My first ever half marathon! 初ハーフマラソン!

At the suggestion of my lovely friend Sinead, I have decided to write in detail about my experience in running my first half marathon.


Let me just start with, unless you have time to train and follow a proper nutrition plan, I don’t think a half marathon is ideal. A 5km or 10km you can wing to a certain extent, but a half marathon will cause some serious burden on an unprepared body, especially the joints. My knees and ankles really hated me during the race and for several days after as well. I could barely climb the single flight of stairs to my second floor apartment.


So let’s talk about training. I have been running regularly (approx 2-3 times a week) for about 2 years now. My usual distance is 4-5km which I can run easily under 30 mins. I sometimes push myself to do a longer run of 6-8km, which I can also run without too much effort. I have participated three 10km races, slowing improving my time to 62 mins.

Pre-race photo shoot - my awesome coworkers.

Four weeks before the race, I realized that I should probably start seriously training. I stopped belly dancing, and instead incorporated 3 strength sessions into my weekly training. I have to give a huge shout out to my sister who is a personal trainer in Australia, for writing me some killer strength workouts. Even after training for just four weeks, I felt stronger than I have in years. I can even see the beginnings of muscle development, especially in my core. On top of the strength sessions, I also started running 10km on the weekends, and joined yoga class once a week.

So ready for this!

Nutrition is probably my weakest point. After Christmas I decided I wouldn’t drink alcohol before the marathon, but that resolution didn’t last. I didn’t drink excessively though. As the amount of exercise I was doing increased, so did my appetite. I was hungry all the time. Unfortunately, I chose to remedy this mostly with snacking at my desk. I also ate an entire jar of Nutella in a little over a month. My blood sugar levels were probably through the roof. Now that the race is finished, I am trying to slowly ween myself off of the sugary snacks.  I just need to figure out how to convince my co-workers to stop giving me chocolates and other delicious things that I can’t help but eat.



On the positive side of nutrition, I did succeed in not upsetting my stomach before race day, which is one of the most important things. I also did fairly well for a first attempt at carb-loading and fuelling during the race. The day before the race I had a big lunch of rice, vegetables and pork skewers. I followed this with a small dinner of Japanese curry rice (not-spicy). The morning of the race I ate granola with yoghurt and a banana for starters, then 1 hr before the race I had an energy jelly. During the race I ate a small piece of chocolate and some kind of sports candy which has the consistency of chalk. At every water station throughout the race I went for the sports drink, except for the very last one where I got water. With this combination, I found that I was adequately fuelled for the race. I didn’t run out of steam, and even had the energy to pick up my pace at the end of the race. This was pleasantly surprising, because during my previous race, a 10km in December, I was extremely fatigued and unable to pick up my pace in the last 2km. There is definitely something to be said for good nutrition and adequate fuel!


The course was relatively flat and straight. On the positive side, no crazy hills to overcome. On the negative side, you are constantly battling boredom. I started the race slow, wanting to conserve my energy for the second half, which I knew was going to be the biggest challenge. There were two checkpoints, one at the halfway point, and the second at the 15km mark. Both of these checkpoints had a time limit, which participants had either to make or be stopped from continuing the race. I made the half-way point with 4 minutes to spare. I realized at that point that I should probably pick up the pace just a little and avoid cutting it so close. But the road was straight and boring, and my song playlist had almost come to the end. My left knee which had been hurting since about the 7km mark threatened to give way as my hip-flexes began to stiffen and complain. My doubts that I could finish the race, which I had been trying to ignore for the entire race, were slowly crowding into my mind.


At the 13km mark, I moved to pass a couple who were running together. As I was passing them, the husband greeted me, and asked where I was from. I took out one of my headphones and started talking. I think another huge thank you is in order for this stranger, who kept me entertained for about 2km along the most boring and mentally draining stretch of the race. Talking with him gave me the mental strength I needed to pick up the pace and ultimately finish the race. I also need to thank my long-term running partner, Rick, for preparing me to be able to maintain a conversation while running without losing my breath. I wish you were still in Miyazaki enjoying this running journey with me, but I am glad you are doing well back home.

Do I look like I am in pain? Cause I most certainly am in this pic!

Along the final 2km stretch the locals lined the road, shouting out words of encouragement as I passed. I wondered if my smile was starting to look pained rather than happy, because I was feeling both emotions simultaneously. Waiting for me at the finish line were my co-workers. As soon as they saw me approach, they started waving and snapping pictures. I felt like some kind of champion runner, complete with fans. They handed me a bottle of apple flavoured water, and pointed me towards the certificate collection zone. My time was 2hr 26mins. I had managed to finish 9 mins ahead of the time-limit, which was set at 2hrs 35mins. My legs, hips and lower back felt like I had just run to Australia and back. I doubted whether I would be able to move them at all if I stood still for two long.


So happy to see the finish line!

1,664 calories and 21.1km later...
I sat by the river with my co-workers and ate the bento lunch and pork-miso soup. I couldn’t sit on the blue tarp on the ground with everyone for fear of being unable to get up again, so I sat on a small bench to the side, stretching out my legs as I ate. I just ran 21.1km, without dying. I actually did it. It hurt, but I did it. I think I want to do it again. Am I insane?




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