I have a knack for running half marathons when I'm in bad shape. My first was the Deckers Creek Half Marathon, a rail trail race with a slight downhill grade the whole way. To train before the race, I took 2 weeks off and then did a couple 7 mile runs. I came through the first 5k under 21 minutes and then felt like I was going to have a massive organ failure. I stumbled into the finish at 1:39. Walking was almost impossible for three days after that.
Running hasn't necessarily been a priority here in New Zealand. Eating cake and taking walks have been more a lot more appealing than training. So naturally I signed up for the Wellington half marathon.
The morning was gray, and my sinuses were clogged. This wouldn't be a fast day. I shoved through the start I saw a pacer with a white flag stuck in her hydration belt. She was leading the 1:45 group. I attached myself to her as the 1500 runners shuffled out of the start line. We dodged in and out of the crowd, struggling to get into a rhythm. As the course wound past the museum and toward the waterfront, the pacer's watch screeched. At the next kilometer it screeched again. This was unbearable. I ran ahead to the guy pacing the 1:40 group. His watch was really loud too. I moved up to run with an old lady with an aggressive arm-swing.
"Twenty three thirty," grunted a tattooed guy in a pink fairy costume at the 5k. Is that too fast? Most of the mucus had drained out of my nose. My legs felt fine. And I couldn't let myself get trounced by a sparkly Dahn Powers. I went on ahead.
I ran through the aid station at the 10k and caught up to another group. Too fast. The wind picked up, so I tucked in behind some big guys in short shorts. The Kenyan in the lead blew past us in the opposite direction.
At the turn-around point I was pretty sure I'd gone out too hard. Only 6.5 more miles. Oof. That has to be the worst consolation I've ever given myself.
I tucked in behind another group of three runners. Just chill here for the rest of the race. Then a bald guy in a blue singlet peeled away. I went with him.
He turned to look back at me. "How're you going?" he puffed. I grunted. Just pull me in, please.
Back along the waterfront, weaving in and out of walkers and 10k runners. Past a woman in a red Boston Marathon Jacket. My brain started congratulating itself loudly. Rain dripped down, fogging up my glasses. I held onto the guy's blue singlet with my eyes and tried to wheeze more quietly.
In the last kilometer, I tried a jerky sprint to the finish. 1:37:11. Bald guy was doubled over. He grinned at me. Another dude pounded through the line and held out his hand. It was covered in sticky blue and green slime. "Awww my gummies, man! I squeezed 'em too hard!" Gross.
I walked toward the people handing out bananas and Powerade with Tin-Man legs. But considering I'd just run a half marathon with negative splits without proper training, I didn't feel too bad.
"Hey!" It was the lady in the Boston jacket. "You know, you should try the marathon. You could be really good." I smiled and thanked her. Maybe after next cross country season.
That race affirmed how much I shouldn't be running the 5k. I can't wait to be done with college so I can start training for distances I'm good at running.
Later I rewarded myself with a burger and a Pixar movie about Scottish bears.
I was still emotionally raw, so I cried a lot at the end. Then I went to bed and slept for 11 hours.