Diary of a Half Marathon Virgin – Part II
As a follow to my article regarding my experience in the SMH Half Marathon, dedicated client Mel Faustmann has kindly written her version of events. To give you a brief recent history on Mel, over the last 2 years she has lost an amazing 50kg as she has turned her life around from being sedentary to one of our most regular trainers. Here is her inspiring story:
Who would have thought 18 – 24 months ago that I could contemplate completing 21km? Half a marathon! Never! 24 months ago I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs. In the last two years I have completed quite a few fun runs and one ocean swim but none of them affected me like the half marathon. The 21km plays all kinds of havoc with your mind. It isn’t about the body – yes, your body has to be strong – but 21km for me is all about the mind. The day of the race was just a catalyst of five months training. The journey was the training, the race itself was the full stop at the end of the five months.
I went through all kinds of mental and physical highs and lows. Here are just some of them…
- Birthday Present – I thought it was quite ironic that my first ever 21km would be on my 37th birthday. My friend told me that she was sure it was Karma… I think I might have to agree.
- Injury – I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot. Most days I couldn’t walk on it, but always managed to run on it. Run for long enough and it would go numb. The best cure for PF is rest and low impact exercise (swimming, bike). Neither of those were an option as I was planning on running 21km. Thankfully both my trainer and physio understood that I was not going to stop running so we worked on management of the injury, not curing! At the end of the 21km my foot was numb and hasn’t hurt since…
- Training Partner – I am still not sure how I did it, but I roped in a friend who had never run a fun run, let alone 21km before to train with me. We just fell into a great routine. We trained with our trainers on the same days so on the off days we just ran. There were different routes and there were many days we didn’t really like each other for what we made ourselves do. This was the BEST bit of training. We motivated each other, we gossiped, we laughed, we sweated, we got cranky at each other but most importantly we were always there for each other to be a sounding board and a running partner.
- Doubts – I had MANY! I can’t begin to describe all the negatives that went through my head. I remember one Friday afternoon I had left work early and it was a perfect afternoon. I went to Balmoral to do an hour – some on flat, some on Awaba St and then finish with a swim. Sun was shining and I was pumped. Music on, timer started and off I went. When I started to hurt and slow to almost a crawl I thought “must be at least 40 minutes, will finish on the flat and go up Awaba”. Nope, it had been 15 minutes! My head took over and I think this was my worst doubts day. I started to walk up Awaba, got halfway up and sat on the grass under a tree just thinking “it can’t be done”. I was scared to my very core about the distance. If I couldn’t do an hour, how was I going to do 3 hours? I text Mark who basically told me to suck it up. His exact words were “Build a bridge, we’re running this race. You don’t have to enjoy it, just embrace it. Will be worth it”. It took me a few days to embrace anything, but I got back on track and had many more doubts but I was never quite as scared about it as I was this day.
- Focus – the 21km became my only focus. Life was split between “before the half” and “after the half”. I had a count down on my phone. Most things were not even considered until “after the half”. All invitations to do things during the week before the half were declined and I sat at home resting and tapering… I loved tapering week. Mark told me it was OK not to train. After training 7 – 12 times a week, this was a good week. Shame it was going to end with 21km…
- Mark – A month before the half I did a 10km run in Canberra. I did my quickest ever 10km (82min) and I was over the moon. I knew it was slowish, but I was happy. Mark gave me a day and then reminded me that I needed 7 minute kilometres so I didn’t get asked to withdraw from the race. The whole challenge of the 21km had never been about time for me and I probably shouldn’t have chosen such a strict time keeping race to start with, but it was too late now. It now became all about speed and increasing my pace. Mark was going to run the 21km with me and throughout the whole process this was my safety blanket. Mark would pace me, motivate me, not let me stop. As long as my body was strong, he would assist my head. I knew he would not let me stop. So, when speed became the focus, I trained but in the back of my mind I always knew Mark would pace me. He wouldn’t let anyone kick me off the course!
- Nerves – The week of the race I felt sick and I was literally shitting myself. Every time I thought about the race a wave of nausea swept over me and I had to go to the bathroom. When Mark sent me a text the night before the race saying he wasn’t sure if he was going to run as he was ill, my stomach dropped, I felt sick, went to the bathroom and then had a little cry. I frantically texted and called my friends as I was 100% sure that I couldn’t do it on my own and didn’t know what I was going to do. I had three friends running the race – my trusty training partner, Tez and two other friends – Nica and Frannie. Tez offered to run the race with me, however, she had spent just as long training and I wanted her to run her own race, I didn’t want to hold her back. Nica and Frannie had not trained that much and they both offered to run the race with me which helped me think it might be possible without Mark. And it was possible. I had to back myself and I did it. Even though Mark wasn’t next to me physically during the race, I would not have been there without his help, guidance and patience. I owe a lot to Mark. I will run a race with him one day…
- The race – standing on the start line the thoughts going through my head were “it’s a nice day, 21km…. F*CK, if I don’t finish there are a lot of friends standing on the finish line that aren’t going to see me cross, Frannie will chat to me the whole way, 21km…. F*CK, two years ago this would have been impossible, 21km….F*CK, I can have pancakes after this” and then we were off. The first 14km were good. I did my quickest ever 10km by 2 minutes, I had drunk people cheering me on, Frannie was by my side the whole way and a non runner friend found us at Darling Harbour and cheered us on. There were people cheering. At 14km things started to change in my head:
- The people cheering started to annoy me – “You can do it, keep going!”. I KNOW I can do it because I am out here running. You are standing on the side of the road! “Not far now, keep it up!” There are 7 more km’s, which is far when you have done 14 already.
- The man who tried to give me 15 packets of gel for “samples” wondered why I threw them back at him
- At 15km we were about 10 in front of the cut off and thankfully I was not going to be asked to withdraw and I was going to finish this damn 21km. My friends standing on the finish line wouldn’t see me getting off the bus that picks up the stragglers.
- Crossing Cahill Expressway people were overtaking us and Frannie and I had police escort. I did mention to one of the cops that if he didn’t stop “encouraging” us I might whack him. He laughed at me.
- We lost the police escort as we went up Macquarie St and saw the finish line. I did ask Frannie if we could just pop over the road but a loud group of our friends were standing on the corner cheering us on so they would have seen us cheat (and I would have always known…) as would the cops that weren’t that far behind us.
- The Mrs Macquarie loop was the worst 3km of my life. They were the longest and the hardest. We had people telling us to run, my legs and feet were done, you run past the 20km sign on the other side of the road and you know as you go down, you have to come back up. The cops were still “encouraging” us as they didn’t want to get wet, I gently pushed Frannie away from me as I was about to crack it because I was done. I’d had enough and I did NOT want to play anymore. We turned onto College St only to have to go down and loop back on ourselves AGAIN. Nica was standing at the finish line refusing to cross without me and Frannie was still right there next to me. When I crossed the line all my friends were there cheering me on and as I crossed they all started to sing Happy Birthday. Couldn’t ask for more.
- I always thought that I would take about 3 hours… official time 3.06.33. Happy with that.
I had one focus for 5 months, in just over 3 hours it was over and now I feel a little bit lost. Need a new challenge now.