It took no less than Lululemon to get me to run my first half-marathon. I guess I was going to have to do one eventually, but I probably would have put it off a while longer had the prospect of running among the Lulu faithful in lovely Vancouver not presented itself.
I forgot, however, that the “Lulu faithful” means predominantly 20-somethings with perfect yoga bodies. And this event brought them all together. Way to make a girl feel as though she doesn’t work out enough. Even though I, um, don’t work out enough. (This fact presented itself at mile 10, but more on that soon.) Oh, and speaking of girls, there were six of us for every guy at the SeaWheeze. Somehow, I don’t think the boys were troubled by it …
This run was two things. It was a brilliantly organized event (and I’m not saying that because I am currently overwhelmed by brightly colored stretchy fabric), and it was physically the toughest thing I have ever done. It was also the 35th run in my 52 Weeks, 52 Runs challenge. OK, I guess that’s three things.
I wasn’t really sure how to approach the race. If I had been more consistent in my training I probably would have had a sense of how fast I could go out and how my stamina would hold up. But I had never run longer than eight miles, so I pretty much had to wing it. Next time, I’ll be better prepared.
Thankfully, it started early (7.30), and Vancouver turned on a magnificent day for us. Sunny but not searing, with a lovely breeze along the water. After the past few months of insanely hot runs in New England, this was a rare treat. Or maybe I’m just – shock – getting used to it.
When you’ve gotta go …
I began quite slowly, hovering around 12 minutes per mile. I figured if I could keep up that pace for the full 13.1, I’d be very happy. (I walked the Mad Half at a 13.50.) Then at mile three, semi-disaster! I had to, er, go. There was a line-up, and it cost me a good four minutes. Four minutes!
Once I recovered from this unsettling diversion and got back on track, I felt decent. I got through the first 10K in about 1.18. Not bad for me. There were unexpected hills though, so I walked a chunk of it. But at least I wasn’t bothered by the heat. (There’s a first time for everything.)
We ran through Kitsilano, the beachside suburb of Vancouver that is the birthplace of Lululemon. It was like making a pilgrimage to the mother land. It was a little slice of hilly hell, but the group of zealous high-fiving purple-clad kids with signs that read “Go Random Adult” and “Don’t Stop Beliebing” made me smile. There were also lots of enthusiastically costumed cheer squads (mermaids, giant fish playing saxophones) out in force in special party zones.
Somewhere between nine and 10 kilometers (the race was marked in kilometers, which threw me off; I should have done my math in advance – I only talk miles when it comes to running), we hit the water and there we stayed for the rest of the course (the whole distance was 21.1km, in case you’re wondering).
The gorgeous setting distracted me for a while from the pain that was slowly building in my knees, hamstrings, and ankles. Hamstrings! Who knew I had hamstrings?
The farther we went along the seawall (you couldn’t have asked for a better setting), the stiffer my legs got. This is no doubt where all that training – had I managed to consistently do any – would have kicked in. I was fading fast by the time we hit 10 miles (16km), and thought my goal of finishing in under three hours was starting to seem shaky. Ten kilometers ago, when I was young and innocent and didn’t know anything, I fleetingly thought I may have been able to pull off a 2.30/40 time. Now I knew that was folly.
Only 5K to go!
I tried to think of it in terms of running a 5K from here on in. You do those all the time, how hard can it be? Sure, your legs feel as though they’re not connected to your body, but you. can. do. it.
Not so much.
We turned in from the water and ran through Stanley Park for the last mile and a half. I was monumentally over it at this point, although we did get to run through a misting tent, which briefly perked me up. All the stripey tops in the world couldn’t distract me from the fact that I was hurting badly. I was stooped over and dragging each leg across the ground like I was the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Very inelegant.
I was running every couple of minutes just for show, but all the joints in my legs were screaming out for me to stop. The cheering folks lining the approach to the finish were telling me I looked great and that I “had it.” But I knew neither of those things were true.
It took all the energy I could muster to run across the finish line, past Hubby who was cheering me in (and had gone back to collect my flip-flops – as is tradition), and I don’t think I really smiled until someone put a medal over my head. I was smiling on the inside though. I just finished a freaking half-marathon. I wasn’t fast, but I was happy.
When I posted the news on Facebook, one of my good friends commented with one word: “unreal.”
She got that right.
The event: SeaWheeze Lululemon Half-Marathon
The location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
The date: August 11, 2012
My time: 2.47.08
Hubby’s time: 1.41.58
The causes: Vancouver YMCA and other charities
The T-shirt: No branded shirt, unless you were a volunteer; lots of Lulu stuff to buy at the expo. And there were the shorts and flip-flops
The aftermath: Waffles, quiche, fruit, homemade granola bars