Running a half-marathon is easily the hardest physical challenge I'd done in my life. Growing up I hated running.
I remember being in gym class in grade eight or nine, we'd often run outside. I'd join a few other kids who would take shortcuts so we didn't have to run the whole route. Some of us were lazy, but for me, every time I ran there was a burning sensation in my lungs. I could taste iron the entire time. I hated running.
It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that I decided to try this fitness thing again. First it was yoga, then the gym, and finally running. The first time I ran as an adult, I travelled back in time. That burning sensation was back, that taste of iron. I'm surprised I even continued.
Fast forward a few years I decided to run a half-marathon. I took my training very seriously. I stuck to a program and was running most days of the week.
Finally, on a random Sunday in November, it was time to run. I didn't sign up for an actual event so there was no set route. I decided I'd just run until I hit 21 kilometers. With a backpack full of electrolytes, I left home in Burnaby and ran toward downtown Vancouver.
There are two things I remember about my run that day.
The first: the last kilometer or so. My legs were burning. My mental game was weakening. I wanted to quit but I kept looking at my watch reminding myself of how far we'd come. I was almost done, I could do it. I had to keep reminding myself. Once we hit that 21 kilometer mark I stopped running and my legs stopped too. It was like I suddenly forgot how to stand.
The second: the delicious fried chicken I ate afterward. My girlfriend and I briefly sat on a bench in Stanley Park and then hobbled our way to a fried chicken joint. I ordered a spicy chicken sandwich. The chicken wasn't even that good but it was my reward and I'll never forget it.