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What 13.1 miles felt like: Half marathon recap

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  November 5, 2012 07:37 AM

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Editor's note: A previous version of this post incorrectly gave Elizabeth's time as 53 seconds instead of 53 minutes. We have corrected the error and thank our readers for the catch.

I did it.

That little phrase is still sinking in this morning.

It took me 2 hours and 53 minutes to run 13.1 miles. And while I clearly did not set any land speed records, by the time I crossed the finish line I felt like Wonder Woman (minus the gold-plated bust, of course).

If you've never run a half-marathon (which I hadn't until yesterday), you don't know what a long haul it actually is. And it's not because your body gets tired, or your legs get tight (sure, those things happen, too), but what's so hard about it is just believing in yourself.

There's something both awesome and wholly intimidating about waiting at the starting line with other runners to crank out that kind of mileage.

Before the All Women & One lucky man half marathon in Newburyport, I spoke with people who had run this race many times in a row. There were people who had run five and six half-marathons -- but this was my first.

But I had trained -- a lot. I was as ready as I could be. And as the race started I tried my best to just settle in to my usual, steady pace.

It was a gorgeous day for a race (albeit a smidge colder than I like, I definitely got windburn on my face). The course was as pretty and idyllic as a course that runs through a town with beautiful homes and farms could be.

The first five miles I was almost euphoric: I felt strong, happy. I'm pretty sure I looked like a crazy person running with a giant smile on my face (one spectator actually yelled to me that he hoped I was still smiling at mile 13!).

But the race was not all sunshine and rainbows.

It was a challenging course. Hills seemed to be around every corner. Steep hills. Hills that make you want to cry "uncle" and make your quads burn. The kind of hills that make you want to put your head down and get through and try your best to not lose that forward motion you're supposed to have when running.

But a funny thing happened: I found an ally on the hills. I don't know her name, but she and I wound up hanging together during much of the race --trading places of who was passing who and banging out the hills together. When we'd see a hill coming up, it was like she and I had this unspoken deal that neither of us would pass the other and instead we'd hang together and get up that terrible, awful, steep hill. Once we were at the top we'd look over at each other and kind of nod and then one of us would creep ahead until the other person made a move to overtake the other.

I also have to give a shout out to Deborah (who tweeted me before the race that it was her first half-marathon, too), a woman I met up with out on the course. It was so nice to chat and run for a bit with someone else doing this for the first time -- and Deb was running strong when we were together.

Overall, my body feels pretty good today. I'm the most relaxed I've been in a long time (especially since that hard work and those pent up nerves have been released) and the only thing I could deal without is the tightness in my quads (did I mention the hills!?).

Thank you to everyone who tweeted, texted, and left me messages. All of the support was much appreciated (especially somewhere around mile 11). Huge thanks to the LOCO folks for a very well-organized and fun race.

I leave you now with a video of me at the finish line: Tired, hungry, and completely proud of myself.

Post-race interview from Eliz Comeau on Vimeo.

Hat tip and HUGE thanks to my college roommate, Maria Villare, who shot this video and made me awesome signs to cheer me on!

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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