Running a half-marathon is a special type of torture, IMHO. It’s a good fitness goal, sure… but it still comes with consequences. I learned this the hard way when I signed up for my first half-marathon almost three years ago, telling myself that I could go from hating running to successfully completing 13.1 miles in the span of a handful of months.
Luckily, there’s always been a part of me that loves proving people (myself included) wrong, even more than I hate running. So I channeled that willpower in order to run my first half-marathon in 2015. I can say that from firsthand experience, running a half-marathon isn’t “easy.” It’s taxing, long, and you’ll have to train through heat, rain, and—in my case—snow. (I’ll be honest—sometimes I just ran on the treadmill instead of braving sub-zero temperatures. I’ll take boring scenery over frostbite any day).
Nevertheless, I still think nearly anyone can run a half-marathon with the proper training and mindset. Just be prepared for the stages you’ll likely go through on race day:
1. Literally the most excited for exercise I’ve ever been
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. I’m about to do it. Months of training lead up to this day right here. I’m about to show this race who’s boss.
2. Irrationally nervous
Crap. The horn is going to blow any minute. Should I try and sneak away? What excuse can I make up for family and friends? No, I’m gonna do it. It might suck, but I’ll finish.
3. Hella proud
*Just passed the marker for mile 2*
This is great! This is awesome! Runner’s high should be sold in pharmacies! Life is wonderful! I’m a runner!
4. Pain. Discomfort. Misery.
Pro tip: Never trust a fart past mile 9.
(I saw it on a poster, OK? I’m not speaking from personal experience or anything. I swear.)
5. Maybe I’ll survive this after all!
Just 2 more miles. I can do this… right?
I’m not thinking about much except for the aforementioned pain, discomfort, and misery. Every stride hurts more than the last, I’m worrying about shin splints, and the only thing that feels good is the glimmer of faith that my body will make it across the finish line.
6. Impatience incarnate
For an amateur runner or a half-marathon run/walker, 2 miles could mean anything from 17 minutes to a half hour. That’s so much time when you’ve already been pounding the pavement for almost two hours or more.
7. So close… but SO far
At this point, I can feel myself dragging along (as are many of the people around me) and can see the finish line ahead. It’s close, but while I know that logically, it just doesn’t feel that way.
8. I did it!
After crossing that finish line, I always feel proud and am thanking the universe I survived… but I’m also half-wondering if I need an ambulance. At this point, I tend to experience a confusing melange of relief, immense thirst, and extra-dramatic inner monologues.
9. Excited to humblebrag on social media
Wow. Not many people can do what I just did. This medal is cool. This t-shirt is cool. I’m cool.
10. Utter shock
I’ll takefinish line pictures, pose with the medal, possibly utter an expletive or two, and maybe have a post-race beer. Then it sinks in: I just ran over 13 bleeping miles. THIRTEEN! I don’t know whether to be shocked or proud, or how or why I did it… but everything hurts and I’m kind of confused.
At this stage, when people ask if I’ll run a half-marathon again, I don’t even know what to say. My legs feel like bricks, and I want to sleep for the next 900 hours. So my response to that question for the next few days will look a little like this:
But smart money says when my muscles repair themselves, I’ll decide it was an amazing experience… and do it all over again.
Alexis Dent is a poet, essayist, entrepreneur, and author. Her first book, Everything I Left Behind, came out this fall. In addition to freelancing, Dent writes a weekly newsletter called White Collar Dropout for self-employed millennials and ambitious side hustlers. Dent also designs quirky leggings for her apparel company, Eraminta, because she really hates wearing pants. Keep up with her on her website and follow her on Twitter @alexisdent.