How (not?) to run a half-marathon

Over the Thanksgiving break, Cathryn and I ran our first half-marathon!

Thankfully, not this kind of running.

I’m super glad I did it. It wasn’t pretty, but now that I have the experience I can prepare better for the next one (and there will indeed be a next one…and an even more next Next One).


Starting a good three months before race day, Cathryn and I embarked upon a pretty thorough training regimen as specified by Runner’s World. At times it was pretty intense, particularly with the lengthy tempo runs in the last handful of weeks, but overall it was made much, much easier by having a workout buddy for the long and tempo runs. During the training, we experimented with fueling (eating various forms of electrolytes in mid-run), new equipment (new shoes, jackets, underarmor, compression socks), and tried to find our rhythms in terms of making it through a long run at a decent pace.

I found that, as long as I was given ample warm-up time (~2-3 miles, or at the end of a particularly rough hill, whichever came first), I would hit a runner’s high that would last through the rest of the workout. That built a confidence that was perhaps a bit premature, given our long runs peaked at 10 miles. But more on that later.

Come Thanksgiving morning, I had a solid regimen worked out: shoes were broken in (but still with plenty of bounce), carbs and electrolytes were lined up (gotta love sports beans; Cathryn goes for ShotBloks, also an awesome choice), and I was confident in being able to run without carrying my own water bottle, so it was just me and my clothing.

Race Day

Cathryn and I had been nervously watching the weather days beforehand, but thankfully all the rain moved 24 hours away and gave us a water-free (if incredibly cloudy) morning that was even above freezing to boot – 60 degrees by the time we crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, I noticed a bit too late that the humidity was several orders of magnitude more intense than I’d thought it would be; I was hoping my training would prevail.

  • Mile 1: Easy peasy, just settling into a rhythm. Also: uber-difficult to move anywhere, given the large mass of humanity all around us.
  • Mile 2: Also easy. Also extremely claustrophobic.
  • Mile 3: Feeling my runner’s high taking hold. I’m in the zone now. Only thing I could ask for is a little bit of elbow room. BUT WE DID HAVE A CHEERING SECTION (Kat, Charlie, and Jill)! 😀 Gave us a solid one-mile boost, that’s for sure.
  • Mile 4: Passed most of the brutal hills by now, but that by no means hints at a downhill race from here. Still feeling good. Even sang D.W.’s “Crunch” jingle in mid-race.
  • Mile 5: Cathryn and I take stock of each other: we’re both still feeling good, but I admit I’m feeling a bit more run down than I should be at a mere 5 miles in.
  • Mile 6: Crossing through Piedmont Park. Nice to be back, this time running over twice the distance of the last race I did through here.
  • Mile 7: It’s become clear that the humidity is significantly affecting my game. I’ve lost a ton more water at this point through sweat than I did in total during our 10 mile training runs. Warning lights are flashing, but I’m still feeling ok.
  • Mile 8: Yeah, these last few miles are going to be a battle unlike anything I faced in training. Took some sports beans at the last rest stop, and have switched from drinking the water to the sports drinks.
  • Mile 9: It’s getting really bad now. I’ve gone from passing people to barely keeping up. Hills still provide an adrenaline boost, but I’m dying on the downhills (I know that seems backwards, but trust me on it; that’s how I roll).
  • Mile 10: At this point, my focus has shifted exclusively to making sure I keep running; my lone goal is to run the whole race. I honestly can’t provide too much detail, as my mind was really getting cloudy.
  • Mile 11: Wondering when the race will end. Starting to get passed.
  • Mile 12: This mile eases up a little bit; a good 3/4 of it was a nice downhill slope. Unfortunately, my hamstrings also start to cramp on each step. Still focusing on running the whole way, but starting to wonder if my body will even cooperate.
  • Mile 13: Put everything I had into this last mile; managed to keep up with and pass a few more folks, even though my hamstrings were just about to permanently cramp up. Blew through the finish line and collapsed with a time of 2:09.


It was pretty ugly for about 30 minutes after the race; my legs were spontaneously cramping, and just before finally sitting down and eating the food I’d been given, every extremity plus about two feet up each one was tingling fiercely. It was another couple hours before my legs finally stopped pulsating with potential cramps.

There was no doubt that the training regimen got me in the shape I needed to be, both mentally and physically (given how much ass I was kicking in the training), but the humidity caught me completely off-guard. I was kicking myself the last 3 miles for forgetting something as fundamental in Atlanta as humidity in the early hours, but nevertheless it completely blew the wind out of my sails. Cathryn, on the other hand, handled it with relative ease: she could have easily gotten 2:05, if not given 2:00 flat a run for its money.

It definitely highlighted the fact that I hadn’t been  hydrating well enough during the 48 hours prior to the race, as I remember the humidity quite well from my football days: sufficient hydration a sufficient amount of time beforehand (to really, really saturate your tissues) will handle pretty much anything.

Nevertheless, it was an awesome race, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next one, and a sub-2:00 time to go with it. 🙂

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Turkey Day!

About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
This entry was posted in Exercise, foooooood, lolcat, Real Life, Sports, The Lady and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to How (not?) to run a half-marathon

  1. Pretty good time, dude! It gets easier the more you do them (I did the Atlanta half marathon from 2003 – 2007). For bragging rights, though, I did finish my erg half marathon in under 1 hr and 42 minutes 😛

  2. CJ says:

    Actually, our last long run was 11+ miles by my Garmin.

  3. Rob Hall says:

    Please do 1/2 mile intervals with jogging in between in addition to distance training.

  4. Pingback: Tribute to my running, past and present | Where are the pancakes?

  5. Pingback: Race Report: Georgia Half Marathon | Where are the pancakes?

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