This weekend, I ran my first ever half marathon! It was the Eau Claire Marathon, and it was absolutely fabulous.
I took a distance running class through my university to help me prepare for the race. We had a lecture, pertaining to running, on Tuesday nights and did our long runs as a group on Saturday mornings. The class really helped prepare me and I met a lot of really wonderful people. A bunch of my friends from the library were also in the class and ran the half as well, which was so fun!
Three of my friends ran the same pace as me so we ran together every Saturday morning, as well as race day. Saturday mornings could be tough! There were cold icy days, and pouring rain days. Getting up early was really hard sometimes, and I didn’t always feel like running. However, there were perfect days as well, where the sun was shining and I felt so good! It’s amazing how 6 miles can go from being a long run to an easier, short run. That’s one of the really cool things about training, you hit a point where every run becomes the longest you’ve ever run. For me, that was mile ten. I had run a 15k, or 9.1 miles, before but that had been two years prior, so running ten for the first time was pretty cool.
Race day, I woke up excited but a little nervous too. While I had no doubt I could run 13.1 miles, there is no telling what could happen during a run. Once I saw my friends, any nerves I had melted away. We had trained hard for this, and I could not wait to experience our first race together!
13.1 miles goes quick–no really! It helped that I was running with three friends who are all beautiful rays of sunshine. We talked a lot of the time, encouraging and distracting each other. One of the coolest parts about the Eau Claire Marathon is that a mile of it is through the UW-Eau Claire Campus. It’s called the Bulgold Mile, for the half it’s at mile 11.5. The campus comes together to cheer on all of the racers. It is really amazing, I cried during this part and teared up in many other places as well. The support from everyone who came out to watch was so overwhelming. It was unlike anything that I had ever experienced before.
The finish line however, was by far the best part. It’s an uphill finish, and as we rounded the corner to the finish line the announcer says, “Welcome home.” MY HEART❤ *cries* It really hit me how much of a home Eau Claire is to me, and these girls are such a big part of that. My friends and I sprinted to the finish and grabbed hands as we crossed, then promptly fell into a group hug. It was such a beautiful moment and let me tell you, the photos are precious💕
At the end of my senior year of high school, after running cross country and track for 4 years, I was SO. DONE. As absolutely amazing that experience was, it was also physically and mentally exhausting and I was ready to quit running for good. I signed up for this half marathon hoping to remember why I fell in love with running to begin with. At the finish line the answer was incredibly clear. It’s all about the love, it’s all about the people. Our time was 2 hours and 20 minutes. I slowed down a bit for my friends, had I been running on my own, I think my time would have been a lot closer to 2 hours. However, finishing with the women who have had my back through so much and who I’d trained with for 4 months of blood, sweat and tears was worth so much more to me than any time ever would have.
Overall, this experience was one of the very best parts of my freshman year. I’m so thankful for the wonderful people I met and the journey it took me on. I’ll be in Ghana during the race next year, but in two years, you can bet I’ll be back for the 26.2!
What’s your running story?