I have decided that the Half Marathon is my all time favourite event. The distance is long enough to be challenging, but not so long as to be overwhelming, and the races themselves are just generally well organised.
And I am pleased to report that save for parking issues, the Melbourne Half Marathon lived up to my expectations.
Since being cleared for exercise after C was born, I have loved my return to running. However I have only been fitting in 2 or 3 runs a week, none of which were anywhere near as long as the runs I would normally do in the lead up to a half marathon. So, before I arrived in Melbourne last weekend, I was feeling a tad apprehensive about Sunday’s race. I was fairly confident that I would finish, but I knew I was under-trained and that it was most likely going to hurt.
And hurt it did. But more on that in a second.
I slept pretty badly the night before – owing to a combination of pre-race jitters, a sick / teething baby and not being in my own bed. But when my alarm went off at 5.30am, there was no time to dwell on the sleep that wasn’t. I showered, dressed, gave C a feed, then said goodbye to the sleeping household and made my way into the city. The venue was already packed (with the full marathon getting underway at 7am) and parking was truly a nightmare.
I finally managed to find a park in a side street about 2.2km away, further than I had hoped, and had no choice but to walk in and call it my warm up.
I headed to the start line as the sun was making its appearance – excited yet a little nervous about the 2+hours ahead.
I lined up near the 2 hour pacer – which was quite clearly a crazy thing to do. For I lost that pacer within the first 3km – opting to settle into my own rhythm rather than break myself trying to keep up.
The course was relatively flat – for which I was ever grateful, and took us from the MCG, down St Kilda Road, around Albert Park Lake, and then back again.
The first 10kms were quite good. I felt like I was keeping a reasonably good pace, and I opted to run music free and just soak up the atmosphere. But I could feel my legs tiring as the kilometres ticked by, and by the time we had circled the lake, I knew my pace was dropping.
Solution? Music on. Gel taken.
But by 12km, I was still struggling. And then the 2:10 pace group passed me – and any illusion of finishing under 2:10 passed with it.
Between 12km and 17km, I continued to feel tired. I kept running, knowing that my family was waiting for me at the end, but the battle to do so was a mental one. Thankfully the course remained fairly crowded throughout the entire race, so at least there was a lot to look at and a fun atmosphere to soak up.
When I reached the 18km marker, I finally felt my spirits lift. For with only 3km left to go, I knew that I would finish. Even if my pace was more of a plod than a graceful stride at this point.
Not long after, the MCG came into view – and I was relieved that the end was nearing.
Over a pedestrian bridge (a killer little hill to finish, thanks), past 4(!!) marathon competitors receiving oxygen and first aid on the side of the road, and before I knew it – the long awaited entrance to the MCG was in front of me.
From here, it was a ‘victory lap’ of the MCG to finish. I spotted my ‘cheer squad’ in the crowd, kicked it up a notch, and crossed the finish line – elated to be done.
Achieving my ‘personal worst’ half marathon time, but possibly my ‘personal best’ silly race photo!
Official finishing time – 2:12:43.
I think the next photo sums up just how popular this event was…
For with the full marathon, half marathon, 10k and 7k (?) events all running at the same time, it was quite a mad house after the finish line.
But everyone was in good spirits, and it didn’t take me too long to find my family – and my little girl for a much needed post-race cuddle.
One thing that struck me as soon as I stopped running was just how sore my hip flexors were. Normally soreness kicks in the day after, but on this occasion, it kicked in straight away and I was hobbling for the rest of the day. A sure sign that I was well and truly undertrained for the race, and my body was just not used to running longer distances.
But soreness aside, I felt happy and proud to have completed my first half marathon post-baby. It re-ignited my love for racing, and for racing half marathons in particular. And while I don’t have plans for any more races just yet, I doubt it will be long before I sign up for another.
Overall, I learnt a lot from this race.
I learnt that being undertrained makes for a tougher race – both physically and mentally.
I learnt that running with an ipod arm band is annoying.
I learnt that breast pads cause painful chafing (tmi sorry).
I learnt that I get overwhelmed in crowds.
I learnt that I am a dork and don’t mind asking a stranger to take my photo at the start line.
But I also learnt that muscle memory is an amazing thing – and allowed me to finish a distance that I haven’t run for a very long time. And keep a smile on my face while doing so.