Half Marathon

After my first 10km race my running buddy Mandy and I were ready for our next challenge. She hooked us up with a group of foreigners living in a nice community outside of town a little. They liked to run together weekday mornings before school. So, Mandy and I joined them and we soon all formed the Half-Assed Hill Toppers. It was a fun, social, running group who decided to enter a half marathon race in December. That gave us about one month to more than double our previous distance. Some members of the group had run that distance before and others, like myself were newbies. Nonetheless we all worked really well together. We motivated each other to run in the cold and understood when some would hit snooze more than once and skip out on a run due to rain. We ran a 6-7km hills course regularly during the week and slowly increased our distance with long weekend runs along a bike bath off the coast. We would pace and push each other to go farther and faster. It was so nice to have people of varying abilities to train with and talk about running with. We chatted regularly about pace, time, distance, shoes, and of course pain. Running is hard on the joints and messes with your mind. We love it!

Finally, it was time for the big race. I was so freaking nervous! I had only gone 15km due to knee pain that always seemed to creep up on me. Sunday morning JP and I were up around 4 am and getting ready so we could meet the group. Everyone was excited and a little sleepy. We piled into two cars and made the drive to Taipei, as per usual I slept the entire way. Time to find parking and get ready. There were hundreds of thousands of people filling the streets and we could feel a buzz of energy. Here we go. Shoes on. Timer in the laces. Pins for the number. Butterflies in the tummy...and one banana for energy. We found our way to the starting area where our amazing photographer JP snapped some before pics. Tired faces but fire in our eyes.

The Taipei Fubon Marathon is the biggest race I have ever been apart of. The international and elite runners were off first. The prize money for the full marathon was the largest in the history of Taiwan so there were some intense athletes in the crowd. We were packed in shoulder to shoulder and when the gun with off it took us about 6 minutes or more to actually cross the start. Thank goodness for our timers. It was a slow start bobbing and weaving around everyone but our group of foreigners is easy to spot. So we all stuck together in the beginning. The streets were blocked off and lined with supporters in some pretty interesting costumes as they cheered on their friends and family. After a few km the crowd started to be sorted into the separate routes for the 9km, 21km and 42km race. Still we were running in a massive crowd with people up the road as far as I could see in both directions.

Music in and settling into a good pace of about 7 min a km we were doing great. Then, I had to pee. It was an awful feeling. I drank so much in preparation for the race so I would not dehydrate that it was driving me wild. I thought I would just hold it. Then I saw that off to the side of the road goverment buildings and some business were open for runners to use the washroom facilities. I toyed with the idea in my mind of stopping but this to me felt like quitting. I consulted the group and few others said that at some point they would need to stop, too. I had never stopped running in my training before and started up again. What if I couldn't get back to my pace? I was also worried about leaving everyone. I knew that the group was going to get me to the finish. But, I was in NEED of a pee. So, I went for it. Jumped the rails of the race and bolted into the washrooms. There was a massive line of men and no woman so I just ran to the front of the line hoping for a girls room. There was one but it was occupied ... by men. So, I kicked them out! (nicely of course) Even though we did not speak the same language they new that was my toilet! In and out and back into the race. I was determined to find my buddies. How hard could be in a crowd of thousands? They were tall ... I could find them. So, I pushed my pace and people out of my way! (with a smile and an excuse me) After a couple of kilometers I trotted up behind them smiling! Yeah! I did it! Now, it was time to focus. Breathing, stretching the knees, changing stride. Everything I could do not to quit.

The path around Taipei was actually really beautiful and much nicer than the streets of Hsinchu where we live. I tried to look around and not focus on the number of km left to go. The water stations were traps of people cutting you off or stopping suddenly in front of you, so I avoided them all together. This is also where our group began to separate. Some people increasing their pace ahead, others slowing down. My friend Amber and I stayed together. We were about the same fitness level and equally determined to succeed. I was thankful to have her running with me. In the second half of the race we increased our pace. Lengthening our stride saves our knees and it also makes the race end faster! As we got closer the roads we were running on narrowed and the crowds squeezed in. This part was not fun. As we were trying to increase our pace and push for the finish people were fading fast and the idea to move the side when you decide to walk had not occurred to any of them. As we are coming to the last 2 km I am pumped! I can feel the excitement of the finish line ahead. This is what I like most about running. The final sprint. With good tunes playing in my ear I pushed forward and Amber right behind me. I began weaving in and out of people. They were NOT going fast enough. Come on people this shit is OVER! As I am about to enter the final stretch I get a text ... yes I run with phone in hand, it is my GPS and tunes. JP is at the gate. I kind of text the word "coming" I think but it is hard to text and sprint. I can see the finish through the sea of people and I am running like a mad woman. I was even hopping over pylons as I ran around old men in my way. I can hear my GPS in my ear. Last interval 1km. GO! GO! GO! My legs could not go as fast as I wanted and my lungs were burning but I got to stop as soon as I crossed that big blue gate.

Finally, the finish line! My timer beeps as I hit the mat and I stop my running app. 2 hours and 18min (still waiting on the official results) I am pumped. I turn to wait for Amber. We collect our towels and medals as we scan the crowds for our friends. I hear JP from the sidelines and he is snapping pics of us. I am in complete runners high and jabbering away every detail of the race to him as he is trying to capture everyone coming in to finish. The rest of our team arrives and were take some more group shots! Hugs all around! We did it! And we are ready for more!

Somethings I learned while training:

1. Run. Weight training and cross training are nice for a break but if you want to improve at running. Run.

2. Treadmills and running outside are not the same. I am not saying one is better than the other because I enjoy both at times but there is a big difference.

3. Carb loading seems like a good idea but stuffing my face with cheesy pasta and pizza (although super tasty) made me bloated and sleepy.

4. Love your shoes. Love how they feel and not just how they look. Your feet will thank you.

5. Run with friends.


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