Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, marked the day I ran my first half-marathon; 13.1 miles.
Prior to the half, the longest distance I had ever raced was 10 miles, run Nov. 20, 2004, in the Dover 10 miler, the traditional first leg of the York Road Runners Club’s Winter Series. I was 17-years-old then, a senior in high school, and completed the course in slightly more than an hour.
Since then, I completed my high school running career for West York, which ended at Shippensburg University’s Seth Grove Stadium in May of 2005 during the 3,200-meter relay. I closed the door on my collegiate career at Hofstra University, the last race of it being the IC4A Championship at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, N.Y., in November of 2009.
After that I stepped away from running. After all the miles and trials, I simply needed a break. My body handled seven years of competitive running with aplomb, only suffering one major injury my junior year of high school.
The break had a few interruptions when I would try to get back at it. Such attempts were often short-lived and proved futile. For whatever reason, I lacked the motivation I needed to get back into shape.
Incomplete revivals, however, ended over the last several months, namely this past spring, when I got back into it and stuck with it. I now run three to five days per week consistently, and told myself as well as others I’d be doing a half-marathon this fall.
Originally planning to run the Blue-Gray Half-Marathon in Gettysburg in October, I missed it, having not prepared accordingly and not followed through with signing up. The other week though, it dawned on me that if I didn’t run an official 13.1-mile race before Thanksgiving, I likely wouldn’t have done one this fall. Plus, with so many friends and family members gathering over the holiday weekend, I’d like to be able to say, “I ran my first half-marathon last weekend.”
So I signed up for and ran in the Movie Madness Half-Marathon at Northeastern High School in Manchester with what I would refer to as minimal half-marathon-specific training. It was a nice out-and-back course, partially along the Susquehanna River. Put simply, it was local and low-key. I didn’t need the hoopla of the Philadelphia or even the Harrisburg marathon for my first experience. I don’t handle being passed very well.
I ran a tad conservatively so as to not bankrupt myself at the end, but enjoyed it thoroughly. Not a single runner passed me. In fact, I passed several. I ran in the ballpark of 1:46, just over 8 minutes per mile. My dad showed up just to witness my finish. It was touching to know he cared that much.
Upon completion, I began to tear up slightly as I was wrought with emotion. I texted some of my friends, telling them how much I enjoyed the distance and how I cannot wait to enter my next half and begin tackling longer racing distances.
And it was a few hours after finishing the race that I realized how much I need running. I need it not only for my physical fitness but for my mental health as well. I need it to blow off steam, to sleep better, to release emotions and vent frustrations. I need running to stay sane. I need it to think, contemplate and meditate. Years ago, as a smug little sophomore in high school I didn’t find running. Running essentially found me.
But it wasn’t until 10 years after starting the sport that I realized the most important thing of all; I need running to be.