Road to Half
Yesterday, I ran my very first half marathon.
There are few words to describe the feeling of crossing the finish line after a grueling 13.1 miles (not to mention three months of training), but in that moment, I felt truly…Invincible. Untouchable. Indestructible.
For the first time, I became my own superhero. I accomplished something I never could have imagined because it had seemed so completely out of reach.
Physically, I’ve always been fit and athletic, but not in terms of endurance. In high school, I struggled with the Freshman Four mile test, dreading every day we had to jog in PE and glaring at all the cross country runners enviously. I was much better at dance and sports that required short, powerful bursts of energy, much like the bootcamp and HIIT workouts I now do on ClassPass.
Mentally, I’m even weaker. The moment I feel pain, I have a tendency to talk myself into giving up or letting go. If you had told me last year that I’d be attempting 13.1 miles in one sitting, I’d look at you like you were crazy. That’s simply way too long a time to keep myself from getting into my own head.
Yet, the combination of the human body and mind is remarkable. The body can push itself to unimaginable boundaries once the mind is made up. I was not born to be a long distance runner, but the moment I decided to sign up for a half marathon, I committed to making it happen. I downloaded a beginner’s training schedule, convinced my roommate to join me, and announced my plan to run 13.1 miles on October 7th across all my social media platforms. Once I thought these things into my life, I manifested them.
Because if you can see it in your head, you can hold it in your hand.
In my eyes, anyone in good health conditions can run a half marathon, as long as they are willing to put in the time and work in training. I highly encourage those who are intimidated of running long distance to just sign up for a race (even if it’s only a 5K or a 10K) because that’s the first and most important step. It’s such an incredible and rewarding experience to witness yourself get stronger, faster, and more confident. Here are some of my own highlights, low points, and thoughts that ran through my head during this long journey:
JULY — SEPTEMBER: TRAINING
I registered for the JetBlue Long Beach Half Marathon on June 14th, 2018, two days before my birthday. It was part of a bucket list of goals I had made for my 24th year, and I regretted writing about it on my blog almost immediately. But it was too late to take it back, so I decided to drag other people down with me. My roommate, Stacy, was my first (and only) victim and we officially started our training the first week of July. Below is the 12-week schedule we followed:
Some quick highs and lows:
Week 3 (High): We were terrified of doing 5 miles this weekend since it was the most we’d ever attempted (Stacy and I usually run 3–4 miles at the gym). But it turned out great because we jogged along The Strand between Santa Monica and Venice. Scenic views of the ocean, plus plenty of people-watching. This route quickly became a regular one, until we started getting too sunburnt.
Week 4 (High): I ran the 6 mile day with my friend Angelo in the Bay Area, and we happened to catch the SF Marathon that day. Made our 6 miles all the more tolerable since we were so inspired by all the racers.
Week 6 (Low): This was the week where the short runs started getting longer and more intense. I thought after running 7 miles outside, I’d be able to do 4 miles easily on the treadmill. But the treadmill gets so boring after 2 miles. From then on, I decided to run on the Universal Studio Lot after work.
Week 8 (High): Wow. Stacy and I ran 10 miles without stopping on Saturday, September 1st. This was the longest run we ever did during our entire three months of training. I remember this day very clearly because we were SO anxious. A double digit number. But we did it! We ran from Marina del Rey to Dockweiler Beach without stopping, and we felt so accomplished afterwards.
Week 9 (Low): Lol this week marked the end of our diligent training-by-the-books. We were supposed to run 11 miles, but Stacy and I both got sick and decided to do 6 miles during our weekend trip to Big Bear instead. Sadly, the elevation was too high and our throats were both dying, so we only ran 3. Fail.
Week 10–12 (Low): Couldn’t find the time or will power to completely follow the rest of the schedule. We ended up running roughly 6–7 miles on weekends around the USC campus (Fight On!) and sticking to 3–4 mile runs on week days. Before we knew it, it was race day.
OCTOBER 7: RACE DAY
4:30am: I woke up in cold sweats and couldn’t fall back asleep. Even though I had read SO many articles about what to wear, what to eat, etc. etc. before the big day, I still felt extremely unprepared. I ended up scarfing down a small yogurt, downing some pre-workout, and praying I wouldn’t get a cramp during the race. Stacy and I left our apartment at the crack of dawn to meet up with our friends Katie and John who were also running the half marathon.
6:55am: After driving in circles around downtown Long Beach for at least 30 minutes, we finally snagged a parking spot and walked down to the venue. It was situated right next to the ocean and bustling with people of all ages.
7:20am: I realized I made a huge mistake and wore THE WRONG SOCKS. After 3 months of training with thin socks, I somehow thought it would be smart to switch them out last minute for thicker socks so my toes wouldn’t hurt. Instead, everything hurt…even just walking. Completely in panic, I first tried to wear Angelo’s liners, but they were too big and kept sliding down. Then I tried to ask volunteers where I could get extra socks and they directed me to the medical tent — where I was almost forced to wrap my feet. Finally, I struck gold at the merch tent, and they sold me the most expensive pair of socks I’ve ever purchased…but also the best $6 I’ve ever spent. Hallelujah.
7:45am: The race was officially starting, but I hadn’t been able to use the bathroom one last time per my socks crisis. Oh well, too late. The four of us lined up with Wave 2, filled with anticipation and energy. Here. We. Go.
8:15am: About three miles in, I looked around my fellow racers and saw a guy wearing only sandals, a grandpa who looked at least 80, and a dad who was pushing a stroller as he ran. People are crazy. But they each inspired me.
8:50am: Up to this point, Stacy and I jogged side by side at about a 9:30 pace (which is pretty solid for this early in the race). I was feeling great in terms of no cramps, no pain, no breathing problems. Except for one thing — I really needed to pee. So I told Stacy I was going to sprint to the next bathroom and meet her there. The photo below perfectly captures the urgency I felt.
8:55am: I met back up with Stacy, but after releasing all the liquid in my bladder, I had a sudden burst of energy and felt like I could take off. I sped up and realized a few minutes later that we were no longer running next to each other. Spying Katie and John a few feet ahead of me, I caught up with them to say hi but then decided to run ahead again. I was on my own.
9:10am: Wow, Long Beach is stunning. What a great route for my first race. It’s pretty flat and right along the water, and there are parts that even go through the beach. I ran past a band of Japanese grandmothers playing Taiko drums to cheer us on, and I can’t even count how many little kids stuck their hands out to give high fives. The running community is something else.
9:20am: About mile 10 is when I hit a wall. My stomach started aggressively growling and sending me red alerts that it was starving. Thankfully, I saw a sign that said “Run like your future husband is in front of you and your ex-husband is behind you.” That’s all I needed. I made it to the next water station, where some volunteers were also handing out orange slices and donut holes. Caption for this photo: Praise Jesus. I’ll take one of each please.
9:45am: There was less than a mile left at this point, but my feet felt like they weighed 100 tons. I was way too close to the finish line to start walking. “You can do this,” I kept saying in my head. “How many times have you pushed through just one more mile?” Determined to make good time, I quickened my pace and eventually started sprinting the last 500 yards.
9:51am: The blue finish line was in sight. Turning the corner, I spotted crowds of people cheering. My body was screaming, but my mind felt euphoric. Less than 10 more strides left, GO GO GO!!!
9:52am: 2 hours, 7 minutes. DONE. Boy, did it feel good. But not as good as the first gulps of coconut water I guzzled down. Wow. I can finally rest. I did it.
The rest of the day was a blur. Stacy, Katie, and John all finished within the next twenty minutes and we celebrated with hugs, groups pictures, and brunch at Ballast Point. Around 5pm, Stacy and I got a massage in Hollywood (well-planned, right?), except I was far too sensitive and ticklish to enjoy it. Stacy said she heard me giggling literally every minute and she’s right. I was completely squirmy. But my masseuse did do a good job of smoothing out all my knots, so I guess time will tell how effective the massage was…
OCTOBER 8: REFLECTION
I woke up this morning and every muscle in my body was still sore and aching. Not just my legs, but my arms too. I felt like I was double my weight; yet when I stepped on the scale, I realized I had actually lost two pounds. Which makes sense considering we burned 1200 calories yesterday.
For lunch, I let myself indulge in fries and ice cream (c’mon I deserve it) and contemplated the last three months. What a whirlwind it’s been. The half marathon started out as this intangible, elusive dream of mine and now it’s become a reality. There were times I hated myself and wanted to tap out, but far more times I felt pure joy.
For starters, I experienced what a runner’s high is like. That indescribable feeling you get when your legs and feet don’t feel like anything anymore — they can keep going forever, and it’s probably the closest movement to flying. I learned the science behind best running practices. How to breathe, where to put pressure in your steps, what kind of shoes to wear and which foods are the best cardio fuel. I felt the kinship and sense of community from running alongside others who are pushing themselves to their limits, and the love and support overflowing from every runner’s family and friends. I bonded with my roommate over this whole journey. All the struggles, the triumphs, the blood blisters, training days, and epic running playlists. Most of all, I learned what it’s like to be resilient. I learned how to shut off the self-sabotaging voice in my head and embrace a bigger version of myself. One who isn’t afraid of what’s ahead and is only focused on getting better day by day.
This is what the half marathon race meant to me. Not just losing weight, training hard, and checking off a bucket list item, but proving to myself my own tenacity. I did something I thought I’d never be able to do in my lifetime. I know it’s only a half marathon, and there are others who accomplish marathons, triathlons, and full-blown Iron Man races. But I am damn proud of myself for getting past this hurdle and I can’t wait to climb my next one.
Stay tuned! 💫