Well, I did it. I’m back from San Francisco and I can officially call myself a half-marathoner. I’ve been wanting to call myself that for so long and it feels so good to finally be able to do so.
Like I’ve mentioned before, run a half marathon has been on my Life List for over two years now. I decided I wanted to run a half because I had started running 5K’s when I moved home from South Korea and it seemed like a good running goal to work my way up to. Plus, I actually didn’t hate running (it was always my cardio of choice) and was decent at it (I’m pretty athletic thanks to playing sports when I was a kid). So run a half marathon went on my Life List, but it went unchecked for a long time. Instead, I kept running 3 miles on the treadmill a couple times a week and signing up for 5K fun runs every few months.
When I turned 29 in May, I decided this would be the year I finally train for and run a half marathon. It would be The Last Big Thing I Accomplish During My Twenties. It would help me get in shape for my thirties. It would get me off the treadmill and running for longer than three miles at a time. It would establish me as a real runner.
In June, I signed up for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon SF through Team In Training. I chose Nike because it’s the largest women’s running race in the world and I’d heard it’s THE half marathon to do if you’re a female runner and you live in Northern California. I chose Team In Training because the program allows you to fundraise for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society while simultaneously training for the race. Since my mom and grandma both lost their battles to cancer a few years ago, I would fundraise and run in their memory.
My training was challenging at first. It’s hard to transition from running on a treadmill to running outside, on your own, with no machine doing the work for you and no TV to entertain you. Trying to run more than three miles was hard, too. Before I had started training, the farthest I had ever run was 6 miles and I had only done that a handful of times. I had no choice but to break that record though if I was going to run 13.1 miles, and I did. I still remember the day I ran 7 miles for the first time: it was really fucking hard. I had chaffed in between my thighs during the run and ended up with blisters on my feet, and to top it off, it was mid-July, so you know it was hot outside. Even though that run was one of the hardest runs of my life, I was still in awe of the fact that I HAD JUST RUN 7 MILES. That was the day I thought, “I just pushed myself to run 7 miles. If I can do that, maybe I really can run a half marathon.”
After that first 7-miler, I started getting serious about my training. I had discovered that I run better in the mornings than I do in the afternoons/evenings, so I started waking up early before work to run. I made sure to do my long run on the weekends and eventually ran 8 miles, then 9 miles, then 11 miles. I went from a 12-minute mile to an 11-minute mile to a 10-minute mile. I started using Body Glide to avoid chaffing and Balega socks to avoid blisters. I began to use a foam roller to make my legs less sore after running. I officially said goodbye to treadmills and 3 miles went from being my maximum to my warm-up.
Fast-forward to race day: IT WAS AMAZING! I was definitely a little nervous leading up to it, but I guess that’s to be expected. When I got to my corral, my nervousness turned into excitement and I could feel an adrenaline rush coming on. My excitement and adrenaline seemed to sky-rocket once I turned on my iPod and actually started running. “This is it! I’m doing it! I’ve been waiting for this day for four months and it’s finally happening!” I thought to myself while “Eye of the Tiger” kicked off my running playlist. As I ran, Team In Training coaches spread out along the course yelled “Go Gina!” and high-fived me as I passed them. Heck, even non-Team In Training spectators were cheering for me (a benefit of having your name printed on the front of your shirt). I have to say that hearing so much encouragement, reading all the spectators’ funny motivational signs, and thinking about my mom and grandma while running is what kept me going, even when I was at my most tired. What helped even more was seeing my family and coworkers along the course! Chris, my dad, and stepmom saw me off at the start line, my family took a shuttle to mile 7 and cheered for me there, I saw my coworkers at the end of mile 10 (right after running up a huge hill), and Chris greeted me at the finish line with a bouquet of roses and a box of pumpkin donuts. As for my finish time, I finished in 2:14:26 averaging at about 10 minutes and 16 seconds a mile. Considering my goal was to finish in 2 hours and 30 minutes, I’m very happy with my time!
Three days later and I’m still in awe of what I have accomplished, and amazed at what I am capable of when we I just put my mind to it. It’s so crazy to think that four months ago, I was a woman who would only run three miles on the treadmill. Now? Now I’m a woman who has ran 13.1 miles through the hills of San Francisco and is currently planning her next half marathon. I feel like a completely different person. I AM a completely different person: a person who believes that if she can run a half marathon, she can do anything.