Daniel Salvagni — Yet another software engineer

I finished my first half marathon

Last quarter of 2019, I decided that I’d run a half-marathon & marathon in 2020. Unfortunately, 2020 hit us hard, and I had to postpone my plans. At that point in time, I had no idea whether I’d be able to run any of the races anytime soon. For a while, I kept training hard, but gradually I started putting my training sessions aside. Although I skipped the marathon, I finally managed to finish a half-marathon.

The training

I started running as a hobby. I was looking for something to spend my time doing something not related to coding/computers/buying-useless-gadgets. In my spare time, I’d either be trying something new on a code editor or watching a sitcom for the N time. The difference I noticed between doing sports and sending my latest side-project to the graveyard is the feeling of accomplishment.

We can debate that coding something on the side, even a small project, can give you that feeling of accomplishment as well. However, at least for me, that seemed way too much like work. I’d set up a board on Trello, create a private repository on Gitlab, set up a local development environment, and config for Heroku, and so on. That said, what I mean is that side-projects weren’t disconnecting me from work. And I think we all need that.

Anyway, let me get back to the half- & marathon. Both races were confirmed to happen in 2021. However, they would happen with an interval of a month between each other. That wouldn’t be a problem if I had been working out hard like in the beginning. I even tried to keep with the plan and run both but failed to keep the training. In the end, I’d be able to run only the first one.

I had never run 21,0975km (13.1094mi) before. The longest distance I reached while training was 19km (11.8061mi), which gave me mixed feelings about my capacity to finish the half-marathon. On one hand, I was so exhausted after the workout that I didn’t want to feel like that again. On the other hand, I was super excited and my endorphin levels were so high, that I could only think that I was “almost there”.

That’s one of the best feelings of running, in my opinion. You realize how much progress you have made and that all the workouts were paying off. Every week you will notice that you can run further or that your previous run is not that hard anymore. Besides, there are all the adversities that you have to overcome during the training process.

Since I ran throughout the entire year, I had the chance to run on mild and hot summer days; with rain; at night; and with snow. There were days I woke up at 6 am to run at 7 am with temperatures of 0 Celsius and a real feel of -10 Celcius. Even with the proper clothing, it’s way too cold for me. My running route would start and end from the door of my building so I could spend the minimum amount of time outside in the cold. I would also take my running gear to my holiday trips, which made me run in great places like Greece and Spain.

Although it was tough to run during winter with cold, rain, and eventually snow, it also took out that laziness that hits you before you go outside for a run. Similar to the ones that make you skip the gym. During spring and summer, I had this mental mantra on my head that would make me wake up early in the morning and go for a run: I ran with -10 Celcius, I’m not going to skip a workout on such a beautiful day.

The Race

I was a bit nervous on the race day. I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach my goal of finishing it in less than two hours, so I focused on my main goal: finish it. It seems silly, but I could have messed up otherwise. If I had aimed to run faster, I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace long enough and, therefore, would break. That said, the first 10km, I ran at a comfortable pace, which I knew I could keep for at least two hours and would make me a finisher. Everyone has their strategy for the race. I was keeping myself hydrated, and I’d take power gel every 40 minutes.

Once I reached the first 10km, I decided to accelerate. For a moment, I thought that just finishing wouldn’t be enough, that I was in a race and I should compete – with myself only. I started to reduce my pace gradually and run faster. I was feeling great. I kept it until the 16th kilometer, and after hydrating myself again, I decided to run faster. At this point, I thought that I’d be able to even finish in a good time. It was a silly mistake, and a few kilometers later, I had to slow down a bit. Otherwise, I wouldn’t finish it.

The race day is completely different from the training runs. The atmosphere is great. During the whole route, you will find people cheering for you. People that you don’t even know will read aloud your name from your event’s tag. Besides, there were bands, and people playing music on other parts of the route. Eventually, you find some friends calling your name as well. It’s something else.

On the 20th kilometer, I heard a couple of friends calling my name and pushing me forward. I was exhausted, couldn’t really fold my knees properly, and was already complaining to myself for putting the workouts sessions aside for too long. Anyway, there was only one kilometer left.

My wife also ran it, and she started and finished it earlier as well, in 1h50min. To my surprise, she was waiting for me on the other side of the finish line, cheering for me and calling me. An absolutely amazing feeling. Again, mixed: couldn’t even walk well and not even hug Luisa properly as I was panting looking for air, but I have finally finished my first half marathon.

Berlin, 23 August 2021, 21,0975km (13.1094mi) and 2h30min after (I know, what a shame) I did it.