super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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Orewa Beach Half Marathon recap

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Apparently, the secret to getting things done, if you’re me, is to reach your monthly broadband allowance and have your internet slow down to a crawl for a few days. You’ll get so frustrated trying to load websites at dial-up speeds that you’ll actually unplug and do stuff. Offline stuff. It’s amazing. I got a decent amount of stuff done in those 48 hours. Like, a half marathon.

I’m not sure everyone is aware of this but, as it turns out, not training for half marathons (and not running much at all in the lead up to those), means you won’t have a very good time, in both senses of the expression. My time sucked a bit (not my fastest, not my slowest) and I didn’t exactly feel thrilled about running while I was out on that course. In fact, I kind of hated running a little bit during it. Not training certainly contributed to that, but the fact that 4 out of those 21km were on sand didn’t do much for my enjoyment either. Running on sand sucks and this is as politely as I can put it.

It’s no one’s fault but mine, though. The Orewa Beach Half is a really nice little local event, starting and finishing near the surf club on Orewa Beach. The course gives you a little taste of everything, with a loop that starts on the beach and takes you through bush, urban areas, and a park, before finishing on the beach again. There are no bib numbers and no time chips, just a clock near the start and finish line. You time yourself if you want to or you run for the fun of it. The volunteers are all locals and did a wonderful job of keeping everyone smiling along the course. Orewa residents come out for additional support and the whole race has a neat small town kind of amateur feel to it.

I hadn’t been running much in the weeks before Orewa, because I’ve been worried my IT Band issues might come back (this may or may not be the last time I complain about that). My longest run since Coatesville had been 10k and my weekly mileage hadn’t been anything to write home about so I wasn’t expecting miracles in Orewa. I could have enjoyed it more with some training but I think I was also having one of those off days when you’d just rather not run. I only really managed to get into it about 16k in and, soon after, the final stretch on the sand started. Running on sand always takes away my will to live. The best part, if you exclude the cute little girl handing out dinosaur-shaped lollies along the course, came after the finish line, when one of the organisers came up to me with a worried look on her face and asked if I really was over 16 years old. I laughed and told her she’d just made my day. Sweating bucket loads will make you look young, Like, really freaking young apparently.

I’m pretty happy to have gotten this one under my belt – I remember entering their 10k event a couple of years ago and jealously looking at the half marathoners, wishing I would one day, maybe, who knows, perhaps, hopefully become one of them.

So let’s look on the bright side: I managed to run another half (which brings this year’s total to 3 half marathons, plus the marathon, so far), my IT Band didn’t complain much, I got another start and finish line by the sea (my favourite), and I learned that if you don’t like running on sand, maybe entering events with “beach” in the name isn’t the thing for you. Or maybe you just need to harden up.

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Speaking of hardening up, in sort of related news, I bought weightlifting gloves the other day. Watch out, world, one of these days I’ll start being able to open jars on my own. In all seriousness, I’ve realised the importance of working the entire body if you’re a runner and, one of these days, I’ll graduate from the baby-weights and join the grunting crowd. Maybe. That stuff looks like hard work.

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That time I accidentally ran a half marathon

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If you’re a faithful SGG reader, you are probably super smart and extremely good looking, and you know I hurt my IT band two weeks ago during my first full marathon (look at that, I couldn’t even go one whole sentence without mentioning the marathon) and haven’t run since then. I went to the doctor last week and he gave me stretching exercises to do, recommended medication and plenty of rest. He also told me that I could run “but only shorter distances”.

I had bought my entry to the Coatesville Classic half marathon a few days earlier, back when I thought the knee pain was just an entra sore spot from the marathon (mention #2!) and not much else. Turns out it is something else and half marathons are definitely not prescribed as a cure or even relief for IT band issues.

But I can explain, I swear.

On Thursday, after nearly two weeks of constant pain, I could finally walk pain-free. I remained fully convinced I was going to do the responsible thing and not run the half marathon on Sunday, letting the registration fee go to waste (since it was too late for a refund). On Friday, still no pain. Along comes Saturday and, whaddayaknow, another pain-free day. So I thought “you know, I don’t have to lose absolutely every cent. I can go there, pick up my registration pack (which included a free t-shirt and a bottle) and cheer for the other runners for a bit”. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning, right? I don’t know, that’s not what happened.

Later on Saturday, I saw that the bit of the course that went through the inside of Kim Dotcom’s mansion grounds was only 3km into the whole run. That course change announcement that meant we’d run through his property was part of the reason I had signed up in the first place so I thought “maybe I’ll run those first 3 or 4km and then walk back to the start line and be done with it”. That shouldn’t be too bad. Plus, I’d picked up a St Patrick’s Day themed headband from the $2 shop the day before so that was my excuse to get a run in on that day. I matched it with a bright green shirt, green compression socks and even green nails (it may only have been 3 or 4km and I may not have a single drop of Irish blood in me but none of those are reasons not to get festive).

So at 7:30AM on Sunday, I lined up near the start line with all the half marathon runners, ready for my little jog up to Dotcom’s not-so-humble abode. My knee started hurting again before I’d even run 500 meters but there was no way I was going to step to the side less than a kilometer into it, so I kept going. Really, really, really slow. No, slower than that.

The rain was pouring and kept pouring the entire morning so the views weren’t as impressive as they would have been on a clear day but they were still enough to distract me. Kim Dotcom’s gardens are lovely – fake giraffes and all – and next thing I knew, we were leaving the mansion grounds and continuing along the course. I had assumed we would exit his property through the same gate we’d entered but that wasn’t the case and I was a little confused about how to get back to the start line from there so I decided to keep on going a little longer, hoping to see an ambulance or some sort of support car that I could get a ride with. Either none passed me or I was too distracted to notice them so I just kept running slow/ walking my way along the course. It’s described as Auckland’s “most scenic half marathon” for a reason. Scenic is just code for hilly but, for once, I was happy about the climbs (my knee didn’t hurt so much during those) and miserable in the downhills (which I had to walk because the impact on the knee was too much).

To cut a long story short, I ended up slowly running/walking the whole thing. My knee was sending me death threats at about kilometer 15 but I thought that, by then, whatever damage I could do had already been done. After getting through two-thirds of the thing, I wanted the medal.

The Coatesville Classic is, in my opinion, the best organised road running event in the Auckland region. It’s incredibly good value – my registration was only NZ$45 and it included the shirt, bottle and finisher’s medal (medals are rare in half marathons in New Zealand). We got free massages at the end, the race briefing at the start was funny and the course marshalls were some of the nicest I had ever come across, shouting my name and complimenting my St Paddy’s headband (while probably wondering what the hell I was thinking wearing that thing in the rain).

It took me almost a million years to cross the finish line (not really but, if you consider I’m very close to 2h when I don’t run injured, it’s a pretty big difference) but I was pretty pleased to have done the whole thing, considering I didn’t even start it thinking I’d do that much and I walked about half of the distance (maybe even more than half). I was actually genuinely surprised to not have been absolute last.

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Of course my IT band is hurting again (although not nearly as much as it did last week). I’m back to icing it all the time, taking Voltaren and wearing my super sexy knee brace so I’m not expecting to run at all in the next few days. But you know what? It was worth it. The injury will take slightly longer to heal, of course, but I’m happy with the trade off, even if it means I now deserve zero sympathy from people because I clearly bring this onto myself. True. Although, technically speaking, the doctor told me to run “shorter distances” and you can’t argue that this is a 50% decrease in the distance of my last run, two weeks ago (marathon reference #3).

But I get it, I’ll calm down. I realised today that, in the last 4 weeks, I ran 3 half marathons and a full marathon (marathon reference #4), and that includes a solid week without running because of a cold (in between half marathon #2 and the full marathon – marathon reference #5) and two full weeks without running because of the IT band injury, between the full marathon (marathon reference #6) and yesterday’s half marathon.

No wonder I need a nap.


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ISC Lenco Half Marathon recap

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Pretty Wellington waterfront was still standing there, being all pretty and stuff.

It’s day 7 of the Cold of Doom (I’m sure that’s the correct medical term for the crap I’ve been going through in the last few days) and the marathon is now less than 4 days away.

BRB, off to scream into a pillow.

Alright, where were we?

Right. Sick, feeling like crap, with a marathon this weekend. Not the best state of affairs but I think I’m doing a pretty good job at acting like this isn’t a big deal.

This tapering thing is easier to do while you’re sick because, well, I have no other choice but to get in bed with a box of tissues pretty much as soon as I get home from work every day. It’s getting kind of boring, though. I’ve found myself with far too much time in my hands to stress about how the Cold of Doom is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me just before the marathon (except for, maybe, double leg amputation, I suppose). My lungs are my main worry whenever I run, even when I’m healthy, so the fact that I am one giant bag of snot right now isn’t doing much in the way of keeping me positive about this coming Sunday.

But enough of that. Let me take a break from feeling miserable about life, the universe, and everything. I realised I hadn’t talked about my last half marathon here yet so, instead of running (which I can’t do right now), let’s talk about running.

It was almost two weeks ago now that I flew to Wellington for a 24h trip to run the ISC Lenco Half Marathon. It wasn’t the first time I flew to the capital on purpose for a running event but it was the first time I made such a last minute decision to take a trip like that. It was totally worth it but I returned home completely shattered. The whole thing about running an event out of town is that you feel like you need to get out sightseeing to make the most out of your trip. Your brain says walk around looking at pretty things, your post-half marathon feet say “put us up now!”.

It wasn’t my best half marathon but it also wasn’t my worst. I was 3 minutes slower than my current fastest time but I wasn’t expecting any great times from this one anyway. I had already bitched and moaned about flat running courses here before when I wrote about the other Wellington Half Marathon I ran, and this one shared most of the same route so I knew what I was in for.

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The medal mentions the Round the Bays event, in which the ISC Lenco Half Marathon was included.

The event was very well organised. Then again, the registration packs included a little Whittaker’s chocolate bar so they could have failed at everything else and I would still say wonders about the whole thing. It included a finisher’s medal, which is very, very rare for half marathons in New Zealand, and that was a nice touch. The only issue was that you had to walk over to a tent and stand in a queue for ages, then tell them your bib number in order to get your medal. Two little problems with this: 1) it kind of takes the shine away from the whole “earning” the medal thing, if you have to stand in the queue like you’re about to purchase it. A much better idea would be to just hand them to finishers as they cross the finish line. 2) I’m not entirely sure they were about to know for sure that I had, in fact, finished the run. I could have picked up my bib at the start line and headed to the tent to pick up the medal a couple of hours later. Again, handing them out at the finish line would be a much better way of ensuring that finisher’s medals were going to finishers, not just entrants.

Other than that, the event was great and the atmosphere at the finish line was really good. Wellington put on its best weather and I spent the rest of the day wandering around the city (my Fitbit recorded a total of 38km covered that day, including the 21km of the half marathon), checking all the artsy stuff (yep, I have a Communication *and Culture* degree but describe it as “artsy stuff”. Sorry, mum and dad), and eating everything in sight, before heading to the airport to drink all the wine at the Air New Zealand lounge.

The end. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve gotta blow my nose.


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Wharf 2 Wharf recap

The first time I ever entered a running event was two years ago, almost to the day. S. and I decided it was time to go from our little mid-week runs into more of a challenge and we signed up for the 12k version of the Wharf to Wharf version on Waiheke Island (and not just because we wanted an excuse to go to Waiheke Island). At the time, none of us had even run that far. It seemed like a big challenge, which really makes me think about how far we’ve come. We’ve entered dozens of events since then but Wharf to Wharf is the one that got me hooked onto crossing finish lines and so it has a special place in my heart (all together now: awwwww!).

Last year, a 24h flight delay in Las Vegas forced to to pull out of the event. I was at the airport in Vegas when S. texted me from the start line saying they were calling my name because I had signed up but failed to pick up my race pack and, even though I was in Vegas, my heart sank a little bit. I wanted to go back and run each one of those twelve kilometers again. And so today I did.

My memory of the course was, hmm, kind of a little bit distorted. I remembered that there were “a couple of hills”. My brain failed to remind that the whole course is in fact up and down a bunch of hills, with almost no flat areas. But it is beautiful. As in jaw-dropping breathtakingly go-tell-your-mother-she-needs-to-come-see-this kind of beautiful. So beautiful you don’t even care about the hills (much). It starts on the beach (like every run should start) and it ends on another beach (like every run should end). In the middle, just a whole lot of prettiness to distract you from the hills and the pain and the fact that you got up at 5:30AM on a Sunday and not many people would agree with you that that was a good idea.

I ended up bumping into people I knew and running it with more running buddies than I was expecting and even had the visit at the start line from a couple of friends who were staying on the island for the weekend. The social side of this event really is one of its strongest points (it’s a fairly small low-key event as far as races go but it brings together a really nice bunch of people, including adorable looking volunteers handing you water while wearing costumes).

But anyway. Holy ball of fire in the sky, it was hot. And muggy. Really stinking muggy. I supposed that’s as far as I’ll go talking about the weather. I’d complain about it if it had been too cold so I think I’ll just shut up now. It could actually have been much worse. The sun really only decided to come out to play once we crossed the finish line so hats off to whoever controls that stuff up there. Top work.

The other good news is that, unlike two years ago, I managed not to smash my iPod onto the ground right at the start line in Onetangi wharf (an iPod that was only 17 days old at the time and that lasted another year and a lot of running events but never got a new screen). The bad news is that the exercise-induced asthma symptoms I experienced earlier this year made a comeback. Assholes (yes, I’m attributing an adjective that somehow personifies a health symptom. It’s poetic. Just go with it). It awarded me some strange looks and “are you ok?” questions from passing runners and forced me to walk for a few hundred meters to start breathing normally again and convincing myself that no, I was absolutely not dying halfway up that hill. It also led me to make a mental note to add an inhaler to the list of things I’ll be carrying with me during the marathon.

Once I was over that little hiccup, the rest of the run was amazing. We crossed the finish line and headed straight to the water. Being able to do this is, in itself, a major reason to enter this event. More than that, I now consider the ability to go for a dip in the sea the new standard measurement by which all finish lines should be rated.

See you next year, Waiheke. Stay pretty.


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ADRA half marathon recap – the last minute PR

A sunrise. I don’t witness these things often but I’m told they happen every day and not just on race days.

YOU GUYS! I think I’ve got it. The secret to running a really good race can sometimes be a lot less to do with preparation, training and tapering and a lot more to do with just chilling the heck out and heading into it without much planning.

Well, maybe. Don’t listen to me, ok? My only doctorate is in kitty cuddles and even that one is just honorary. But the fact is that the experience from last weekend showed me exactly that and I’m going with empirical knowledge here. So let’s recap, shall we?

I headed over to the Auckland Domain on Saturday to walk with Kim Allan (an experience I will hopefully be posting about in the next few days, once I can come up with the right adjectives to describe her epic feat). I wasn’t the only one there. Kim had the support of lots of other people, runners and non-runners, and, for a few hours, we all became our own little group of friends. One of the guys I was talking to mentioned the ADRA half marathon that was going to be on the following day in Mission Bay. I had read about it but decided against it a couple of weeks before. However, as he started telling me more about how nice a course it was and how the weather looked like it’d be perfect for it, I started feeling the bug bite. Knowing I absolutely had to get out of the house for a long run on Sunday anyway, as part of my less than stellar marathon training, I figured having some extra motivation wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Living in Auckland sometimes makes you forget not everyone can run alongside views like this one. Volcanoes are awesome.

On paper, it wasn’t a brilliant idea but that’s never stopped me before. I’d run 4 times that week and ended up walking 16km that Saturday (and getting sunburnt in the process). Tapering was non-existent. The only thing I had time to do, as far as preparation for a race goes, was a pasta meal for dinner on Saturday night, just in case. I didn’t even know for sure whether I’d be able to run it. Registrations had closed online so my only chance was to drive there at OMG o’clock on Sunday morning and check if I could register on the day. So I inhaled my pasta, used the potential half marathon as an excuse to have a bucket load of ice cream and set my alarm for 5AM (when 5AM was only about 5 hours away).

I thought to myself that if the alarm went off and I didn’t feel up for it, there’d be plenty of other half marathons to run and I could still go for a long run later on in the day. But then 5AM came around and I jumped out of bed with the usual race-day excitement. I left home while it was still dark and crossed fingers that they’d still take my registration. Of course the title of this post alone tells you they did and, at 7AM, I had my bib pinned on my shirt and was lining up at the start line with a bunch of other runners. My kind of sunday morning!

The route followed Auckland’s waterfront from Mission Bay to St Heliers and back to the Port (where we looped around back to Mission Bay) and was similar to the Cathay Pacific half marathon I ran earlier this year. There were only a couple of hills at the start (Cliff Road and I have a love-hate relationship but only in the sense that I love to hate it) but most of the course was nice and flat. The stunning weather was a welcome gift too, especially since Auckland has this habit of giving us a good week only to then present us with a stupidly wet weekend.

There were some times when I felt the tiredness that comes with not tapering but I was feeling strong enough to know I could finish. When I got close to the 16km mark, I realised I had a chance to get a personal record on this one. I got a little too excited about it and considered my chances of a sub-2h but quickly dismissed it. As nice as the course was, my legs felt heavy and tired (handy tip: do not walk 16km in the sun the day before running 21km) and I was not doing my best at pacing myself either. I was just happy with the possibility of beating the 2:05 I had been sitting on since the Whenuapai half marathon back in April.

I swear not all photos of myself have me in running clothes soaked in sweat. No, really.

And I did beat it. 2:03:06 is not quite the sub-2h I keep chasing but I am now 2 minutes closer to it then I was before this last minute decision to run this race. It was also a pretty good little confidence boost for marathon training. I celebrated the best possible way, by having a nap, and now I’m preaching the benefits of not over-thinking (or even thinking) running events and just going for it on the day. Maybe there is some truth to Nike’s slogan after all.


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Auckland Half Marathon recap

It was 6AM and I had been up for 1h30. That’s gotta be a good enough excuse for this pose.

Suppose you had asked me a couple of days ago if I was able to get out of bed at 4:30AM. I don’t know why you’d ask me that either but just play along, please. Anyway, I probably would have laughed at the idea for a solid minute or two before letting you know that, no, it was never going to happen. Especially on a Sunday.

Yesterday, Sunday, my alarm woke me up at 4:30. It was pitch black outside and the cat gave me hateful look when I accidentally woke her up. I couldn’t really blame her. There didn’t seem to be enough coffee in the world to help me cope with that kind of sacrifice. But then I got into my bright clothes, green tutu included, swallowed some coffee and a bagel and the world seemed a little better.

As we made our way to the ferry terminal in downtown Auckland to catch the ferry to Devonport, where the start line was, the only non-running people around us hadn’t actually gone home from their night out yet. I felt less normal than the girls in dresses three sizes too small trying not to vomit on the footpath. It didn’t matter that I was wearing a running headband that said “I run so I can drink”, I was still among the weird people getting up at that time to go for a run. And I liked it.

We arrived in Devonport with plenty of time to spare, the sun was yet to come up and the single-digit temperature was trying to disguise the warm day we’d have ahead of us. The only consolation was that we got to be near the start line to watch the participants of the full marathon. I couldn’t imagine what was going through people’s minds as they got ready to run 42.2km but seeing them certainly helped me get excited about the idea of running half of that. There was a little schadenfreude in knowing that at least I wasn’t in their shoes.

Plus, I was about to run another half marathon in the city I live in these days (this time, across the bridge), only three weeks after running an amazing half marathon in the city that will always be home. So life was good. I just wished all these thoughts were coming to my mind a couple of hours later, after a longer night’s sleep.

We started off running at 7AM. Approximately 5 seconds later, I hit the button on the GPS watch to start tracking and it immediately crashed. It refused to come on again so I had to resort to the iPod, which is far less accurate. I got over my little first world problem pretty quickly. The bright tutu meant that I got a lot more support from other people (runners and watchers) throughout the run. I quickly realised that running in costumes is definitely the way to go, if you need a little extra motivation. And if you don’t mind looking ridiculous in public, which I obviously don’t.

The good weather meant we had thousands and thousands of people watching and cheering for all of us, which was, as usual, more helpful than any training session. This was handy considering my training turned out to be non-existent. Somehow, time flew by since Lisbon three weeks ago and I did nothing but a couple of short runs. I figured nothing could be worse than running in that Lisbon heat and I was right.

I also took a chance and decided to break the old “don’t try anything new” rule for running events and wore my bright pink compression socks on this run. As silly as it is to take a risk on race day, this one ended up working really well. Over 24 hours later, my legs are feeling like I didn’t even run yesterday. So there’s another lesson – compression socks are a go. Shame they are so stupidly expensive but I guess I can survive with just one kidney.

This was half marathon number 5 for this year and it is now time to choose the next one for next month. I am tempted to repeat Kerikeri but also feel like I should go for a new course. Options include the Rotovegas Half Marathon, The Speight’s West Coaster and the The Great Cranleigh Kauri Run in the Coromandel. Not sure which one (or ones?) will be chosen yet. All I know is that all this running thing is giving my credit card a real workout.


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10 things I learned during the Wellington Half Marathon

1. Flat courses aren’t actually easier

I spent this entire time wishing I could run a half marathon on a flat course. I got all excited when I saw that the route of the Wellington one was flat as a pancake. Turns out that pancakes as metaphors for course altitude are actually pretty boring (as oppose to real pancakes you get to eat, which are, of course, more than a bit awesome). A flat course means your body is always performing the same movements, with the same force (or, in my case, lack thereof). Boring. This flat course taught me how to love the hills.

2. No training = No PR

It’s actually a pretty obvious equation, when you think about. I didn’t. I came out of that mammoth 35k in the bush at the end of May and barely moved for the following couple of weeks, thinking I had time to train for Wellington. I didn’t. Next thing I knew, it was time to fly to the capital and harden up. Not my worst time but certainly not my best. Mental note: to run faster, run often.

3. Do not go to a yoga session (or anything you haven’t done in months) 3 days before the half marathon

Your body will ache. Three days isn’t actually enough time for me to get it all back to normal, as it turns out, especially since my back had already been hurting. On that note…

4. If your back hurts, running is not going to fix it.

Contrary to what my mind likes to tell me, running is not the solution to all of life’s problems. Almost all of them, yes, but not quite. Like back pain. Running made it worse. Oh-so-much-worse. Voltaren is my new BFF.

5. If you are told not to wear the same pair of running shoes longer than 700km, don’t be a tight-ass about it, buy a new pair of shoes and shut the hell up.

Running 1200km+ on the same pair of shoes and then assuming they’ll still be comfortable for a further 21km? Stupid move.

6. You better just come to terms with the fact that you’re not going to enjoy some runs. It’s okay.

You wake up some days and you don’t really feel like running, for one reason or another. It’s okay. Sometimes that happens to be the day you not only paid the entry fee to a half marathon but you also flew to that city for that particular reason. Harden up. Whatever. Get over it. Onto the next one.

7. Don’t panic about the weather.

Just because you nearly got blown off a pier while trying to walk along it the day before, it does not mean you can’t wake up to beautiful sunshine and almost no wind the next day. Case in point: Wellington’s schizophrenic weather which was very much a pleasant surprise on race day. Stop worrying, damn it.

8. Good or bad, you’re 21km closer to where you want to be.

I know this sounds like terribly hippie new-age crap but it’s a comforting thought for when you finish a half marathon that you didn’t particularly enjoy and that leaves you wondering why you even bother.

9. Running events are the perfect excuse for a weekend away.

I may not have had the best time during the run but the weekend in Wellington was all kinds of lovely. Flying to another city just because of a running event might sound silly to some but that’s only if you make it solely about that couple of hours and nothing else.

10. Stop whining. 

Running 21km and crossing the finish line is pretty damn awesome. No one cares that it took you five minutes longer compared to your previous PR. You shouldn’t either.