How My Miserable First Half Marathon Led to Marathon #6

Written by: Rodel Allen Enderez, Houston Marathon Committee RunHou Ambassador

“Running is stupid.”

“Running races are for pro athletes.”

“You’re not being chased – what are you running from?”

Five full marathons later and approaching full marathon #6 this Chevron Houston Marathon 2024, you wouldn’t have expected that these were my own words five years ago. If I were to summarize my running journey in one word, it would be resilience.

As an engineering and music student at the University of Florida who never really considered himself athletic and who was finally getting into the university recreational gym for the first time, the last thing on my mind was running a half marathon. Until my significant other indirectly asked me to . . .

How is one indirectly asked to run a half-marathon?

“Can you take me to Orlando for the Disney Half-Marathon at 4 am?” she asked a few days before race day. I was horrified – as a typical 22-year-old, getting up any earlier than 10 am is nothing short of a miracle. In a bit of my insanity, I figured that if I were to get up at 4 am, it only made sense that I also sign-up for the 2018 Disney Half-Marathon too with absolutely no training (I highly do not recommend doing this!).

Fast forward an entire 3 days later after I made my decision to sign up for my first race and I find myself in Orlando at the pre-race expo. For the first-time and future first-time runners, pre-race expo is a day prior to a race to pick up your race bibs,  freebies, meet other runners, and even shop from different vendors for new shoes and running accessories. All around me, to my surprise, are runners of all fitness levels filled with excitement and anticipation for the next day’s race – not pro athletes chewing on celery-chugging protein shakes laser-focused on crushing their race goal (these people do exist!). This calmed some nerves, as fearless as I seemed on the outside, as I was not feeling confident that I would even finish this half-marathon. It was at this expo that I bought my first pair of true running shoes, shoes that I would eventually wear all the way up to my first Marathon, the Brooks Ghost 10 Running Shoes.

Forward to race day – the odds felt (and probably were) stacked against me.

The strategy for 13.1 miles – alternate running 1 mile and walking 1 mile.

Mentally – all I could think was to be resilient.

The fireworks signaled the first group and corrals began to go one-by-one with each firework show. In time, it was my turn to race. As anyone would expect, the first few miles came and went. It wasn’t until mile 6 out of 13.1 that my body began to cramp. All I wanted to do was quit. My legs hurt, I was out of breath, it felt like everyone was zooming past me. I didn’t want to do this anymore.

All I could say to keep myself going was “finish strong, preserve, be resilient”.

It was in these moments when I wanted nothing more than to be part of the running community – racers all around me kept encouraging me to keep pushing, absolute strangers were cheering me through my worst pains, and volunteers handed me a much-appreciated beer. Limping across mile marker 13.1, I felt one of the greatest senses of joy and accomplishment in my life.

In a matter of 3 hours, I felt like I was part of the running community, and I quickly changed tune:

“Running is exciting.”

“Running races are for everyone.”

“I’m chasing my goals and building resilience.”

Following what on the outside seemed to be a miserable experience, I continued to be inspired by the running community to be resilient, preserve, and to keep challenging myself “to be 1% better every day” by running my first full-marathon a year later for the 2019 Tomoka Full-Marathon – it was here I made the personal goal of resilience and to run a full-marathon every year. After moving to Houston in 2019, I plugged myself into a run club, Kung Fu Running Club, and surrounded myself around individuals who embodied the goal “to be 1% better every day” in the running community and encouraged me to achieve this goal of resilience.

My race record so far:

  • 2018 Disney Half-Marathon
  • 2018 Miami Half-Mara