Monday, October 10, 2011

Joy and Pain, a story of 13.1 miles

October 9, 2011, the day I trained 3 months to prepare for had finally arrived.  Today I will be running in my first ever Half Marathon. The NYRR Staten Island Half Marathon.

It was a cool crisp morning at 5:30AM which is about the time I woke up.  Low 60's and cool so dressed in a short sleeve tech and long running pants (Mistake #1)

I ate my usual pre-race meal (as suggested) which was some water and wheat toast with Nutella spread.

Gathered my phone, earphones, bib, scoring chip, and sport beans and headed out the door around 6:30AM.  My wife and I arrived at the lot around 6:45AM, and this stunning shot was taken by my wife.

I met up with some of the members of my local running club, the Richmond Rockets in the lot.  One of the member, Tommy Hart has his party van in the lot waiting to greet all of us as we get there (later on after the race he tosses a really great after party with food/drinks).  This is a pic of me by the van before the race (notice the jacket, I was still cool)

And another shot of the van, its an amazing looking van!

After spending time with my Rockets, went over to the starting area to get ready around 8:10AM, race started at 8:30 AM.

I will honestly say, this was the first time prior to a race when I actually felt nerves kicking in..  Was I really ready for this?  Am I actually gonna be able to complete 13.1 Miles?  Well, I was here, and there was nothing that was gonna stop me now, I WAS going to do this! I actually got a little teary during the National Anthem as I had a lot of emotions running thru my mind.  Gun went off at 8:30 sharp and I was off!

Even though Ive heard it TIME AND TIME AGAIN, do not start off fast, well guess what???  I started off WAY too fast.  I was training my long runs at around a 13:30-14:00 pace with a 3:00 goal in mind but stupidly I went off running an 11:00 pace for my first 2 miles (Mistake #2).  Here I am passing the first Mile marker.

Notice the sweat after 1 Mile??? Yeah, maybe wearing pants wasnt such a bright idea!  This was a HOT fall race, wound up getting to be almost 80 by the time I was done!

My friend David was waiting for me around Mile 2, which I was happy to see, and glad that I knew I had support during the race, not just at the start/finish.

So yeah, I was expecting 1 hill during the run which i was warned about around mile 7/8 (which will be discussed shortly). But I wasnt expecting much else as far as hills, well I was wrong (Mistake #3).  The hills werent that bad, it just wasnt as flat as I had thought it would be.

Most of the run was very scenic, by the water.  Coming around Mile 3/4 was a very nice sight, and I slowed down a bit to take my only picture taken during the run.

This was an out and back run, so I think it was around Miles 4-5 that I saw the leader of the pack, a fellow staten island resident who ended up running the half in 1:08!  I also eventually saw a fellow Rocket, Eugene Saladis, who was actually running for the FDNY and he ended up running in 1:22 taking the FDNY award and 3rd place in his AG!  I also saw my friend Dahlia on her way back!  All of which gave me a good boost to keep moving forward!

Mile 6 my Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law, Kevin and Rhonda were waiting on the side, so went over and gave them a high five and thanked them for being there as I ran by.  The turnaround point was at 6.5 and I heard a volunteer who has been following my progress cheer for me and called my name, this gave me another boost, unfortunately at this point my mistakes had started to cost me dearly, as the cramps started!

Mile 7, Rhonda and Kevin had crossed over and met me there as well which was great!

At the end of Mile 7 was the hill I was warned about and at that point I was already cramping, so I figured at this point I better just be smart about things if I want to finish this race.  No more thinking about a time goal, I just needed to finish because NO WAY WAS I QUITTING!  I walked up the hill, then ran a bit to the next water stop.

Miles 8-10 were hard, but I was still able to mix in some runs, but still did a lot of walking.

Mile 11 I met up with my friends from the NYRR, James and Ann who had already finished and came back to run me in the last 2 miles which to me was a godsend.  I was in a lot of pain and exhausted.  I knew 3:00 was out of the picture, but I could walk in and still finish proudly.  The last 2 miles with James and Ann was mostly a walk with a little bit of a jog here and there.  I even met up with one of my Weight Watcher leaders, and friend, Larissa and her son, who ran a little with us.

James and Ann ducked out with about .25 left, told me to finish strong and they were proud of me.  Thats all I needed, and even though I was in pain I gave whatever I had and ran strong to the finish!

I did it!  13.1 miles!  My first Half Marathon completed!!!  In 1 year of running I went from c25k to finishing a Half Marathon!

Finish time 3:15:36 (14:43 pace)

Mile 1-11:38
Mile 2-11:28
Mile 3-13:00
Mile 4-13:39
Mile 5-13:40
Mile 6-13:14
Mile 7-14:40
Mile 8-16:15
Mile 9-15:02
Mile 10-16:46
Mile 11-18:41
Mile 12-17:24
Mile 13-15:53

My Sister In Law Heidi, Brother in Law Steven and Nephew Alan, who were at the finish line cheering!

Me with James and Ann who ran me in the last 2 miles

My beautiful and supportive wife Gail showing off her awesome shirt!

Me with Larissa and her son Aidan (camera shy)

Taking a victory photo


  1. Fantastic Gary! Just gives me more inspiration to complete one of my own in the spring!

  2. Awesome!! What an accomplishment!

  3. Congratulations!! So, my first half is 2 weeks from yesterday...any advice? Very proud of you! You are an inspiration to so many people! When is your next half?

  4. Thanx guys! @Tx, dont have my next half planned as of yet, The rest of this year is going to be shorter races 10K and under (i might do a 15k in December, not sure yet)

    Advice, learn from my mistakes, dont go out too fast, dress appropriately, and make sure to check out the course beforehand if you can! Most of all, have fun and enjoy the run!! Best of luck and please let me know how it goes!

  5. Congratulations on completing your first half marathon :) It definitely was HOT and that huge hill after mile 7 was a killer (I power walked up it!).
    Keep up the amazing work!

  6. Congratulation on you first half marathon. Staten Half Marathon was my first half. I am sure you next 10K will feel like a breeze - happy running from Maui, HI.

  7. Wearing the wrong clothes is an easy mistake to make. Starting off to fast. Also a easy mistake to make. Also running that kind of heat is NOT FUN!

    Way to go! I am so excited to watch you train for your first marathon. I did my first one in June of this year. You will be SURPRISED at how much endurance you build when training for your marathon.

    I also remember thinking after my first half, "how in the hell am I supposed to double this?" So if you are feeling that its totally normal and it will pass.

    I found marathon training to be easier than training for the half, which made no sense to me at the time. But it has a lot to do with that endurance thing I was talking about earlier. :)

    Once again GOOD JOB!

  8. Congratulations! I am in absolute awe! I started running back in March, 2010. I have gotten as far as a 10k this year. I plan on a half next year. Hopefully I will do a full marathon the year after that. I can't believe how much you've accomplished in one year!! God Bless!

  9. Congratulations!!! and in that heat too! You are an inspiration, and halfway to finishing a marathon!!

  10. This my just simply fantastic. You inspire me. I am so proud and for knowing you, I have become a better person. You are a fantastic man and have come SO FAR! Congratulations...I am seeing an ING marathon in your future!

  11. Awesome job, Gary!! So amazing!

  12. Great job, Gary! The second time is easier than the first. One trick I sometimes use is to walk the first quarter mile - that gets the competitive, fast start, urges under control while the pack moves ahead. I've also started a minute late to let the pack go (with chip timing it doesn't really matter).

  13. I'm so daggone proud of you! Aren't you amazed at what the body can do?!?! When I started C25K, I thought I'd never be able to do it, but I was wrong. And now, well, I've realized I am the only one in my way.... so I stepped aside.

  14. Congrats on the half and the weight loss! And I love the site.

    - Smith