10 Things I Learned From My Half-Marathon

A few months ago I told Erica that I was thinking about running a half-marathon with her. Before I had a chance to change my mind she had already booked a hotel and registered us for the Philly Half-Marathon.

Fast forward to last Sunday…Erica and I crossed the finish line together in front of the Philly Museum of Art on a perfect day for running. Our time was 1:57:45, about 2 minutes under our goal time of 2 hours.

Here’s what I learned about myself (and about running races)…

10 Things I Learned From My Half-Marathon

1. It’s easier to do hard things with other people – running solo on Amish back roads is peaceful, but there’s something empowering about running with a herd. It’s nice to look around and see other people working towards the same goal. (in running and in life.) It’s also nice to pass people and break wind in their general direction.

2. It’s easier to do hard things with a cheering section – they put our names on our running bibs so the crowd could call us out and offer specific encouragement, and you know what? It helped. Hearing someone yell, “c’mon runners! good job!” was great. But hearing someone yell, “Great job Bryan! Keep it up!” was awesome. If I ever have enough money to hire my own employee, their job title will be “Encourager” and they will walk by my desk every hour and cheer me on and hand out gatorade.

3. Cold distance runs are like Christmas Day for the Homeless – You wouldn’t believe how many people threw away their clothes before and during the race. Since most folks were walking to the starting line from their hotel in Center City Philly, they were wearing an extra layer to stay warm. Every couple minutes someone on the course would be shedding a sweatshirt or a pair of gloves and throwing them to the side. Not sure if the street folk know about this or not, but they can really make out well if they train and prepare.

4. I enjoy littering – There was something fun about grabbing a cup of water in stride, drinking 3 sips, and chucking it onto the ground like an angry deviant. When was the last time you enjoyed guilt-free littering? 1989?

5. I like lying to myself – I’ve always scoffed at people who set their clocks 10 minutes fast to keep from being late, but I found myself doing a similar thing during the race. I had been so focused on running 13.1 miles that once I hit the first mile marker I had a hard time believing my goal had changed to running 12.1 miles. So…I stuck with the 13. For the first 5 miles I kept lying to myself, “just 13 more miles at this pace, that’s all you have to run.” Once I was halfway I told myself “just 90 more minutes” even though I knew I was under an hour from the finish. For some reason playing mind games with myself seemed to help.

6. I’m glad I’m not in a fraternity – We ran by a bunch of frat houses in Drexel University and it smelled like beer. Probably because the streets were lined with frat boys drinking beer out of milk gallons at 8:00am.

7. I don’t want to see anyone else fall – At Mile 12 a 40-year old woman beside me did an absolute face plant. She must have tripped on something or just didn’t pick her foot up enough, because she toppled like a felled oak. We didn’t stop, of course, but it was a bit jarring. (and I did hear her saying “I’m alright, I’m alright” as we blew past her so don’t judge me.)

8. Don’t eat room service food unless you ordered it – Erica dared me to eat something off of someone’s discarded room service tray in our hotel, so I did what any of you would have done. I ate a breakfast potato that had been sitting in the hallway for 12 hours. (Not recommended.)

9. I love the (real) Finish Line – We ran past the finish line around Mile 6. No, not the place where your race is over, but the athletic footwear store called The Finish Line. I remember sneering at the storefront as we ran by…what a cruel play on words. The actual finish line was amazing though. You’re not just finishing 2 hours of running, you’re finishing up 3 months of discipline and training. I didn’t cry or anything, but it was more emotionally satisfying than I expected.

10. I love my wife – I already knew this of course, but running the half with her was so much fun, it was just one more confirmation of how amazing she is. She’s been running for a few years, so it was fun to jump into her world and do something that means a lot to her. We even held hands as we crossed the finish line like we were in a cheesy RomCom. That’s how we roll.

I’m glad I did it and I’m glad it’s over.

If you’re thinking about taking on a running challenge in 2010, go for it.

If you’re thinking about eating someone else’s old potatoes, you might want to pass.

and if you’ve ever learned anything from running, feel free to share in the comments.