I wasn’t sure what to expect when I turned up at the start area for my first half marathon.
It was only the second race I’d ever taken part in.
The organisers had put me in the black pen based on my estimated finish time and I was, what seemed like, miles from the start line.
I hadn’t been to the Edinburgh University campus, where the start area was, pretty much since I graduated back in 1995.
It was a welcome blast from the past.
Here are some thoughts on completing my first half marathon now I’ve had time to reflect on it.
The Pen System Can Be Gamed
I was honest about the time I thought I’d complete my first half marathon in.
When I signed up I said I’d finish in around two hours.
I began to have my doubts about whether I was in the right pen after chatting to a few people around me before the race started.
They were planning on getting to the finish line around the two hours 30 minute mark.
After the race I discovered several people I knew taking part had finished in a slower time than me but were in pens much closer to the start.
I can only think they overestimated their finishing time to get a pen closer to the starting line.
Don’t Drink Too Much Water Before The Start
I got the bus from my house to the centre of Edinburgh and took a bottle of water with me for the journey.
After getting off the bus and jogging to the start, I’d managed to drink the whole bottle.
It’s a good idea to keep hydrated before a race, right?
The trouble is it was freezing at the start line and the mist had come in from the North Sea.
I then had to visit the toilet several times as I kept feeling like I was bursting for a wee!
When it got really busy I had to find a discrete alleyway just before we were called into the pen before the race started.
I’m glad I did though because in the first mile or two of the race several runners dashed off to take a leak.
Avoid Photo Seekers
There are usually a number of official photographers on the course.
They take photos of all the runners and make them available for sale after the race.
You’re never quite sure where they’ll be standing and they’ll not always obvious.
What I’ve come to learn though is that you’ll always get some loony jumping in front of you and doing something stupid if they spot the camera.
For this being my first half marathon, I experienced this twice when someone jumped in front of me.
I had to react quickly so as not to fall or run straight into them.
It’s hard to avoid photo seekers but if you can, try to because you don’t want them to be the cause of an injury and the end of your race.
Don’t Forget To Breathe Deeply
Shallow breathing won’t get enough air into your lungs when you’re running and it’s unlikely that nose breathing will either.
It’s all about deep belly breathing and getting as much oxygen into your bloodstream as efficiently as possible.
I’ve practiced deep belly breathing whilst I’ve been out on training runs.
It takes some getting used to and I’ve found I need to concentrate hard to remember to breathe from my diaphragm.
But after a while you get into a rhythm and it just happens.
I’m convinced it helped me shave six minutes off my training time personal best in my first half marathon race.
Stick To The Plan
Before the race, I’d decided I’d pace myself for a 1 hour 45 minute finish using my Garmin watch.
Then moments before the start I scrapped that and decided I’d just run without any prompts and see how things went.
With being in a pen further back, I found I had to run around a lot of people to keep at a pace I wanted to run at.
It was quite tedious at times and made me feel frustrated.
There were quite a few people later on in the race that were walking some of the distance.
They must have pushed too hard but that caused even more frustration because other runners struggled to get past them.
I still wish I had stuck to my plan and gone for the 1 hour 45 minute finish anyway.
Whilst I knocked six minutes off my personal best time in training, it could have been almost double that.
Did You Have A Similar Experience To My First Half Marathon?
How was your first 10k, half marathon or marathon race?
Did you achieve your goals and manage a personal best?