A year ago, I was contemplating starting the Couch to 5k running program. I had run during soccer practices growing up, and on occasion thought I could hit the pavement and knock out a few miles, but I always ended up out of breath, miserable, and feeling like I never, ever wanted to do that again. I've been known to make the comment "my body isn't made for running".
Last Saturday, I ran a half marathon.
Friday night I organized everything I'd need to for the next day, and set my alarm for 5:00am, with hopes to be at the race site by 6:30/6:45am - it was a little over an hour away. I checked the weather, which showed 50s and partly cloudy. Perfect. Sunrise? 5:30am.
I woke up panicked and looked at my phone/clock/alarm. 4:47am. I should probably just get up since I'm awake. But I'll just wait for my alarm to go off. A bit later, I could feel light coming through my eyelids. That's strange... sunrise is 5:30, it shouldn't be light yet. My eyes popped open and I grabbed my phone. 5:40. You've got to be effing kidding me. I jumped out of bed, tried not to panic, and started getting ready as quickly as I could. I was out the door by 5:50.
I promptly swore at every car that got in front of me for the entire drive. Registration closed at 7:30. I arrived about 7:10, and panicked again when I couldn't find parking. Eventually I found my way into the gymnasium, and was glad I had checked the registration the night before, since bib pick up was by number, not name. 198. I hurried back to the truck and got my ipod, garmin, and clothes ready, trying to text my friend I was meeting up with.
We finally found each other. I was on edge, nervous. Anxious to get to the starting area, to get moving. The group of us (myself, my friend, her friend, her cousin, and her cousins fiancee) made our way down to the start. I stopped by the Make-A-Wish table to check in there, and received my - extremely tight - jersey. When I told the organizer my name and she saw I had raised $991 dollars, she was excited. When I told her it was actually $1,091, and that I also had a matching form they could fill out for another $100, she jumped up and down, shouted "thank you so much!" and gave me a hug. Incredible feeling.
Me, in all my tight jersey glory. This picture was really just to make sure I didn't look too tubby, not so much to share with the world. Ah well.
I thought I should probably use the port-a-potty. Afterall, I was a 'Wish Racer', and there were some sectioned off specifically for us, ideally to reduce the lines. I walked over, but the lines were still long. Do I reallly have to go? I decided no, knowing I may regret it later. I anxiously kept checking my watch, suggesting to my group that maybe we should move towards the starting area. Finally getting them to agree, we made our way over to the starting area.
My goals were simple.... 1) Finish and 2) Don't finish last. But, I'm too competitive for my own good, and had to put a few other stipulations on myself. Like, finishing under two and a half hours would be great. And under 2:20 would be fantastic. But all in all, if I made it, and didn't have to walk much, I'd be happy.
The first mile was heading into town and towards the lake. We talked a lot and laughed at ourselves. The first few miles felt really easy. Around mile five I ate my package of dried cranberries, since that was what I had used during my training runs. The first seven-ish miles were made up of rolling hills on a main road, overlooking the lake. Not a cloud in the sky and mid-fifties, everything felt great. The course had a total of nine water stops, which was perfect, never feeling like we had to go too long between.
Somewhere around mile four or five, I had it with my race jersey. I took it off and tucked it into the back of my capris. The compression wasn't something I was used to and I couldn't deal with anymore. It stayed tucked well, and after a few minutes I didn't even notice the flapping against the back of my legs anymore. After mile seven, we headed down back roads, that consisted of much steeper hills, and I made the mistake of letting myself use gravity to get down them - which wrecked havoc on my knees. But, we kept chugging along at a pace I didn't think possible for myself.
The farthest I had run during training (and ever) was 10.25 miles. I would say at right about that point, I was ready to be done. I had my fun, and I would have been totally fine with rounding a corner and seeing the finish line. No dice.
There were some serious elevation changes up and down during those last few miles, and they really zapped my energy. My friend was carrying a camelpak and had some energy chews which I yelled ahead for at one point - going up a hill I had dropped back a ways. It didn't seem to do much to help.
The last two miles were totally a mental game, and 20 (or so) very long minutes. I told my friend J to go ahead without me, to stay with her friend who was running with us, but she dropped back with me anyway. I mumbled alot of things those last two miles, including "I don't think I can make it" and "Why isn't the finish line here yet". I had one older lady ask if I knew my pace, I glanced down at my garmin and told her. She complained about going downhill, and I agreed, telling her I thought my kneecaps were going to fall off.
Even looking down at my garmin, knowing I had under a mile left, I didn't think I had any push left in me. We finally started seeing the crowds and rounded into the finishers chute. I knew my parents and B were there somewhere, but all I could focus on was getting to the point where I could finally stop. I ducked my head down trying to make those last few seconds go by faster, and about 25 yards from the finish I looked up to see my parents smiling and waving, my mom and B snapping pictures. I kicked it into gear with the last bit of energy I had left, and crossed that finish line, completing my first half marathon.
I grabbed my medal and had to keep walking around or I think I would have fallen down. My legs were spent and tight, and even though I'm not sure I managed a smile for a while, I was ecstatic. I didn't know my official time yet, but I knew it was under 2:20 according to my garmin. I hit every goal I set out with, even the ones I didn't think were possible.
Splits, according to my garmin:
Official (chip) time: 2:11:25
FYI: Chip time is the actual time from when I crossed the start line, until I crossed the finish line. There is a timing chip on the back of the numbers we wear. Gun time is the time from the official start to when I crossed the finish line.
During training, I had a hard time hitting more than 1 sub-10 minute mile in a row. I hit two in a row, 3 times during my half marathon. And not a single mile was over 10:24. I had been sure a majority of the miles would be closer to 11 minutes. Incredible, once again.
A year ago, I couldn't have run a mile without feeling like I wanted to pass out. Saturday, May 7th, I ran over 13 miles in a row, without stopping (only to finish a sip of water before throwing the cup away), in a time I honestly thought I couldn't achieve.
I had awesome support throughout my training as well as during the race. I honestly don't know if I could have done it - at least not as well - without the people supporting me. But in the end, I did it. No one else. Nobody did the training for me, suffering through miles on the treadmill, pouring ran, and the stench of cow manure (a training route I have to seriously rethink!). Nobody made my legs keep moving during that race, only I kept them going forward, even when I felt like I was moving backward up that hill going into mile 12. Nobody made me do it. Nobody ever made me feel like I had to do it. I didn't have to prove to anyone that I could.
Except for myself.
A year ago, I scoffed at the idea, thinking it was impossible. But it wasn't, and it isn't. And I kind of can't wait to do it again.
Now, I think I can finally admit to being a runner.