My foray into running ended almost as quickly as it started. I embraced the challenge of running a 10-mile race in my hometown of Philadelphia despite never running more than 6 miles at any given time. I finished the race in exactly 2 hours, and most importantly, had fun. It was an exhilarating experience that inspired me to push myself further and sign up for a half marathon later that year.

In the months leading up to the race, I foolishly did minimal preparation and wavered back and forth on whether or not I would participate. I drew a line at running in cold weather, as I was unwilling to endure the discomfort. However, the weather in Philadelphia leading up to the race was mild, with temperatures ranging between the 50s and 60s. The race day forecast predicted a temperature of 54 degrees, which was suitable for me to participate. Therefore, I decided to take part in the race.


The morning of the race, I woke up, took a long hot shower, did some stretching (not enough), and walked from my hotel to the race. Thousands of people lined up for different reasons to race, some for cancer survivors or deceased loved ones. Some were doing it for fun, and then there was me, who told friends and family my plan to run, so I couldn’t go back on my word and the desire to get one of the shiny race medals in the shape of the Liberty Bell. But I was motivated and kept telling myself I could do this and enjoy the ride.


I was fortunate that there were no mile markers on my route. My Apple Watch also didn’t constantly notify me after every mile, which was a relief. It was just me and my running playlist blasting in my ear. I checked my watch and noticed more progress than I initially thought. “This is going to be easy,” I thought to myself.


I am not physically fit enough to run a long distance without taking breaks by walking and then starting to run again. Even though I had friends and family coming out to cheer me on, I wasn’t aware of their location and didn’t want to be seen walking when I ran past them. At mile 6, I finally spotted them, and there I was, in all my sweaty glory, running strong and in good form.


My shins are starting to hurt; I should have stretched more.

MILE 9-11

My shins are on fire, my quads are aching, and I am in pain. As I run past the Philadelphia Zoo, memories of my elementary school trips there flood my mind. I recall the many enjoyable rides in the back seat of my parent’s car across the Girard Bridge and up 33rd Street on my way home from my aunt’s house. The pain in my legs fades as I continue running through Fairmount Park, which holds countless memories of attending family barbecues and hanging out with friends during past summers.

MILE 12-13.1

During the last mile of the race, I felt a little disappointed, thinking that I wouldn’t finish in the 2 hours and 30 minutes I allowed myself. However, I was happy that I would complete the race. The pain was intense, and I felt like I might have to walk the last mile to the finish line. But the spectators were lined along Kelly Drive, cheering us on and telling us to finish strong. I had this overwhelming sense that I couldn’t let them down or myself down. So, I picked up the pace and crossed the finish line. Surprisingly, I completed the half marathon in 2 hours and 28 minutes, two minutes faster than anticipated.

On the walk back to my hotel with my fancy race medal dangling around my neck. My brother, an avid runner, told me how proud he was of me. I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride that I had stepped outside my comfort zone and tried something new in my hometown. I have no desire to run more than 13 miles or a full marathon, and I am okay with that.

As I headed to the airport, I regretted booking a flight home right after the race, but I wanted to recover in my home and bed. Walking to my gate, I received a text message: “Good news! You’ve been upgraded.” How poetic.

John Waites
A veteran who is passionate about inspiring others through travel and art, sharing ideas for personal growth and fulfilment.

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  1. I love this blog! I feel like I was right there with you. Great job with that time! You’re an inspiration to everyone who gets to read this!

    1. Thank you for the kind words and support!

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