On a gloomy island Sunday,I did it. I finally popped my half marathon cherry! I wasn’t prepared, properly trained or confident, but I made it happen. I’m proud to say that I ran the Hibiscus Half Marathon, a handsome run that weaves along the coast on the island’s southeast side, and finished with a smile and the best runner’s high I’ve ever experienced. It didn’t start out pretty, but it ended quite beautifully.
Race day morning was a d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. I woke up twenty minutes past my alarm, threw my stuff in a bag, and careened down the highway at 5 a.m. in a frantic rush. The race took off from Kapiolani Park, nestled at the end of the touristy Waikiki. Although it’s in the city, I adore the park. It’s somehow a safe haven for locals, filled with pickup soccer & lacrosse games and family bbqs. It’s a bit short on parking, though, so I parked in the neighborhood a few minutes before the race was supposed to start.
I laced up my shoes and sprinted about a half-mile to the starting line; thankfully, they were running a little late. I hadn’t picked up my packet the night before, so it took me a bit of time to track down my race bib and get going. After about a mile, it dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten more than a teeny apple banana and a cup of coffee. I also hadn’t properly warmed up or stretched at all, since I had to rush just to be there on time. Heck, I hadn’t even drank any water. I also had a pretty bad cold and had just recovered from a hamstring pull – not exactly the best situation for someone who had only ran a little over six miles in months.
I tried to stretch out a little by doing butt kicks, high knees and side shuffles as I ran. Every few miles I loosened up my knees and calves by changing up my form. I noticed my knees were really tight, so I tried to take it easy and run on grass whenever possible.
Despite my chaotic start, I settled into an easy pace. I felt comfortable, and even a little confident. I made it. I was here. I had a zillion excuses to not even start the race, but I refused each golden opportunity to flake out. I had spent the last few weeks dreading this stupid race, yet once my ability to run it was threatened, I realized how much I wanted to do it. I was so proud of myself for getting there and thankful I was able to race that all the negativity drifted away.
The sun came up gloriously, its golden glow reflecting off of the hovering clouds. We ran up towards Diamond Head and along the water, with a breathtaking view of the turquoise sea and perfect waves. I made some friends along the way, and the miles seemed to be passing by easily. I was sure that I was going very slow – I guessed about a 12 minute pace – until I checked my phone at mile 4. To the dot, I had been running for forty minutes. How could I be at my marathon goal pace? I felt heavy, congested, and out of whack – it had to be a mistake! Right??
It wasn’t. At mile 5, to the minute, I was on pace. Same with mile 6,7, and 8, all the way until mile 9. I felt tight, but nothing serious; for the most part, I felt totally fine. I was shocked that I hit 9 miles so comfortably. It wasn’t until mile 10 that the aches, pains, and fatigue set in.
Mile 10 was when I encountered the consequences of my hectic morning. I felt dizzy, dehydrated, and sickly from the lack of food & water. My stomach rumbled, my ears ached, and my cold flared up defiantly. My broken toe that I injured last November (and stopped me from running my marathon) began to ache. My hamstring tightened, my knees cramped, and I could feel my calves following suit. I really, really wanted to keep a ten-minute pace, but I realized it just wasn’t possible. All I could do was my best.
The next and last three miles I took one step at a time. I told myself, just put one foot in front of the other. That’s all you have to do. That’s all you need to do. I kept pushing, and pushing, as each mile stretched farther than the last. My toes ached. My shoulders ached. I felt so dizzy that I almost stopped a couple of times, but I knew picking up the pace again would be impossible.
Eventually, I could see Kapiolani Park looming in the distance. We sloped down back to sea level and carved along the parking lot, passing tourists and other joggers alike. Finally, I could hear the finish line’s music and spectators. I was so, so close, yet each step was monumentally challenging. I knew I couldn’t stop now, and the cheers and camaraderie from the other runners carried me for the last half mile.
I couldn’t believe my time: 2 hours & 23 minutes. Even through all the pain and misery of the last few miles, my average pace was 10:55 – a mere fifty-five seconds from my goal pace! And that was with a cold, on an empty stomach, and without stretching or hydrating before.
Completing a half marathon was a wonderful experience! I absolutely loved the atmosphere, the course, and the staff – I would definitely recommend doing the Hibiscus Half Marathon to pretty much anybody. It was a fun, laid-back race that I’m beyond happy to be a part of. Now that I have that 13.1 miles under my belt, most of my marathon jitters have dissipated. Its such a beautiful thing to find out you’re in much better shape than you thought. As I begin to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in December, I feel confident, excited, and most importantly, capable.