My First Half Marathon: The Greater Binghamton Bridge Run

By Richard Docalavich   


So: it is Sunday May 3rd at 7-ish in the morning and I am at NYSEG stadium in Binghamton NY with a crowd of other people getting ready to run the Greater Binghamton Bridge Run 2015 Half-Marathon. This is my first half-marathon. It’s a beautiful day for a run - sunny and a little chilly. I am thinking to myself "what was I thinking getting ready to run 31.1 miles for fun. Who does this?" My stomach is in knots and my head is racing. I position myself toward the middle and the back of the crowd because my goal is to just finish I am not looking for a specific time. Next thing you know I hear the Star-Spangled Banner being sung - and quite well I may add. I hear the countdown then the horn! The race is on!!!
First let’s do a flash back. This all started about 8 months ago when I was going through some major issues in my life. A little background - I smoked and weighted nearly 270 lbs at 5”7’ in height. I was clearly obese. So I started walking because it cleared my mind - and walking a lot. The problem was the walking took a long time. So a friend suggested I try running. I did the "walk two minutes run two minutes to get started running" twice. Then one day I ran three miles straight. It took me almost an hour but, I did it. I felt like a superstar. I was pretty heavy to be able to just start running like that, but let me tell you the feeling of accomplishment from doing that was awesome. So I started running a lot. It was my new addiction. I went from 0 miles a month to 70 miles a month. I signed up for my first 5K “The Pink Dress” which I halfheartedly planed to do in September.
Needless to say I ran that and loved it. The people cheering was amazing and even the runners that finished before me stayed to cheer people on. I was hooked. I ran a few more 5ks then a 10k. In the process I have lost nearly 52 lbs from running. I lost weight so fast that I couldn’t keep clothes fitting. I was the incredible shrinking man. I know - not really a "bad" problem, losing weight really fast. So, lets get back to the point of the article: my first half marathon.
Like anyone that runs, I knew a good portion of the race is in the preparing for the race before it even starts. The race start time was 7:30. I planned the night before to wake up at 5:00. See, in my training I found out that around 5 or 6 miles I tended to have to go "number 2" and I wanted to avoid that in the race. My plan was to wake up early enough so that hopefully I could get that out of the way. So I woke up at 5:00 all ready and excited. I had laid my clothes out the night before. I went down stairs and made a smoothie for breakfast since I was afraid to eat anything that was solid. The smoothie consists of yogurt, a banana, peanut butter, and a blueberry\strawberry\raspberry frozen mix all blended up. Then I took 1 Imodium which I was hoping would help with not having to do the "number 2" during the race. I also drank lots of water to make sure I was hydrated.
I arrived at the race around 6:30 I walked around a bit and was hoping that I could take care of the "number 2" thing maybe get my system to work that out. Unfortunately I think my nerves were not letting that happen which in turn made me even more nervous! I ran into some fellow runners that I knew and we talked. I wasn’t sure if I was shaking because of being nervous or chilly. Everyone was telling me that I would do well and I, of course, was hoping they we right. I stretched a bit and was really hoping that I was actually ready for this. Thirteen-point-one miles is a long ways. THIRTEEN-POINT-ONE MILES! Am I crazy? I am not ready for this! "Stop. Stop." I told myself "You're psyching yourself out. Baby step it. I am just doing a 5k (4 times). I can do this! I am ready. -- I have run this distance before once and stopped a few times. I am not ready!!"
Back to the start of the race: I lined up with a friend that had run 4 of these before and she said she was running around the pace that I had set on my watch. I set my Garmin watch for a pace of 10:40 min/mile which was a little faster than I though I could run it in, but I could always slow down. 
Race starts: so the first mile's done. Not so bad, only 12.1 miles to go. I have been keeping up with my friend. The watch is saying I am ahead of my pace, OK not a bad thing. I notice there are a lot of bystanders watching the race and cheering which is really cool and actually makes it easier and the sign were great! “13.1 miles you are only half crazy” and “When you legs give out. Let your heart take you the rest of the way.”
Approaching mile 2: watch still saying I am head of my pace and I feel like I am really moving faster than I had trained for, which is great but I am doing 13.1 miles not a 5K. I check my watch my friend and I are running a 10:19-10:15 pace this is too fast I can’t keep this up for another 11. I tell my friend I am going to have to drop back I am afraid that I can’t keep that pace. She says "ok, good luck!" and now I am on my own. Half way between mile 2 and 3 I have to pee. No porta-poty until mile 4. I can hold it - well, I have no choice! I can’t just stop and go, people are all over the place. I will get arrested.
Mile 3: the sun really starts showing itself and I start really working up a sweat. It keeps running into my eyes and I can’t see well. I have to keep adjusting my hat and wiping. My eyes are burning and I still have to pee. But the running I am doing well. I'm still ahead of my pace. The watch beeps and I put in a cough drop. Oh I forgot to mention I don’t do well with drinking water so I take cough drops when I run to keep my mouth from getting dry and it keeps my nose free and wide open. All in all, mile 3 feeling good besides the eyes.
Mile 4: yes! Bathrooms coming up! I have to go pee. I run off to the side to the porta-potties and they are full. I wait a minute in my mind it’s an eternity I see people running by. I am in a race! Forget it, I can hold it till the next one - another 2 miles. So basically I was worried about making to the bathroom all of mile 4 and mile 5 and listening to my head phones. I had a good beat going. I had chosen club music for the fast beat to keep me going. The burning in my eyes stopped. Still sweating but I think I am just used to it by now. My body is feeling good. I got this!! Just have to pee!
Mile 6: yes! Made it! Pee time! I run to the porta-pottys - OMG full. People running by. I am getting passed waiting to pee. Seriously, I have to go!! Waiting: can’t do it. I start running again. Two more miles and I can go. Two more miles and I have to go. No ifs or buts - even if I have to wait. 
Mile 7: I have to pee soooo bad. I start thinking about how I have read articles that some people just pee themselves in the race. Now I am pretty dedicated to running, but to pee myself - not sure if I am that dedicated. I spend the next mile weighing the pros and cons on peeing my pants. Next thing I know.
Mile 8: bathrooms I make a bee line for them. One is open. Awesome!! You have no idea how happy I was that one of the porta-potties was open.  The release of pressure from my bladder was pure joy. My legs went weak for a bit it felt so good. OK, I don’t have to go pee anymore. I start running again and I am feeling awesome - you would have never guessed that it was mile 8. I had a pep in my step. I even drank a Gatorade. I am feeling surprisingly good.
Mile 9: noting special starting to get tired of running but not too bad. 
Mile 9.5: I think I hit a wall. My body is saying I am done. Everything is starting to hurt. I am convincing myself to keep going. How can I stop now I am over half way? Then it hits me. If I stop I will still have to walk back to my car. My car is at the end of the race. Why would I walk it when I can just run it and get it done faster?
Mile 10: I start joking with people that are cheering me on. That I am just looking for my car and that I will never park so far away again. I am trying to keep my mind off the fact that my body wants to quit. I am not going to quit I didn’t sign up for this to quit. Besides I have to get to my car to get home and that is at the finish of the race. This is what I keep telling myself anything to keep me going. Then I started thinking "wait I only have 3 miles left. This is a 5k. I do 5ks all the time! I got this!!"
Mile 11: Still have in my mind it’s a 5k and I hear in my head one of my run friends saying that you need to give it all on a 5k. Give it all so I keep treading through. I have yet to walk or stop except for the bathroom breaks I am doing good. Miles 11 and 12 are kid of a blur not really sure how I got through them. Half way through 12 I actually walked for a bit but I found that it hurt to walk. My body had been running for so long that it was painful to walk. My pace had slowed down considerably and my watch said I was behind pace. I did not care I just wanted to finish. At mile 12, I took 2 cups of Gatorade and sipped then as I really slowed down didn’t walk because it hurt but went as slow as I could without walking. It hurt to walk. I was still encouraged by the bystanders cheering me on encouraging me. These were people that had no idea who I was and they were telling me that you can do it you got this. More signs that I remember reading “Pain is temporary but the online stats are forever”, “ Run like you stole something”.
Almost to mile 13. Seriously what was I thinking signing up for this? I paid for this, what is wrong with me? Where is the finish line? My watch says 13 miles I see nothing but more road. Where is the finish line? Seriously what is going on? Freaking out a bit at this point thinking this will never end. I notice that everyone is turning left. I turn left and come over a knoll and I can see the finish line. People are lining the streets cheering for us for me. There is nothing more powerful that a bunch of random strangers cheering you on. Suddenly I feel lighter. I feel like I got my second wind, actually more like my 5th or 6th wind!
The last .1: This is where all the pain from the race was wiped away. I was sprinting to the end (not really but it was all I had left). I have people cheering. I remember they take a photo at the end. Strike a pose while running! I hear my name called over the loud speaker. Well not my last name - a version of it when you can’t actually say it correctly, but still awesome. I cross the finish line and the feeling of accomplishment is crazy. Friends are there congratulating me because most of them are faster than me and have ran these before and finish before me.
Richard before weight loss and after finishing his first half marathon!
All in all I am going to run more half-marathons. All the pain sweat and tears (yes, there were tears) are worth it in end. I am proud of myself for doing this and like the one sign said “Pain is temporary but the online stats are forever”. This is an accomplishment that no one can take from me and I did all by myself. I did have a lot of support and I would like to thank everyone for that. Also I would like to give a shout out to the all the bystanders and their signs and support you have no idea how much a part of a race you actually are. Thank you.