I might run like a snail, but at least I can run for 13.1 miles!

When I arrived at my first half-marathon, I didn’t think I was nervous.

post 181 image 4

Maybe it was because I had been having a ball. The past few days had been pretty awesome, after all.

post 181 image 5

My family even came to Boston to see me, adding to the fun.

post 181 image 6

When I think about it, though, I bet I was pretty nervous.

post 181 image 7

But I managed to keep that nervousness down, mainly because my family was with me. At my insistence, we arrived at the start zone an hour early. We spent the time taking photos and messing around.

post 181 image 1

post 181 image 2

The race was set to begin at 7AM. The closer it got to the start time, the more crowded it became.

post 181 image 3

post 181 image 8

Finally, only a few minutes remained before the start.

post 181 image 9

That’s when it truly hit me. Today was the day. The time was now. This half-marathon that I had spent the last 5 months training for was about to happen.

The runners lined up, the national anthem was sung, and then…

post 181 image 10

There were so many runners that for the first minute, I didn’t move at all. Finally, the crowd surged to a walk. Then a jog. Then, finally…

post 181 image 11

Off I ran, joining the stampede of runners through downtown Boston.

post 181 image 12

post 181 image 13

Dozens of people strode past me, but I didn’t care. I knew from the start that I was slow. I would finish this race at my own pace, no matter how fast people were!

post 181 image 14

Each mile had a timer set up, allowing the runner to see how much time had elapsed. I guess I was letting the people around me set the pace, since I was running a lot faster than usual.

post 181 image 15

post 181 image 16

Alright, I’ll confess: when I started training back in January, my pace was around 11:30 per mile– really freakin’ slow. By the end of my training I had reduced it to 10:30 per mile. But now I was running a good 30 seconds faster than that, out of nowhere. What’s the deal?

post 181 image 17

Maybe it was all the runners around me, maybe it was the adrenaline. Whatever it was, at each mile marker, I didn’t seem to be slowing down. I pushed on without pause.

post 181 image 18

Well, ok. I did stop at the many water stations set up along the route. Volunteers handed out cups of water and Gatorade. However, there were not enough trash cans to keep up with the water consumption. Cups were simply tossed aside in massive piles.

post 181 image 19

In spite of these stops, I kept up the pace.

post 181 image 20

I kept it up even as my legs started to burn.

post 181 image 21

And as my breathing grew steadily heavier.

post 181 image 22

By the tenth mile, I had pretty much had it.

post 181 image 23

The maximum I had run before the half-marathon was 12 miles. So when I reached that 13th, final mile, I was out.

post 181 image 24

But at the end, I had a surprise waiting for me.

My family was waiting faithfully for me at the finish line, that I knew. Since they couldn’t follow me during the rest of the race, I tried to keep them updated. I kept my phone with me during the race (to listen to music, the ultimate essential for running) and also sent them periodic texts.

post 181 image 25

As a result, they were ready for me.

post 181 image 26

My sister ran along the last 200 yards or so of my half-marathon, taking photos like a madwoman. My mom and dad were lying in wait as well.

post 181 image 27

post 181 image 37

post 181 image 40

post 181 image 36

 

post 181 image 39

I was too exhausted to model for long, though. My sister got plenty of unflattering shots.

post 181 image 41

Though amused, I didn’t slow down for my family. I couldn’t. Not after running for so long. I had to finish strong!

post 181 image 28

And thus, in 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 20 seconds, I finished my first half-marathon.

post 181 image 29

At the finish line, there were bagels, chips, and bananas waiting for us.

post 181 image 30

And, of course, our medals.

http://instagram.com/p/obQOU5lq1S/

post 181 image 31

It was hard to believe that this run– this darned half-marathon that I trained for months to complete– was actually over. I had actually finished, with a personal best! I met up with my family, who congratulated me.

post 181 image 32

Completely and utterly sore, I limped triumphantly to the car, where I proceeded to lay on the ground.

post 181 image 33

A week later, I’ve finally gotten over my soreness. I still carry that little medal wherever I go, though. I’m the girl who hated running, after all. I’m the one who could barely run a single mile a few years ago. I know, I know: half-marathons have been done so many times before, by people much faster than I am. But to me, that little medal– it’s kind of a big deal.

post 181 image 42

The Real Life of a Newbie Runner, part 2

Read part 1 here!

Although I acknowledge my status as a newbie runner, I admit I’ve been getting more confident lately.

post 180 image 1

However, every since returning from Sydney, I have always run alone. I haven’t had anyone to measure myself against. My concern isn’t speed, it’s distance. Thus, while I think I look like this… 

post 180 image 2

…the reality is a little more like this. 

post 180 image 3

A few weekends ago, I met up with some of my buddies for my school’s annual Holi festival. One friend is actually signed up for the same half-marathon as me. He’s been a long-time runner– a person who used to do cross-country and runs consistently in his free time. A real runner! But hey, aren’t I a runner too now?

post 180 image 5

As soon as I said it, I immediately regretted it.

post 180 image 6

Hey, I thought. Maybe this will be fine. I can handle running a little faster than usual, right? Sure, Vy. Keep on telling that to yourself.

Later that day, my friend and I met up and took off.

post 180 image 7

I ignored the feeling and kept on running.

post 180 image 8

But only a few miles had passed. We kept going.

post 180 image 9

Around the 7-mile mark…

post 180 image 10

My friend and I stopped for a few minutes, allowing me to drink some water and stop hyperventilating. My legs and lungs were burning. Man. How fast had we been running, anyway?

post 180 image 11

We couldn’t stop for long. My friend had a dinner date to get to that evening, and we had to make sure he got home on time.

post 180 image 12

My bravado was soon defeated, though.

post 180 image 13

By the end, I think my friend was seriously fearing for my health.

post 180 image 14

After what seemed like an eternity later, we reached his apartment.

post 180 image 15

Despite still being a few miles from my own apartment, I couldn’t run anymore. Instead, I stumbled home…

post 180 image 16

…and moped in bed for a while.

post 180 image 17

That day, I didn’t reach my target distance. How was I going to run the even longer half-marathon in only a few weeks? Despite all my training, I still lacked speed and endurance.

post 180 image 18

Just to make me feel worse, the Boston Marathon was two days later.

This Boston Marathon was going to be a big one. After last year’s bombings, people were determined to make this year a success. The number of participants increased to 36,000, 10,000 more than the previous year. Literally hundreds of thousands of people lined up along the route to cheer on the runners, alongside more police officers and security guards than usual.

post 180 image 19

One of the many security checkpoints along the race route.

I entered the marathon zone around the 25-mile mark, slowly walking my way towards the finish line. The closer I got, the more crowded it became. By the time I got to Boylston Street, it became difficult to see.

post 180 image 20

post 180 image 21

post 180 image 22

post 180 image 26

I arrived pretty early, around the conclusion of the wheelchair race. Only the fastest runners were nearing the finish line. I’m sure at that point, the runners must have been absolutely exhausted. Yet they pushed on.

post 180 image 23

post 180 image 24

Perhaps the crowd was helping them along. For some reason, the cheering seemed more tumultuous than usual. Every runner brought a new round of clapping and shouting.

post 180 image 27

A big screen set up by the finish line allowed people to view the runners’ struggle up close.

post 180 image 25

And, of course, their victories.

giphy

Regardless of the runner’s pace, they were all met by equal amounts of applause. Each one, as they crossed the finish line, had the same expression as well. Complete exhaustion. Utter relief. And– regardless if they placed first, third, or 1000th– an expression of personal victory.

A Boston Marathon bombing survivor finishes the race. From popsugar.com.

A Boston Marathon bombing survivor finishes the race. From popsugar.com.

People have knocked me for my super-slow running. They’ll first express disbelief, then smugness. Then they’ll sanctimoniously offer advice.

post 180 image 28

But when I watched the Boston Marathon, I remembered the words of one of my runner friends.

post 180 image 29

 

And as I watched those runners cross the finish line, I finally understood what she meant.

A week from now, I’ll be running my first half-marathon. I’ll be the out-of-place looking girl who has neither the lean body of a runner nor the fancy athletic gear to match. I’ll be the one running like a snail. And I’ll be the one who will still run proudly, because I’m going to finish. That’s all I want.

To prove to myself, and no one else, that I can do it.

 

 

 

 

The Oatmeal has a great post on long-distance running, which I have found more and more to be totally true. 

Also, if you have any good workout songs, let me know! I need a playlist for the half-marathon, and using Pandora is getting old. 

 

In which I discover that I’ve learned nothing for the past three years of college.

When I entered college three years ago, I took a free practice MCAT offered by Kaplan.

post 179 image 1

Three years later, I took a practice MCAT again. This time, I was trying for real. I had been in college for three years already, so I had to do better– right?

post 179 image 2

Apparently not. After three years of schooling, my score raised only by a nominal point.

Unlike during my freshman year, where I could just brush it off…

post 179 image 3

…I can’t really ignore it now.

post 179 image 4

Since I’m graduating college in a year, I actually have to think about my future now. Part of this has become studying for the MCAT, also known as the Medical College Admission Test. Among all of the grad school exams, the MCAT is particularly notorious. It is long, hard, demands a great deal of memorized knowledge, and is designed to weed out the weak.

The weak, including me.

post 179 image 5

So I registered for one of Kaplan’s online MCAT courses.

kaplan_logo

I knew that I would have to study hard for this exam. It covers organic chemistry, general chemistry, biology, physics, and verbal reasoning– all subjects that I have struggled with in the past. But I was still a little shocked when I received my Kaplan review books in the mail.

post 179 image 6

I was even more shocked when I started to read the material.

post 179 image 7

As it turns out, I haven’t learned 50% of the content I’m supposed to know for the MCAT, ever. The other 50% I studied years ago. In between my full-time internship and increasingly time-consuming half-marathon training, I continued to study.

My first MCAT class rolled around.

post 179 image 10

Try as I might, I could not keep up.

post 179 image 11

But as life got in the way, even the weekends failed me.

post 179 image 12

Falling so behind started to get to me.

post 179 image 13

There was only one thing to do.

post 179 image 14

So now, I’ve bought myself a little more time (literally, as changing your MCAT test date costs $65) to prep for this exam. In other words, I’ve delayed my inevitable collapse until October.

post 179 image 15

 

Maybe I should go into business instead.

post 179 image 16