. I don’t remember this. I remember being on the ground on the sidewalk with 2 strangers trying to help me (these girls were saints and stayed with me the entire time until the security guard finally got a hold of the EMTs that drove me back to the finish line where I was hoping to find my husband). The girls said they found me sitting on the bench on the sidewalk and then I made my way down to the ground because I was too shaky and really just wanted to lie down. I don’t remember that either. I remember telling them I will be ok and that they should go about their business, but I’m so thankful they didn’t listen to me. I clearly needed help. They also ambushed a random stranger and asked her for water for me, which helped clear my head. The cramping became the next problem, although when I finally made it to the medical tent and the doctor asked me for my cell number I wasn’t certain of it. I gave him a number, but I wasn’t sure it was the right one; I also wasn’t sure of my address. Clearly my mind wasn’t 100% clear. The nurse said I was highly dehydrated and made me drink a gatorade. That got rid of the dizziness I was feeling. Thank god. She also gave me her cell phone so I could call my husband. I was so happy to finally get a hold of him (the cop actually tried calling him twice while I was on the ground recovering, but Adam said his phone never rang. I now think I probably didn’t tell him the right number. Jeez.)

The nurse gave me a medal for finishing the race, but I didn’t finish it. She also told me that if I run these long distances I HAVE to make sure I hydrate. This was basically the problem in her opinion. I knew I was bad about that, but I’ve run up to 12 miles before with no water, and I thought I was actually being better about it this time. The whole experience ended up being so humiliating and embarrassing, while lying on the bed in the medical tent I swore I’d never run again so her little pro-hydration speech was not necessary.

Once I was feeling better and was able to walk, they released me from the medical tent and Adam and I headed home. Upon meeting me and hugging me, he told me how proud of me he was, and that he finally got how much of a big deal this race was. Waiting for me at the finish line for nearly an hour and cheering for thousands of runners made him realize this.  I started crying right then and there (for the first time since DQing). We slowly walked home and he told me I needed to do this race again next year and complete it this time. I kept on saying how I’m done with running, how this experience emotionally scarred me for life, but hours later I think this can’t be the end of my story. This will be the demon that will haunt me for life if I don’t try again. Next time I won’t sprint to the finish line that’s actually a whole mile away 😉 So yeah, I will likely continue running. I finally truly love it and I need to create a new ending to my half marathon story.

I wish this post was more upbeat, but that’s all I’ve got for now. The truth is I’m heart broken and unfortunately will have to relive it several times when inevitably my co-workers and everyone else I’ve been bragging about running this half to will ask me how it went.  Oh well. Back with regularly scheduled food posts tomorrow. Food is easy :)

Thank you all for your support. All your good luck wishes helped for those 12.5 miles I did finish (eh, so close yet so far…)! 😀

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47 comments to The horror story of my first half marathon

  • Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. That really stinks, but now you know where you went wrong and when you run your next half you’ll know better. Don’t give up and don’t let this get you down. It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. You are a runner no matter what!

  • Aw man, I totally understand the frustration and the heartbreak. But be kind to yourself. I’ve been running more or less competitively since I was 12, and even I’ve had some bad dehydrated long run experiences. It can happen to anyone – it doesn’t mean that you screwed up or failed. It just means that when you’re ready to give running another shot you’ll be diligent about gatorade and water BEFORE and during the run. Electrolyte balances and hydration are no joke – neither is 13.1 miles!! Be proud of the distance you did get through, because you did it fast!

  • You should take those fast first miles to give you confidence. I always feel better if I can point to a “reason” for things going wrong, not just my lack of fitness, and you have a really good “reason”. Race nutrition and hydration is really tough!

  • Wow, I am so glad there were people to help you. I know you can do it again. You’ll play around with hydration and figure out what works for you. Good luck. You should be proud of what you did!

  • Glad you are okay! That is a pretty impressive pace for the 12.5. No wonder I didn’t see you, I was a ways back 😉

  • I’m so sorry :( That sounds like an incredibly scary and awful experience. I once passed out giving blood after running because of dehydration. It can actually be difficult at times to hydrate properly, I always forget to drink enough. Chia seeds are helping.
    I hope you have a restful night and Monday off. Everybody has bad runs, most importantly you are ok!

  • Glad you are ok! It is scary to have no clue what happened, all that matter is you are ok and you still did a great job.

  • Oh, no! I’m sorry to hear that your first 1/2 did not go well!

    But don’t give up!! I know this is super discouraging but you’ve only been beat if you LET yourself be beat. You are going to feel unbelievable when you do your next one and finish strong!

  • Jim and Jane

    Elina.
    What a wonderfully articulated triumphant story! You are an inspiration!

  • Elina- I can totally relate. I think we are both our own worst critics. It is so easy to Overlook all the good and only see the mistakes. 90% of your race was good so I think you should focus on that.

  • Hugs…..
    Give yourself some time before you make a decision to do or not do the race again. Then you can make an objective decision.

  • sue

    omg! i’m so sorry your race ended that way…that is so scary…thank goodness you’re okay! i’m glad you’re going to stick to running and want to “create a new ending”…reading that line was inspiring! go you!

  • I am so so sorry that your first half ended like that! I’m glad that you are taking it in stride (sorry for the pun), and just remember, even the worst experiences are learning experiences. Take it easy tonight!

  • Oh, honey, I am so sorry to hear about the end of your race but I am so glad you are okay! Dehydration is dangerous, but it could have been much worse. And – no matter what, you kicked @ss in that race! I can’t imagine keeping that pace for so long. That in itself is a great accomplishment.

    I’m glad to head you aren’t going to totally write off running. Things may not have gone how you dreamed this time, but you know what went wrong and you know how to work on it. There will be another chance and you will once again totally rock it!

  • Oh I am so sorry! But thank goodness that you are okay!!!!! That is the most important thing!

  • Dominique

    Elina – you did great anyway. I know that isn’t much consolation but at least you ran! And you almost made it to the end so next year will be easy. The most important thing is that it was nothing more serious than dehydration. Back in April I ended up climbing the CN Tower to raise money for the WWF and initially I thought I was an idiot for signing up months back. I kept thinking to myself “what am I doing? I have asthma, I have exercised properly in years! I can’t climb 144 flights of stairs!” So I totally stressed the entire two months until the climb. I had co-workers who sponsored me and supported me saying that “heck, at least you’re climbing!” And it’s true. I did it. It was slow and I had to use my asthma puffer like there was no tomorrow but I did it. And next year I hope to climb it a lot faster than I did last year.

  • Kathleen

    Elina, you are being way too hard on yourself. You didn’t quit, you were severly dehydrated and needed medical help. I am glad you are okay.

  • I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t go 100% your way, but you should be proud of yourself for how far you *did* go!

    I’m glad you are ok and you will get it next time!

  • I can understand why you are sad, but you have a lot to be happy about. You ran 12.5miles! Quickly! That is kick ass. I’m training for a half marathon and even though you dq’ed I think your story is inspirational.

  • oh no! :-( I am so sorry the race ended this way for you Elina. You worked hard training so didn’t deserve this but don’t give up!! Sometimes these things happen to people. Chin up!

  • Nae

    Oh hun! That must’ve been so frustrating, and scary and upsetting. Just remember what you DID do: you trained like hell, you ran hard and you learned a lot for next time. You’re still pretty darn amazing.

  • Tiffany

    I am very proud of how well you did, but I’m also glad you didn’t push yourself way beyond your body’s limitations. Don’t think about how you didn’t finish; think of how well you did your first time, and the knowledge you’ve gained about your body’s needs and requirements. That is what’s amazing and compelling about your experience. Good job, Elina!

  • Liz

    I am so sorry to hear your race didn’t go as expected, but I’m glad to hear you are OK! I can’t even imagine how scary that would be, and I’m glad there were several good samaritans around to help you. I’m sure next time, when you keep hydrated, you will have a much better experience :)

  • While everyone has said it already i will definitely say it again, you should be SO proud of yourself for even doing this. YOU ARE AMAZING! Just a simple mistake of hydration, something you can recover from. Congratulations on a fantastic 12.5 miles, something some people will never be able to say they have completed (myself included, i am not a gifted runner like you!!)
    Keep your spirits up :)

    Kate G.

  • Oh, Elina, this breaks my heart. I am sure I only have a smidgen of an idea of how much this race meant to you, and even that is a lot! I am just so glad you are alright. I am SO proud of you for working so hard in this race. So many people, including me, don’t even attempt amazing things like this.
    You will run this race next year, I already know it. I would bet money on it that you will not only run it, but totally kick its ass. Not even a question in my mind!

  • Woah that is crazy! I’m really sorry that happened to you. :( I am glad you’ve gotten some perspective on it though. :) I think now you will be even more prepared for your next one. 😀

  • I wish I had something more profound than what everyone else has said to add. But I don’t. I’m just really sorry you had do experience such disappointment. But I must say, that reading your story, all I could think was “My God she is fast!” I wish I could run 5k with sub-9 minute miles…You sustained that for 12+ miles! That is incredible to me! I am running a half next weekend and I have no dreams of finishing under 2 hours. Had you been properly fueled and hydrated, you would have finished, and you would have finished in the top of the pack. There’s a lot to be proud of!

  • Elina,

    I’m so glad you posted this, even though it must have been very difficult. I am training for my first half-marathon and have not planned for hydration at all. Please know that your honesty may save other runners from the same plight AND it truly is about the journey, not the destination.

  • sister inna

    Elina,
    Every day when i come to work i look at a post on my computer screen. it reads ” don’t slash your tires”. i know it was meant to represent a different part of your “sane” journey when you shared it with your readers, but i really think it applies here today. you are, as i’ve told you many times, the most motivated person i know. you are always pushing yourself in all aspects of your life, and your experience yesterday only proved how much you DO challenge yourself.
    Yeah it sucks that something you didn’t account for ended up ruining your experience, but if I know anything about you, it is that you will definitely not give up now.
    You so love running. You won’t let a little “life lesson” keep you away from your goals + your passions.
    You are an inspiration. Next time I see you, we’re going for a run — those were your words not mine 😉

  • oh my gosh Elina, I am so sorry to hear about your first half. I say your first, because I know there will be a second. So glad there were some people to help you, and that you’re ok. You completely rocked the 12.5mi, crazy pace 😉 Every run is a learning experience… we’ll have to catch up when I get back next week *hugs*

  • Eve

    wow! first of all you should be proud of yourself for doing what you did! you ran those 12.5 miles really well. but obviously you learned a big lesson about hydration. it’s important to have about 4-6 ounces every 15 minutes, preferably in the form of gatorade (if you’re not taking goos, beans, bars, etc). i hope you do this again for your own piece of mind! hope you are feeling better today.

  • Totally understand the frustration, but seriously I am in awe you could even run that much!! I can barely do a mile!! And I always feel embarassed about this stuff, and then realize that no one else is thinking about it negatively but you!

    Congrats on doing it =)

  • Look at all the support you have! I’m #33 telling you that you rock and you have an upbeat perspective and I know you’ll continue to meet any goal you set for yourself.

  • Wow, I’m so sorry you went through that. I think you did great though, 12.5 miles is awesome and even though you didn’t finish you are healthy and ok now and probably have learned a good lesson for next time. You’re very realistic about what happened so I’m sure there will be another race in your future! :)

  • Noelle

    Oh don’t worry, so many people experience these problems during half marathons! There’s always next time, and any marathon is a BIG DEAL physically, there is nothing to be embaressed about. Take care of yourself and you’ll probably come in 1st place next year :-)

  • I’m so sorry you had such a disappointing race, but I’ve got to say, I’m beyond impressed that you kept up that pace for as long as you did! Let me repeat what others have said, and say you ROCK, and you’ll get it next year :)

  • Awww, I’m sorry you over did it and couldn’t quite finish, but you still did an amazing job and were SO fast! I know you’ll rock your next one! I would be super excited if I could run 6 miles without stopping, let alone double that!

    I once was so exhausted at the end of a swim meet that I had to be pulled out of the water, talk about embarassing, everyone was staring! It happens to all of us at some point.

  • Elina

    Thank you all SO MUCH for your encouraging words and your support. I’m a little bit afraid of running right now, but I’ll try to get back on that horse in time. Thanks again!! :)

  • […] The horror story of my first half marathon […]

  • BB

    De-lurking to offer some support. I’m in complete awe that you’ve come so far in a relative short amount of time. Wasn’t it just this year that you started running outdoors? Take all the time you need to recover, because I know you’ll be back at it in full force. Your willpower is truly inspiring.

  • Oh no! Don’t give up on running just yet. :)

    Circling arounds the Fens while being able to hear everyone at the Finish Line annoyed me. I really just wanted to be DONE. Haha. (And I had to drink a bunch of water after eating my goo too. It’s gross but it helped!)

    The fact that you were able to sprint after 11 miles is amazing. Your next 1/2 Marathon will be much better. Just keep running, and drinking water too. 😉

  • […] The horror story of my first half marathon […]

  • Elina

    BB – thank you for de-lurking. I really appreciate the support! Yes, I just started running outside this year (have been a treadmill runner for a few). Thanks for reminding me about how far I’ve come :)

  • […] them!) – I never thought I’d need to say this last part but I’ve been humbled by my last half-marathon. I am not giving up. I’ve learned very valuable lessons and this year will be my year. Why 2? […]

  • […] in my state of delirium (like sprinting a mile before the finish line) have contributed to a nightmare of an ending. With that said, I want my next half to feel like nothing. I know that’s silly since I will […]

  • […] I feel like it, not because I have to. I think this whole time I was beating myself up for that horrible ending of last half. I forgave myself yesterday and I’m moving […]

  • […] Fact: On October 11, 2009, I ran the BAA half and blacked out after 12.56 miles. I pushed too hard right at the end and I was severely dehydrated. If you like horror stories, you can read my recap of that race here. […]

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