I can’t believe I never posted about this. Well, here goes:
After running the Ragnar Relay, I felt like I needed to take advantage of the extensive training I had already done. If I was ever going to run a half marathon, might as well do it when my body had a fighting chance of finishing it. So, I continued training. My good friend Robin runs like a gazelle and has all sorts of running feathers in her cap including running in the coveted Boston Marathon which she qualified for immediately. She made a running schedule for me which I stuck to, thanks to a loving and supporting husband and several good friends who were willing to run at my pace for many miles at a time, often in the dark of the evening, just to help me along in my training. After hitting the pavement for probably hundreds of miles, I was ready.
September 24th, 2011, Jonathan and I arrived at the marina where the race began to get our numbers pinned to our chest. It was an Indian summer day and we knew it would be warm by afternoon, but it was nice weather for a run. We were both a little jittery, but I was grateful to have run Ragnar before this so that at least my jitters were more under control. After all, this wasn’t my first race (it was my second…).
I had three goals to start this race. The first goal was to finish; the second to not walk and the third, to finish in under two hours. 13.1 miles in two hours averages out to be about a 9 minute 10 second mile—for 13 straight miles. However, I hadn’t actually done that math prior to racing—I just wanted to finish in under 2—without thought of the pace I would have to keep to accomplish that.
The race began and the momentum began with it. I was using Robin’s Garmin watch to track my pace and in the excitement, Jonathan and I ran probably a half a mile at a 7:30 pace before realizing we needed to settle down if I was going to finish. In my mind, I kept thinking I had to keep my pace under 9:30 and was averaging between 9:15-9:22 mile times.
I believe that better runners than myself can start running, get in the zone and then let their minds wander while their bodies do the work. While I was able to somewhat absently appreciate the scenery of running along the river, most of my thoughts were occupied by pace, keeping my shoulders back, grabbing a drink at the water station, how closely I was following the runners ahead of me, where I was in relation to completion of the course, etc. My mind never wandered far from my focus—finishing—in under 2. Around the halfway point, when we had a little over a half mile before we would turn around and retrace our steps, were some of my favorite moments in the race. We passed by a couple of houses with supportive residents, having fun with the runners. The first was a man outside with a huge speaker system playing the “Chariots of Fire” music. Jonathan had to do the slo-mo run with long strides as we passed that house both coming and going. Duh. The next was a van with a huge poster taped to the side with these words from the Book of Isaiah, “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). I told them I was weary, but I was still running. These small gestures were surprisingly a great strength. It is so reassuring in running, in life, to know others are hoping for your success and even cheering you along.
On the way back, I looked down at the total time as well as my pace and figured out, I was not going to make it; not, anyway, at the pace I was setting. So, go faster. That was my only option. At around 8 miles, I started running around an 8:40 pace time. My focus became even more acute knowing I had to really dedicate myself if I was going to reach my goal. I couldn’t bear the thought of finally reaching the finish line, pushing my all and looking up to the time board only to discover I’d missed my mark by a matter of a few minutes. So, still nervous, at around mile 10, I picked it up again to around an 8:25-8:30 pace time. I tried to go faster again at mile 11 and found this was what I had in the tank and could still maintain. The same was true around mile 12. However, shortly after, maybe somewhere in the 12.5 area, and knowing this was the final stretch, I all out ran. I didn’t sprint—yet, but this was no longer my fast jog. I was running, breathing hard and thinking of NOTHING but crossing that line. At around 12.8 or 12.9 miles, with about a quarter mile left, I saw and heard my son Caleb cheering for us and knew this was it—the time to pull all the stops. I sprinted. With every bit of strength I had left (which wasn’t much) and knowing this sprint would never win a race, I crossed the finish line, sprinting, at 1 hour, 58 minutes and 12 seconds. I had met my goal.
Upon crossing and stopping, my head began to swim. All of my blood was in my limbs instead of my brain and I was becoming lightheaded. I found a grassy patch and lay down while my blood pressure slowed, clarity returned, and breathing became normal. In a way, I was grateful for this moment of lightheadedness because it assured me that I had truly given it my all. I hate leaving with a regret, but in this case, I was proud of myself. I had met my goal and done my BEST. I’m one of those people who often feels like if I fall short of my expectations, I should have just done better. I should have tried harder, given more, so it was a relief to finish knowing I’d given it my all.
Half marathon? Check.
And, just for funnies, if you haven’t seen this little gem wandering around FB, this picture is excellent. The trouble is, all my runner friends really are the top pic, and I’m truly the bottom one, but I accept my limitations with gratitude that my body is strong and does what I want it to—even if not as gracefully as I might like.
And FINALLY, since I didn’t have this pic before, but it’s the only awesome picture of me running that exists, here’s one more of me (with eyes closed) striding out in the Ragnar getting ready to pass the slap-bracelet baton to Shalise, the runs-like-a-gazelle runner that came after me.