It’s now been just over a week since I did something I never fully intended on doing…ever: running a half marathon.

Now, it’s no secret that I’ve previously trained for a full marathon before, but there’s a difference between a marathon on netflix and a half marathon on foot.

There are a couple of factors that led to this chain of events, which I’ll go through quickly before getting to the actual race.

  • Doing winter track for one season my senior year of high school. I never thought this was something I’d be able to do, given the longstanding hatred that running has had for me throughout the years, but it ended up being one of the best decisions that I made in high school, and remains something that I suggest that people do.
  • Living in Iowa over the past summer. After working for Marco Rubio during the day, I’d come home and regularly go for runs in Des Moines. I wouldn’t go for anywhere near even half a half marathon, but even being in the habit of doing it fairly regularly was tremendously helpful.

    When I wasn't campaigning I was probably running.
    When I wasn’t campaigning I was probably running.
  • UChicago being on the quarter system. I still have mixed feelings about the quarter system, but it is indisputable that the month of September, when everyone else is in school, is a month of almost unfathomable down time. Therefore, I decided to run during that month…a lot. One day, I did over 7 miles and then on another day I did 11.3 miles and began to think that a half marathon isn’t actually that far outside the realm of possibility.
  • My schedule for my second year. Fortunately, I’ve lucked out this quarter with a relatively significant amount of downtime on most days of the week that have allowed me to run on the treadmills in Crown between or after class. Although I have a pretty strong disliking for treadmills since I feel like they’re a terrible substitute for running outside, a combination of the cold weather and my desire to stay on campus in case something came up confined me to the gym. It could have been worse, because I watched all of the second season of The Blacklist while on my runs to keep me entertained.

Now for the actual race. Would I have done it if my girlfriend Emily hadn’t already planned to do it? Absolutely not (although there was a Chicago marathon the same weekend, but there was no way I was ready for that). I had no interest in running in the Nantucket Half Marathon by myself, and fortunately it didn’t come to that.

The race started at 8 in the morning, and I had a couple of pieces of bread, an energy bar, and lots of water before setting out for the starting line.

Fortunately, we had the fortune of having insanely good weather for the race. This is the first race I’ve ever run (the one race I wanted to run when I was in Israel my most recent time was only for women so that didn’t work out), and I thought it was insanely cool that my nametag (I have no idea what the official name for the thing with my name that I wore is called) has a sensor that tracked my start and end time.

And just like that, the race began.

I confess, I Instagramed almost the second after the race started.
I confess, I Instagramed almost the second after the race started.

Towards the beginning, when everyone was relatively compacted, I was reminded of a herd of zebras running across a stream in the hopes that alligators would eat someone other than them while they swam across (fortunately the waters were not alligator-infested here so there were no accidents). The first couple of miles were relatively easy…and then came the sand. We had known in advance that at least part of the race would be on the beach, but this felt like an interminable amount of time on the sand. Fortunately, Emily and I were behind enough people that the sand was pretty neatly packed so it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

The proverbial zebras at a watering hole.
The proverbial zebras at a watering hole.

Some lessons that I learned early on in the race were that I absolutely should have brought a water bottle of sorts instead of relying on the four water stations that were along the race (Emily had a small bottle that she wore like a bracelet and I had absolutely nothing). When we got to the first station, I foolishly picked up only a single cup and tossed it into the trash that they had waiting a few feet past the station (I thought it would look cool this way), but this turned out to be foolish because I spent the next several miles waiting for the next station. For the next three, I stopped and drank several cups before moving on.

Having random little kids as a morale pit crew of sorts made the race a lot more fun.
Having random little kids as a morale pit crew of sorts made the race a lot more fun.

As happy as I was to be done with the sand section of it, I was baffled when it became apparent that for the rest of the race we would need to share the road, not only with other runners, but also with cars!

Granted, I never felt like my life was in jeopardy for the time I was on the road with them (I can’t say that about the swarms of caterpillars that didn’t make it through the race though) and the rest of the race went relatively well until the last “mile.” I put that in quotes because we found out after that it was actually 1.5 miles for some terrible reason.

That said, crossing the finish line was quite the experience and validated the entire experience. Sure, a lot of people beat us (Emily and I finished at exactly the same time), but that said it was a personal record for both of us and that’s what matters.

The good thing about running over 13.1 miles is you can justify eating whatever you want to once you're done.
The good thing about running over 13.1 miles is you can justify eating whatever you want to once you’re done.

And just like that, we made it to the finish line!

We made it!
We made it!

Once we were done celebrating, I decided that the medal and water bottle we were given weren’t enough. I took the 13 mile sign as an extra souvenir, because why not?

A perfect souvenir.
A perfect souvenir.

I had a lot of people tell me in the past week that they were shocked or otherwise didn’t believe that I managed to run a half marathon, but there is a lesson in all of this that people well beyond myself can take, and that is with the proper motivation, you can do whatever it is you want. After all, if I managed to go from not being able to run a mile (trust me, I couldn’t run much more than a mile two years ago), that 5k, 10k, or even half marathon you’ve been wanting to do is absolutely within reach.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even train for a marathon for real one day (and if not, our combined distances equalled a marathon, so I can still check it off my bucket list).

A true photo finish.
A true photo finish.
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