Culture

That Feeling Of Great Accomplishment After Your First Half Marathon

Our Marathon Maniac was once your average runner looking to sweat for emotional salvation until her first half.

first marathon
Illustration: Marisa Morea

I set out for an 8-mile run—my farthest ever—at the end of November in 2009 with no rhyme or reason. I just wanted to see if I could do it. At 23 years old, my ill-fated first marriage was crumbling before my eyes. Running was an excuse to get out of the house and try to work through a maelstrom of emotions.

Despite the fact that I majored in geography in college, I have a shockingly bad sense of direction. I got a little lost, but kept running just the same. This was before my first GPS watch purchase, so when I mapped out my route at home online, I was shocked not only at how far I had run (11 miles!) but how great I felt. Serendipitously, someone on a message board I followed suggested a get-together at a half marathon the following weekend. I thought, Why not? What’s another 2 miles?

Rookie mistake. The meetup didn’t end up happening, but I was undeterred. Plus, I had already registered and was not about to waste the fee. I had no idea that this decision would change the course of my entire life.

I found a friend at the start line, and we waited for the gun to go off. A ball of nervous energy and excitement, I stood in the 40-degree wet weather, shivering in the rain that was steadily falling. Before I knew it, we were running. I had no watch, no headphones, no distractions. It was just me, my thoughts and the rain.

Related: How To Handle A Rainy Race Situation

I climbed and descended the rolling hills. Water stops came and went; I didn’t stop or drink anything for the entire 13.1 miles. I was convinced that if I slowed to walk or stop, I would never start running again. (Side note: This is not a good race plan.)

A couple of miles away from the finish line, my lack of training started to catch up with me. After all, a little over a week before the race, I had never run more than 7 miles. It was so difficult and so long. I remember thinking, How do people possibly do this twice? Why would anyone ever run a marathon?

To this day, I have never been more proud or excited than I was the moment I crossed that finish line. Tears welled up in my eyes as I lifted my arms over my head. I heard my friend cheering wildly for me out there in the rain. “You did so great!” she exclaimed as I hobbled toward her. “Thanks,” I said. “Never again!”

A week later, I signed up for my first marathon. I thought, What’s 13.1 more miles? The rest, as they say, is history.

Danielle Cemprola lives in South Carolina with her husband and Rottweiler. When she’s not running, Danielle blogs at trexrunner.com.

Related: A Love Letter To Running