It all took place about eight years ago.
The race that got me racing.
It was the Seafair Half Marathon, which actually doesn’t exist anymore. (Seattle Rock ‘n Roll took its place).
To give you a quick idea on what kind of runner I was back then: I raced in a cotton T-shirt.
I raced in a white “I love New York” shirt and didn’t take any Gu throughout the entire 13.1 miles. I’m not sure if I even took any Gatorade or whatever energy drink they were handing out, for that matter!
To prepare for this race, my training consisted of mid-week runs that were between 30-40 minutes and a weekend long run of about six miles. I know, I know! I never did a single run in the double digits! … What was I thinking?
I was thinking, “Hey, I ran cross-country in high school! I can run!”
It was the end of June — right after finishing my first year of college — and I took on a half marathon in uncanny hot Seattle/Bellevue weather. (Although it was a Seafair event, the race took place on the Eastside in Bellevue). I also convinced Julia to do the race with me. It was a little less scary knowing that a friend was doing something new with me.
We started together. I don’t remember much about how I felt since I am recalling an event that occurred almost a decade ago. But, I do know I was full of excitement. I ran with Julia for about the first three miles (or less) and then we continued on at our respective paces (fast for her, not-so-fast for me).
There was a lot of adrenaline running through my veins. It was all new and exciting! Our parents were along the course cheering us on at a few different places. I was running through sprinklers that neighbors along the course used to cool off the runners. I grabbed water at many of the aid stations. I was having fun! I was on summer vacation and running a half marathon!
I distinctly remember how at mile 8, my legs were already giving out. Yes, this is not a typo. I was hurting at mile 8, but remember, I had never done more than about 6 miles prior to this race. My legs hurt. My feet hurt. I was tired! I was experiencing a type of pain I had never felt up until this point in my life. I continued on and remember seeing a young boy, no older than 10, sprint past me.
Of course I didn’t walk. I kept running — in a sweaty hot mess.
My one and only goal of the race was to finish without walking.
Even the infamous “Kristin kick” made an appearance as it did during every high school 5K I raced. My mom would always ask me why I waited until the end to full-out sprint. “Why didn’t I go faster throughout the entire race?” she would continually ask. It’s just a natural instinct. I can’t explain it but when I see that finish banner, there’s somehow another level I can dig deeper into.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I immediately stopped and gasped for air. I just completed my first half marathon. And, as luck had it, an old high school classmate who was one of those Seafair princesses was there handing out medals. Dressed in a fancy dress and full makeup, she placed a medal around my neck and congratulated me. I thanked her with a half-smile and stumbled to find my family and Julia.
That piece of watermelon I ate soon after was probably the best tasting watermelon to date.
I had no goal time in mind and was merely relieved and excited that I finished. I could now officially call myself a long-distance runner, right?
This had been the most physically draining and exhausting activity I had ever done. I had never raced any distance longer than a 5K. I know some people work their way up by doing a 10K before a half but that thought never even crossed my mind.
If a half marathon hurt this much, there was no way I’d ever do a full marathon. (Little did I know that four-and-a-half years later, I would be running my first full marathon).
After completing this race, I was set on Seafair being my “one and only.” You know, like if I had a bucket list, I would have just checked “half marathon” off this list and continued to casually race 5Ks.
I don’t know what happened but five months later Julia and I were signed up for the Seattle Half Marathon.
I PR’d by nearly 10 minutes during this second race. And, after that, I was hooked.
I wanted more. I needed more.
I learned to push through pain, to run a little faster. I learned to work a little harder.
It all started with this half marathon when I was 19 years old. When I didn’t quite understand long distance running. When I didn’t know how to properly train. When it was all “just running.”
And, it continues to be “just running” for me to this day.
I just run even longer distances now!