#TBT: Shamrock Half Marathon 2012

I started running nearly 4 years ago - on April 23, 2011, to be exact. At that time, I had no clue what world would soon open up for me. Back then, I couldn't run for more than a minute without getting winded and having to stop, and even though I kept checking days off the Couch to 5k program, I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day when I could actually run 3.1 miles. The thought of me, having never even run one continuous mile in all of my 23.5 years, running over 3 without stopping was the most daunting thought I'd ever had. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I could do it. Where that confidence came from, I'll never know. Prior to starting my running journey, I had really never done anything that was hard for me. That's not to say that I had never accomplished anything, or that I had never worked hard, but I had never worked so hard in the way that running required. It was the first thing I'd ever done that hadn't come naturally to me, that I was pretty terrible at to be honest, but that I stuck with anyway. I may not have been able to run far or fast, but I celebrated every little victory and, step by step, I learned to run.

I never intended to run a half marathon. I don't think I could have told you the distance of a half marathon 4 years ago. I knew that my dad had run them, and I knew they were really far, way farther than the 3.1 miles I was attempting to run, but that was about it. I never had any plans or delusions that I might run one too. It wasn't until I had completed a couple 5ks and a 10k that I started to think it might be possible. One Sunday afternoon in December 2011 I went out planning to run 5 miles and ended up running 7 - a distance PR, and over halfway to a half marathon. I had had my eye on the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach for a while but never really believed I'd be able to get close to even being able to think about registering. But a few days after that 7-miler, with the clock ticking before the race sold out, I clicked "Register." And immediately wanted to throw up.

The race sold out the next day.

I spent the next 3 months conquering what I once thought was impossible. Nearly every weekend, my long runs ended with me celebrating a new distance PR, and I couldn't get enough. It was addicting. It was empowering. My world revolved around making it to March 18 - the day I, the girl who had an asthma attack running around the middle school track in the 6th grade, would be able to call herself a half marathoner.

Race day came, and I was SO unbelievably nervous. I remember being in the parking lot before the sun had even come up (the 7am start time was early!), stretching and trying to calm my nerves. It was my 5th race, but my first one of that magnitude. I had no idea what I was in for. Soon enough, my dad  and I and the friends we were with made our way to the start line. The corrals in front of us left one by one, and then it was our turn. I started having serious doubts right before we took off. I remember being in the front of the corral, toeing the starting line, tears welling up in my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. The race announcer counted us down and then we were off.

My dad had told me a few weeks back to think of the course in sections: first first few miles down Atlantic Avenue to Shore Drive; the turn onto Shore Drive until the turn into Fort Story 3 miles later; the dreaded 3 miles of Fort Story; and finally, the home stretch, the last 5k back toward the Oceanfront to the Boardwalk. Getting to the first “checkpoint” felt like it took no time at all. The second passed quickly as well. Even though I was running an average pace a little faster than the one I had trained at, I still felt good when we made it to Fort Story.

I was mentally prepared for Fort Story to be tough. Not a lot to see, very few spectators out, if any, since it's a military base, and the hardest part of any half, I think: miles 6 - 9.  I made it to the halfway point and it was like all of a sudden, a switch flipped. I started having a lot of trouble breathing, asthma attack type trouble. It shocked me since I hadn't had any problems during my training. I had to keep slowing down and I fought the need to walk for as long as I could. It kept getting worse even though I kept slowing and slowing, and finally I had no choice but to stop and walk right before Mile 8 in order to be able to get air into my lungs again. I've never been more disappointed in myself than I was at that moment.

I walked for about half a mile, until I felt better and got my confidence up, and then I got going again. Eventually I made it out of Fort Story to the 3rd "checkpoint", but I never fully recovered. I got better physically, but I was emotionally defeated. The 5k back to the beach to the finish line felt a lot longer than any 5k should. We started counting down the blocks we had left until we got to the boardwalk for the last half mile. After we got on the boardwalk my chest started closing up again, but there was absolutely no way I was stopping to walk. By that time I was scanning the crowd, looking for Ben. I finally saw him when I was probably less than .2 miles away from the finish line, and I was so excited about seeing him and finishing that I just started running as hard as I possibly could. With every step, the finish line got closer and closer until I finally crossed it.

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The world stopped spinning for a few seconds when I crossed that finish line. Those moments afterward, the relief and pride and disbelief, the simultaneous joy and pain that comes from stopping after being in motion for nearly 3 hours, the way my dad grabbed a medal from a volunteer and placed it around my neck, saying, "You earned it." - that made all the bad moments from the race instantly vanish. It didn't matter that my finishing time was one that most people would write off, or that I'd almost given up on myself out on the course. It just didn't matter.


Finishing my first half marathon was about so much more than running 13.1 miles. It was about proving to myself that I could accomplish even the unlikeliest goals. That I could dig deep and persevere when things got rough. That I could do anything I set my mind to. Finishing that race gave me the courage not only to keep running, but to do other things in my life that scared me or that I thought were impossible. I've never been more proud of myself than I was that day.

This Sunday, wearing a necklace with a Shamrock charm that came off of that medal up there, I'll line up at Shamrock for the 4th year in a row. This time, it will be for my 3rd full marathon - 3 years (and 4 days) after my first half marathon. Oh, how time flies.

9 comments :

  1. Oh man. I can empathize with getting tears on the course. Standing in the corals waiting to start my half, I got them... on the course after I realized "I'm DOING this!" I got them. When I finished I got them. For me it was realizing that I was accomplishing something that I never thought possible. Ah. Such a great feeling.

    I seriously felt all the feels when I read the part about your dad placing the medal on you. That is SUPER, SUPER cool that you get to run with him. I know I've said that before, but seriously. Super cool.

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  2. Oh, yes. So very much this. I'll never forget how amazing it felt last summer and fall to set a new distance PR every weekend and look back to where I started, to the dark winter evenings where running for more than 2 minutes at a time was my latest triumph. That's the amazing thing about this sport, I think: There's no end to the ways you can improve and surprise yourself and no limit to the goals you can set and surpass. I am so proud of everything you've accomplished and, can I tell you again? Inspired. I can't wait to hear about this weekend. I'll be cheering for you from here. You're going to be amazing, and I hope you have a wonderful time.

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  3. "Finishing my first half marathon was about so much more than running 13.1 miles. It was about proving to myself that I could accomplish even the unlikeliest goals. That I could dig deep and persevere when things got rough. That I could do anything I set my mind to. Finishing that race gave me the courage not only to keep running, but to do other things in my life that scared me or that I thought were impossible. I've never been more proud of myself than I was that day." <-- that statement is SO true for me!!! I never ever thought I could be a runner, I didn't even WANT to run or think about it being remotely fun until a few years ago. So when I crossed my first half marathon finish line, it might have been the worst I've run in my life....but I still crossed it and felt AMAZING. And last year when I crushed my time for my second half marathon, and then my third, it was just unbelievable. That feeling will never go away! You are so inspiring so thank you for posting this :)

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  4. The fact that you could barely run a minute when you started and now your a bad ass runner doing full marathons gives me hope for my running journey! I still have so much to learn about the ins and outs of running but I have confidence I'll get there, especially with bloggers like you to get inspiration from!

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  5. ok I am zero % exaggerating when i say this made me so teary. i wish i had such vivid memories of my first, the only thing i remember is bursting into tears when i crossed the finish line. like you said - the joy, disbelief, pain, pride and relief. nothing like it.
    you're so inspiring and awesome and i hope this weekend is totally awesome and everything you want it to be. i will be cheering for you and can't wait to hear how it went!

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  6. Nothing like the feeling of crossing the finish line! Especially at your first race. I remember feeling like I had never been so proud of myself. Good luck this weekend!

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  7. Running is such a crazy, wild ride. I agree with it being insanely addicting though. I always want to beat my own times. Go you! You're seriously an inspiration, girl!!! Sometimes I have highs and sometimes I have lows but I always know that running will always be there. :) you've also reminded me I need to sign up for a 5K.

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  8. You are such a good storyteller, I was feeling emotional just reading about you standing on the starting line, haha. Actually this entire thing made me tear up a bit-- so proud of you and so inspired. I know I've told you before but I've never known anyone who was like me, in not being able to run distance at all, and also having trouble with breathing who has gone on to be an amazing runner/athlete. I'm so excited for the next recap after you run the full this weekend :) :)

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  9. Its posts like this one that get me all emotional and make me think wow maybe you can do it Krystal. You truly are inspiring and I hope you continue to run and to write about running! I can't wait to hear about Shamrock this time around!

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