Well, it happened!! After months of training, the big day finally arrived. It was a weekend that started with a lot of excitement and nerves, but ended with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
I dashed out of work on Friday, packed up a few last minute items, grabbed the bags and the family, and we headed up to Whistler. We arrived in plenty of time for my friend and I to meet up and pick up our race packages. I made my pre-race pasta dinner in our room (I made sure we had a room with a kitchen) and then set out all my gear for the morning. I was excited and nervous, so sleep was not so easy to come by. I kept having flashes of the North Face logo running through my mind…
Morning arrived and the nerves were in full force! I could barely eat my breakfast but I knew I needed to, so somehow I choked it down. Coffee definitely helped! I can’t even count how many times I went to the bathroom. I knew that once I started running, things would calm down, but until then…
My friend and I were nice and close to the Olympic Plaza so it was a quick, easy walk to the starting area where we quickly warmed up and found a couple fellow runners whom I knew. It was comforting to have few friendly, familiar faces right there.
Before I knew it, the countdown was happening and the race was on! My friend and I wished each other good luck and we were off! I knew not to go out too fast, so I kept it nice and easy and luckily, my happy running groove kicked in. I have to say, that Blueberry Hill is a definite challenge, but I managed it a lot better than I anticipated, so I took that as a good sign. Having walked a portion of the course a few weeks earlier, I was able to recognize most of the early turning points and after that, the route led me through some great hidden spots that I’d never known existed. I have to say, Rainbow Park was stunning! I was so tempted to pause and just take it all in, but I forced myself to carry on.
My run kept going at a pretty happy pace until about 17km and then things kinda started to fall apart a little bit. My feet kept moving, but they really wanted to stop! By then the energy chews and water stations weren’t doing much to revive me. My legs were tired and even my ankles were starting to bug me a bit, which was new. I realized this was where the mental games were going to have to kick in. My pace definitely slowed and I found myself having many conversations with myself: “You can’t stop now!!! You’ve come this far – there’s NO WAY you can give up now!!…. Everyone at work knows what you’re doing this weekend!! You HAVE to finish!!! You cannot return to work on Monday having walked the last part of this run!!…..” and so it continued. Somehow, I shuffled along, trying to pick up my pace, but I was so worried I’d use up every reserve and have nothing left for the finish line. Each distance marker seemed to take longer and longer to appear. At long last, the 20km sign appeared, and another runner muttered, “Oh man, am I ever happy to see THAT number!!” Another runner tried to encourage us by telling us, “It’s a piece of cake from here!” to which I replied, “It BETTER be!!!” We all started laughing and somehow we were able to move forward once again.
When I finally came up from the parking lot, it dawned on me where we were and I realized the finish line was just around the bend. At last!!!! The last ounce of adrenaline kicked in as I spotted my family and I was somehow able to sprint to the finish. Boom! I’d done it! Not quite as fast as I’d secretly been hoping for, but I’d done it! I had run my first half marathon!
We could not have asked for better weather and the course itself proved to be everything I expected it to be. It was beautiful. The volunteers were amazing, and they deserve every accolade. This course was definitely a challenging one for a rookie runner like me – had I known how tough some of those hills would be, I might not have chosen it for a first attempt at a half, but I have no regrets. I finished it and I know I can be proud. I may not have been super fast, but considering the fact that at this time last year, I had 0.00km to my name, to have reached 21.1km on a challenging (but stunning!) course is not too shabby.
So what’s next? Well, another half of course!!! I’m signed up for Whistler’s partner race, the Spirit of the Shore Half Marathon in October. This race will be on my home turf and it only has one hill, so I’m looking forward to continuing my training through the summer. I’ll keep working on building up my speed and stamina. Now that I have this first attempt under my belt, I can’t wait to see what I might accomplish by the fall.
Thank you Whistler Half Marathon for giving me a goal to reach for. It was your race that made me even consider entertaining this crazy thought of attempting to reach 21.1 km. Without you, who knows if I even would have bothered?? Thank you for giving me a reason to keep running. Thanks to you, I can finally call myself a runner…
I hope you all feel equally proud of your run this weekend, whether it was making a new PB time or overcoming an injury and making it to the finish line. I’ve learned that running is something different for all of us. We all have our own personal goals, yet we come together as a community to celebrate all our accomplishments. So well done fellow runners! Thank you for being part of my journey and happy running everyone!