My First Half Marathon, The Big Sur Half Part 1

Hi, I’m Katharine! I’m a theatre-maker (actor, performer, writer) and an arts administrator living in beautiful San Francisco. Kelly and I met at theatre summer camp in 2009. She is as amazing as she sounds and looks on the Internet. I got hooked on running too and am here to tell the tale.

I started running because, although I consider myself naturally athletic, I’ve never been “good” at running long distances. I always thought my body type (big thighs and short stature) prevented me from running long distances. Then one afternoon my boyfriend Kevin and I stumbled upon the finish line of the San Francisco Marathon. It was towards the end of the race but a handful of volunteers were still on the sidelines, ringing bells and cheering on the last folks crossing the line. People of every shape, size and age were willing themselves across the finish line and that’s when I had my Eureka! moment:

These people are doing it, right now, I’m young and able…What’s my excuse? 

After seeing those runners cross the finish line, Kevin and I were both inspired to run (half) marathons. He’s been running longer than I have and is running his first marathon this Sunday, 12/7 in Sacramento. (Go Kev!!) I signed up for the Big Sur Half Marathon in Monterey and gave myself 14 weeks to train. 

I was most nervous about sticking to a schedule. I found a 12 week training schedule from the internet and added two weeks of walking / running. Using the power of Google Sheets, we tracked our progress and mileage day-to-day (actual versus scheduled). It had been at least a year since I’d gone for a run so I was really nervous about getting started. I was worried it would get too hard too fast and I’d just quit. 

I loved having a schedule. For someone who is chock full of excuses, a training schedule helped me break that bad, bad habit. Plus the added pressure and fear that missing a run meant I’d never make it to 13.1 helped me stick to the schedule. Keeping up with my cross training and strength exercises was harder. It wasn’t until I was running 5 miles that I started to feel the pain that came with skipping strength training. It was then that I stopped skipping strength but, if we are being honest, I skipped cross training and used them as rest days. (See? Soooo lazy!) Plus I didn’t have a readily accessible bike and I couldn’t focus when I had to do yoga by myself. (See? EXCUSES!)

I didn’t expect to love running so much. It’s everything I read about: it’s time to meditate and it just feels good. I learned how to push myself through pain and kick excuses to the curb. (Most of them, anyway!) I learned that one step at a time really does take you to your desired distance. I learned that I can push myself and that I am tougher than the pain. I can look ahead and keep chugging, good days and bad. I learned that forty minutes of running seems like a lifetime (much less 2 hours of it) when you can hardly run one mile. And that making 40 minutes out of your long day to run might start out as a chore but becomes precious time you that you grow to cherish.

What’s incredible about training is, after weeks and weeks of daily drops of effort, looking back I can’t remember what the bad days feel like. Even that one awful day I started late, the sun was out, I tried a new route, got lost and felt like the heat sucked everything from me. Even though it felt like I crawled the 7 miles to get home, eventually I got home and I finished 7 miles. My face was beet red, I was dehydrated and covered in sweat but I felt so good. 

A bad runs feel terrible while you’re in it because your ankle hurts, you’re hungry, it’s too hot or some other mental/physical snag. But you get yourself through it and by the time you’re done, your bad run has turned into a good run because you pushed through it and finished. Like a finisher. Yessssss.