Half (of 26) or Full?

Is the course half or full? That’s what I asked myself this past weekend when I participated in the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I was in town to work on behalf of HP as part of its HP Veer 4G sponsorship.

In fact, I worked two long days prior to the race at the expo, a job I’m now convinced should be saved for those 25 years of age and younger. I had very low expectations of how well I’d run.  Not only was I exhausted from standing on my feet for those two days, but I’d run 16 miles the prior weekend as part of my fall marathon training schedule. My goal? Break 2 hours and call it a day.

. . .

Then the race starts, the music is playing, the crowd is cheering, the runners are moving quickly (I started with the 1:45 pacers) and the adrenalin kicks in.

. . .

My Garmin, which I almost forgot AGAIN, was providing inaccurate readings because of all the tall buildings in Chicago, so I really had no idea how fast I was running. Before I knew it, I had completed the race in a time of 1:47.25, finishing 18 of 628 runners in my age group (which is very good for me). The experience – tiring but not exhausting – has caused me to reflect a bit on why I run marathons. Heretofore are the advantages of going half the distance.

Training. Rather than weekends comprised of 18 and 20-milers, the schedule only requires 10 or 12-mile training runs, which are far less cumbersome, time-consuming and exhausting. You’re less likely to encounter injuries, too.

Wear and tear. Clearly, 13.1 miles is not as exhausting as 26.2, both while training for the race and actually during it. Fewer people stop to stretch cramped muscles, and you can even walk home comfortably after the race, without limping uncontrollably.

Pain. Not to worry, pain can still be expected. After all, you are likely running a faster pace than that which you’d attempt for the full distance. But by default, the duration of the fatigue is shorter, making the saying “pain is temporary” less so.

Mental anguish. I have created a full arsenal of mind games to play during the last 8 miles+ of a marathon just so I can complete the distance. The mental battle is either non-existent or shorter lived when running a half because there’s no “wall” to knock down and no lack of coherence to conquer.

Stress. I get so nervous to run a marathon that I scarcely enjoy the two days prior. With a Half, it’s business — and life — as usual.

Ordeal. This past weekend, I had completed the race, taken a hot bath and settled in for a nap – all within 3 hours of the race’s start time. Sure, I was tired, but the race didn’t monopolize my entire day. In fact, I still found the time and energy to shop all afternoon along the Miracle Mile.

Recovery. I carried out my usual post-race routine of eating and drinking and stretching, but I recovered remarkably well. The next day I wasn’t sore or tired – despite my four hour flight home that arrived at 12:30 a.m.

So why still run marathons?

I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment, enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn for long training runs or like doing PT for all of my ongoing injuries. Because of those long training runs, mental battles, sacrificial Saturdays and walls knocked down, the feeling of accomplishment from running a marathon is hard to surpass. So for that reason, I’ll keep running marathons as long as my body lets me. However, I may be substituting some of those Fulls with Halfs, in hopes that my running clock will keep on ticking! Photo courtesy of RNR on Facebook.

Melinda Hinson