EDITOR'S NOTE: Kayla Dunn, who teaches Autistic students at Fairplains Elementary School, has shared her experiences training for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon. Last week, she not only completed the race, but did so in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Here is her account of that experience.
Last Saturday was the Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon. It was one amazing experience!
The whole week I couldn't believe it was time for the marathon. All of the training I have done the past couple months was all for this! I was anxious and nervous. I wasn't really sure what to expect that morning. The night before, I made sure I got to bed early and I ate tons of carbs as well; I rather enjoy that part of the training. I couldn't believe the level of support from my family and friends; I had so many texts, Facebook posts and messages from people saying good luck and they were cheering for me. It meant a lot that they were thinking about me!
That morning, I got up really early to get my mind ready. I ate a banana and drank a bottle of water. I met my friend Hannah who's been training with me the whole time so we could have someone drop us off because we didn't want to deal with parking. We walked around a little bit to loosen up and talked mainly to keep our mind off of our anxiousness. We went to the City Building and looked around at everything in the store. We found Cecil Chapman, who has been training with us as well and other runners who have run with us or talked with us quite a bit. We got plenty of pictures, of course! As more and more people kept piling in, it was starting to feel more real.
People started lining up toward the start line so we headed that way. We started whispering to each other because we weren't exactly sure where we should go to in line! So, we found some of the people who were from the training and went next to them. A lot of anxiousness and adrenaline was going on. I was starting to see a lot of familiar faces and we were telling each other good luck!
Hannah and I hugged each other one last time before the gun was to go off. I had my music and my Nike App set. The sound of that gun going off and masses of people running at the same time is an intense feeling. All of the peopleput in a lot of time, sweat, and miles to train for this. I also enjoy that fact there are so many types of people running this race. There are the elite runners, there are runners who are just starting out, there are runners who have run quite a few of these, there are even runners who a few weeks ago decided that they were going to do it! I loved hearing some of the back stories of why they were running or walking the half marathon.
I'm thankful that I did the half marathon course training run. I knew what to expect and during the run I could mentally prepare myself for the next obstacle. I knew the first 3 miles we were put to the test right at the beginning. We go up toward the Marrtown Exit on the four-lane.
I was feeling pretty good going into miles 5 and 6. I was keeping strong on my time and was actually doing better than I thought I would. I took advantage of the water stops; I would grab a cup and just walk long enough to get a few sips then kept going. I was nervous at this, because during the training runs I usually stopped for a few minutes and stretched. Gihon Road and Rayon Drive include a lot of rolling hills. I started to see a few people that were in the training runs and was telling them great job.
A lot of people asked if I had a goal in mind. I wasn't really sure what kind of goal to make since I never run one before, but I did have a time in my head. We were heading toward Camden Avenue and that part of the race is pretty boring. There weren't a lot of people there and it seemed to be very quiet at that point. However Hannah's parents were there with signs and cheering me on as I ran by them, so that kept my spirits high. I think a lot of the runners/walkers, myself included, were very focused and trying to maintain what they doing. I kept pushing through and my Nike App was telling me my pace and I was shocked I was maintaining the speed I was doing.
After Camden we start heading toward the Fifth Street Bridge. I still don't know what it is about this bridge that is mental for me because it's not that difficult compared to what else is on the course. But, I knew that after I crossed the bridge my parents would be on the sidelines cheering me on; that definitely kept me going. I saw them and of course my mom was taking pictures. I waved to them and kept pushing forward.
I knew the biggest mental challenge was ahead. After we cross the bridge we go onto Avery Street and head toward 13th Street, which has a hill. I say hill, but after someone runs almost 9 to 10 miles, to the very new beginner runner it seems like a mountain! During the training run I managed to get through it without walking. However, the hill did defeat me some during the half marathon. I had to walk a few steps on this hill, but only a few to catch my breath! Then I made myself run the rest of the hill. When I saw the 10 mile marker, I thought to myself, the rest of the race is a 5K. I can do that. I wish it helped me more, but those last 3 miles for me was the most difficult.
After 13th Street we go onto Lynn Street to head toward 17th Street. I knew there weren't any more major hills or difficult areas; the rest of the run was pretty much flat. I lost a couple seconds on my pace, but I was honestly just glad the race was almost over.
Once we left 17th Street, we go onto Market Street. That is the second best feeling in the race is knowing you are on the street the finish line is on! There were quite a few people here cheering all the runners on and telling them to finish strong. Having people cheer for you that don't even know you; it's an amazing feeling. I had someone yelling my number out saying, "You're looking good 724, keep it up!"
I got to the point on the street where the finish line was very visible and I started running harder until I got there. The best feeling is crossing that finish line. I looked up to the sky to thank God that I was able to complete my race. My parents and Hannah were there to greet me and give me hugs. It was an amazing feeling. I finished the race in 2 hours and 15 minutes. I was completely happy with that time. I was completely happy that I completed my first half marathon!
I want to thank all of my supporters. I have too many to name and wouldn't want to leave anyone out; but my family, friends, runners and co-workers family as well, have been the biggest support group anyone could ask for. I also want to thank the River City Runners Club as well. There are some amazing people in this group and I can't wait to get to know them even better!
I'm really looking forward to seeing what my future in running holds.