Weathering the Storm to Run My First Half Marathon

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Less than a year ago, I ran my first 5K. Six months ago, I ran my first 10K. On Sunday I ran my first half marathon, the Flying Pig in Cincinnati.

It wasn't my best run.

It wasn't my worst either.

It was a lesson in strength, determination, and patience.

The weather reports were dismal. 70% chance of rain, scattered thunderstorms, with a low of 59°F.

I started to panic a bit on Thursday and Friday.

Despite a cold and snowy February, our spring had been mild and dry. I had managed to avoid bad weather for all but one of my training runs.

I had overcome a sore calf muscle (injured from running on ice and snow)--twice. I had given up weeks of Friday night activities with my friends, headed to bed early, and risen at the crack of dawn to run.

I was not giving up. This would be my race, rain or no rain.

After spending all day Saturday at a yoga workshop, I was eagerly anticipating an 8 p.m. bedtime. Sound asleep before the sun went down, I awoke with a jolt at 2 a.m.. Lightning illuminated my bedroom, and thunder shook the walls. The rain on the roof seemed deafening. I would be getting up in just two hours.

I fell back to sleep, hoping that the worst of the weather was behind me.

At 4, as I ate breakfast, it poured.

At 5, as I headed to the starting line with friends, it slowed to a drizzle.

At 6, as we lined up, lightning punctuated the sky.

At 6:30, as we took off, my shoes were soaked and my confidence was shaken.

We took off, slowly at first. With each step, my shoes made a loud slurping sound. My shorts clung to my body, and the garbage bag I wore over my clothes did little to ward off the rain.

A mile later, the rain slowly slightly, and I was warming up.

I peeled off the garbage bag, tied it to my Camelbak, and wished my baseball cap covered my ears.

At Mile 2, as we navigated the second of three bridges in northern Kentucky, my iPod's volume suddenly decreased. By Mile 3, it was completely dead.

I started to panic but took comfort in the rhythm of running.

Slurp, slurp, slurp as my feet sloshed in my shoes. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh as my shorts, wet and stuck to my legs, rubbed together.

I focused on my breath, I lifted my chest, and I kept running.

No music, no heart rate monitor (left it in the car at the last minute because of the rain), and no distractions.

By mile five, I was nervous. How would I make it through eight more miles with just my thoughts for company?

Then the route took us into downtown Cincinnati. Spectators lined the streets, and my spirits lifted. My music returned at faint levels.

A huge hill lay before us, and halfway up, my friend needed to make a pitstop. Ten minutes later, we were back on our way. Due to the rain and soggy shoes, we knew we wouldn't hit our goal of 2 hours, 10 minutes, but we would finish. On a morning like this one, that was all we could count on.

I felt great until mile 10. My hip flexors seized up, and my knees felt stiff. We walked for two minutes, then recommenced running.

We never looked back. My friend Sarah was running her second and--in her words--last-ever half marathon. I was running my first. We trained together for months, through aches and pains, touchy stomachs and side stitches, shin splints and chafed arms.

As we started mile 12, we looked at each other and smiled. We had this. We felt great. The rain, which had started back up around mile 11--the same time my iPod started working again--had tapered off. Just 10 minutes lay before us and victory.

We picked up the pace and went for it, crossing the line with legs that felt better than expected.

2:32:32 wasn't our fastest race. Under normal conditions, we were capable of more. Under those conditions, that was A-OK with us.

If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever run a half-marathon in the pouring rain, I would have said absolutely not. I will admit that for a split second, I hoped they would just cancel the race. It didn't seem prudent to run in such conditions.

Life isn't easy, and neither is running.

When I started running, I told people I didn't have a goal in mind, just that I would run until it wasn't fun anymore.

Crazy as it sounds, even running in the rain can be fun. I've learned that once you start running, your definition of "fun" changes. I've also learned:

1. The importance of a healthy support system. Coach Jen and Coach Nancy were HUGE helps when I had questions about running. From clothing to injuries, they were happy to share their expertise. Coach Nicole was a great cheerleader, and fellow SparkPeople runners (HALLELUL, KGIRL29, and BLAZEGRRL) provided wonderful moral support.

2. How crucial rest is when you're in training. I tweaked my calf muscle during the second month of training. Worried about falling too far behind, I restarted my workouts after a week of rest. I should have waited longer. Two months later, I reinjured that area and took a second week off. It's no fun to take a break, but being sidelined for a long time would be even less fun.

3. I'm stronger than I thought. I can run with blisters, a touchy stomach, and side stitches. These aren't "dealbreakers" when it comes to running. Take care of yourself, run smart, and you'll be able to work through any discomfort you encounter.

4. Don't stress over that which you can't control. It rained on Sunday. It also rained on Saturday. Instead of stressing out about the weather and compulsively checking the weather report, I just asked for advice on what to wear, then stopped thinking about the weather. There's no use wasting time worrying about things you can't control.

5. How much fun running with friends can be. One of my very best friends has been a runner since we met. She has run several half and full marathons. When I started running, we started meeting up with another friend for runs during the week, sometimes even before work. Instead of scheduling a workout around our social calendar, we made our workouts a part of our social calendars. We're three very busy young professional women, so multitasking makes life much easier!

Last night at the dinner table, my boyfriend asked me what my next goal was. He knows me well. I take inventory of my life every year.

With this half marathon behind me, I plan to spend the month of May focusing on yoga. I will keep running this summer (I will probably run a few slow miles tonight), and I want to work on strength training.

As for major fitness goals, I know I want to run the Flying Pig half marathon next year. I also want to run a full marathon at some point in my life. I've had running goals in mind since last fall. For now, I'm going to enjoy running for fun. I also want to take a long trail ride with friends.

What is your fitness goal? Do you always have to have one?

Ready to run!

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PATRICIA-CR 12/25/2019
Success stories are so welcome!!! Congratulations!! Awesome Report
Congratulations! I remember the heady feeling when I finished my first half and my first full marathon. But also when I finished my first half using Galloway Method. You have done great. And no matter the time you have finished 21km! That's what counts! Report
Congratulation! Report
Thank you Report
Congratulations! Very inspiring. Report
Congrats on finishing! My first half was last Feb too. They thought it would rain (in fact it was raining really badly the day before). Luck for us the sun came out, but I was ready for the rain my best friend on the other had was not to keen on it. Your story was inspiring! I along with my best friend of 18 years are walk/jogging out 2nd half marathon Feb 2011. I can't wait to pass on your story to her and hopefully the 2 of us can use it as inspiration!

very inspiring:) I am just beginning working out on a regular basis, and you have inspired me to keep it up and possibly achieve what you have:). Thank you! Report
Very inspiring! Thank you for sharing. I'm into walking, did my first half marathon last year and will be doing another one next weekend. I wish I could run in a way, but I have a knee that gives me problems. So I'll stick with the walking for now, or forever. Report
Congratulations for going for it despite the weather. Great job! Report
I am running my very first half marathon this September! I am just trying to do it in under 3 hours. I ran 5 consecutive miles this past Sunday and was so happy that it was easy and just pleasant! :) I am really looking forward to my race. Your story was an inspiration to me! If you have any first time half marathon tips...I am all ears!! :) Report
I would love to follow your example, and hopefully I will be able to soon, but I still have to be *patient* with the foot problems that have been bothering me for the last six months. After having tried physical therapy, shots, exercises and orthotics, I am now trying Skechers Shape Ups. (This is only Day 2) They have worked wonders on my doctor's foot problems, and he recommended them. I'll be posting short updates in my blog everyday until I figure out whether they are going to work or not. Report
Thank you for that blog! One thing that has surprised me is how I have challenged myself automatically throughout my fitness journey -- as I reach small goals I've made new ones and continued to push myself as I go. I now walk at least 3 miles a day (and toy with running some, but I''m not really there yet) and on the weekends I walk from 5-8 miles each day. I vary my route and have some "challenge routes" that are pretty hilly. I guess a goal for me is to walk a half marathon but I know some of the marathons you can't always walk? I'm still a newbie at this! But a year going strong!!! Report
Great job, Stepfanie!! I commend you for going out and kicking butt in the rain!! :-) Report
Nice job - having avoided running most of my life because it hurt and now running quite regularly and loving (well...) it I say congratulations, good job and thanks for being a role model. I've done the 5K, thinking about the 10K - all of them - one step at a time. Report
Wow, so inspiring! I wish I could run too but with my knees I walk but am grateful for the ability to even walk since some of my Veteran friends don't even have that option anymore. My goal is to get through the DVD set program I am doing for 90 days. I have traveling in between but want to stay on task when I get back from those trips. That will be the challenge, to start again where I left off after not doing anything for awhile. Good habits are hard to develop and easy to break but worth the effort for the results of fitness and sense of accomplishment! Thanks for sharing your success again, it just makes me want my own goal that much more! Report
Congratulations on running the race!! I was in Cinci to support some friends who were running and they finished too...that takes commitment! My goal is to walk/run the half next May...I hope I have the guts to do it if it's raining that day. Great job!!!!! Report
I am not a runner and never have been. But I am trying some things I use to do but hadn't done in close to 30 yrs. I joined a local hiking club and I am doing hikes again. I also am kayaking again with this same group. I love to walk but even years ago when I use to run a track over 5 miles 3 times a week I hated it and I hurt the whole time on my right side. I did this for almost 4 yrs., talked to various medical experts about the pain and why it wouldn't go away as others said it would. One specialist doctor told me to stop, that I could be hunting something in my stomach. I have goals to keep trying new things exercise wise but running will not be one of them. lol Report
Awesome, awesome testimony... in my heart, I REALLY want to run. I want to run long distances and see my progress. Yet, its a challenge for a variety of reasons... weight included. I have to consistently walk before I can run, and I am working up to that. I have to really carve out a chunk of time that I will dedicate to walking/running. As much as I would rather sleep in the mornings, I am going to have to get up and get going towards my victory. Thanks for sharing. If you have any tips for getting started, please send them along. Report
Congratulations on running your first half marathon!!!

I love setting goals and it feels even better when we achieve those goals. I have a long list of goals on my Spark page and I am trying to knock them off one by one. My goal I am working on currently is running my first 10k. I run it the end of June. Report
I ran my first on Sunday as well. 2:36:09. 24 minutes better than my goal! Can't say the weather was as horrendous, but I can relate to many other things that went wrong: iPods weren't allowed; my partner bailed about 6 weeks before the race and I had to run alone; two days before, I slammed my calf in the car was hard as a rock for about 40 hours, then perfectly fine for the race. I'm so glad I did it! Congratulations to you! Report
Yay!!! You rock!!! You are an inspiration!!! Woo hoo!!! Report
An amazing story. Keep on running. It sounds like your are really enjoying the process. As for me-I don't even want to walk that far. Never had any desire to run but those who do deserve a big HUG and Hurrah!! Report
Congradulation, inspiring! Report
a long lost hello from someone who owes you an email :( (I'm sorry). But congrats on running your first half and in such crazy conditions! This was an awesome report!!
--kate, Report
Congratulations!!! Your blog was very timely...I'm running my first half marathon in a week and a half, and I'll admit that my motivation and determination has been wavering a bit lately. Reading this has helped me get psyched up for the 5 miles I have to do tonight, and I'm hoping that the time I've been taking off because of an achy knee doesn't hurt me too much on race day.

I've trained in snow, rain, hail, 32-degree weather, 75-degree weather, with i-pod, with dead ipod, and up and down and up and down Heartbreak Hill (yes, of Boston Marathon fame). My race is actually called the Heartbreak Hill 1/2 Marathon (apparently 13 miles wasn't enough by itself?), and is soooooo hilly, the Heartbreak Hill section seems easy compared to some of the other hills in the race.

I'm going to come back and read this again before my race!! Thanks!!! I need all the inspiration I can get at this point! Report
Yay for you! Way to go girl! I was cheering on the flying pig runners from home.

I try to have a fitness goal all the time just to motivate myself, for example my goal for right now is to run a 5k. I walked one earlier this year, but I want to be able to run one. Report
Congrats!! Way to go! This blog was SO inspiring and motivating. I am getting ready to do my first 5K in a few weeks and this blog has certainly helped a great deal.

So very proud of your accomplishments and your great attitude! Keep it up. Report
You are awesome...I am not sure I would have STARTED under those conditions let alone finish!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!!! Report
That was a really great blog you posted. I saved it to my favorites. Congrats on running the Pig. I heard about that race recently from one of the many running podcasts I listen to on iTunes!! Report
Congrats on the're right, the weather was awful. I give you kiddos...the hills and crests of downtown Cincy seem overwhelming to me...I look to the day when I participate in a 5k walk and overcome what seems like difficult terrain. A few more pounds and increased endurance and I'll be there. Great job! Report
This is a wonderful story. I have accomplished a 5K so far, but I must walk. I have not let that stop me. When I accomplished my first 5K, I was so tickled with myself. I have completed a second 5K, and now I got some ladies together to work on my 3rd 5K. I guess my next move is the 10K. First things first--supporting others toward a 5K. Report
I can only dream I could run again. Report
Congratulations, Stef! I am SO proud of you! I'm already learning that it pays to skip days during a budding injury. I want to run me a marathon once in my life, but mostly I want to run half's. But hey, who knows? Report
I started working on the couch to 5k program. Hope to take part in a 5k some day. I actually like walking/running in the rain. When I was in high school, I competed in track. Whenever it rained a lot we had a choice of doing drills inside or going for a long run in the rain. Me and my best friend always picked the rain option cause no one else did, rain is awesome, and we could go our own pace. Think, even if it rains I'll be doing my work outs. 50+ mile/hour wind on the other hand, probably not.

Congrats on running the half marathon! Report
Thank you so much for this motivational and inspiring blog! I just ran my first 5K on Saturday and had a blast. I wanted to immediately find another race to do. I think I am going to focus on doing another 5K and getting a better time and then finding a 10K for later in the year to accomplish.
Again, thank you for your inspiration and your AMAZING tips! They are really helpful!!! Blessings to you! Can't wait to hear when your next race is or what your next goal will be! Report
Wow, what a great blog!! I am a fairly new runner and rain was always a deal breaker. Well, after several runs, I've changed my mind. Now the rain really doesn't bother me. Awesome that you completed a 1/2 marathon, especially in the rain. Report
What an incredibly inspiring story! I haven't run any races yet, I am just so nervous! I can't stand running when it is too hot, too cold, or especially if I was getting soaked while doing it! Being outside in wet clothes is my most hated feeling ever!

But conquering through all of that and doing a half marathon! That is AWESOME! Maybe one day, I can do the same thing. =) Report
congrats stepf, sounds like you had a great race despite the conditions. a full??? i think we are both nuts because i keep kicking it around also. Report
congrats stepf, sounds like you had a great race despite the conditions. a full??? i think we are both nuts because i keep kicking it around also. Report
That's great! I don't really have a goal although I have walked a 5k and hope/plan to do another one :-) Report
Wonderful Story. Thanks for sharing this experience. I felt I relived it with. I ran my 1st 6k a couple of weeks ago. I plan to do another one... but I am not ready for a 10k. Maybe 1 day I will do a half marathon... you did yours within 1 yr. I think you did GREAT! Report

It was interesting on reading your take of your first half. I'm hoping that I can organize a get together during the Columbus fall half; love to have you join us.

It matters not how the day played out it only matters you completed it. No one can take away the feeling of crossing that finish line. Report
That's an awesome and inspiring story. The weather would have made my stomach a bit upset as well, but you overcame it and just went for it! I have done a few 5ks and two 10ks. Even those make me a little nervous, so 1/2 a marathon is very impressive. Way to go! Keep up the good work! Report
Your story is so awesome! Thanks for sharing it with us. I just began my journey on and I love the site. You're an inspiration to us all! Report
Way to go! You are such an inspiration! Report
Congratulations! That is so awesome. I just started running in February and have been plagued by shin splints the entire time, but despite that, I have run 2 5K's so far and it has been an amazing experience. Running has re-energized my motivation to exercise. I have found that the pursuit of longer distances and PR's wakes up the long-dormant competitor in me. I know now that if I don't always have a fitness goal in mind, I simply won't work as hard. So right now my goal is to complete the 30 day shred, and continue running 3 times a week for my upcoming 5K in June. I may do another one before that. I LOVE RACES!! Report
Congrats on your first 1/2 marathon. I probably would have backed out because of the rain, but you have inspired me to keep going. I was scheduled to run a 1/2 marathon in San Antonio, Texas back in November and I trained all the way up until 3 days before the race. I got sick then (just a cold but it made it hard to breathe) so I didn't compete. I am so frustrated with myself for that and am looking for another opportunity to run a 1/2. You are my inspiration and I know I can do it! Report
Thank you for sharing your story. It reminded me of when I participated in my first sprint triathlon. We woke up to pouring rain, cold enough it was almost snow. But I finished, not in the two hours I had hoped to but shortly after that. Your story reminded me how I felt that if I could do that I could do anything - I still can.
Thanks again!! Report
Congratulations!!!! Awesome job and great post. Thank you for the motivation! Report