It’s Saturday morning and my alarm is set for 5:15am. One of my kids wakes earlier and comes to my room, climbs in bed, and starts coughing. My husband takes the kid out of our room and lays in her bed with her so I can get enough sleep for the race. It’s 4:30am. I toss and I turn and I keep seeing the time. At 5am, I decide that I can’t hold in having to pee anymore and I might as well get up and start preparing to run a half marathon race. I clumsily put on my new running compression shorts I picked up during the week and apply balm to the places I’ve been chaffed during training. I nibble on a Clif bar while drinking from a 1 liter bottle of electrolyte water attempting to get all of my food and water in 90 minutes before race time. I start getting nervous while preparing to leave for the starting line. My husband insists he drive me so I don’t have to drive home later and so he can see me off from the starting point, go home to get the kids, and come back with them to see me finish. We leave the house with the teenager in charge of the 2 younger kids.
We pull into the church parking lot where the event is hosted. I see no tent, I see no start or finish line. I see cars everywhere and people walking in and out of the large church building. I see people jogging around to prepare for the race. Everyone around me has numbers on their shirts, they’re in their race clothes, and they are ready. I have on my race clothes with warm up pants, sandals, and two shirts on over my tank top. One shirt for a group photo with the training group and another that has sleeves because it was a brisk morning and the sun hasn’t made an appearance to warm the day and burn off the light fog that had settled over the fields of corn, soybeans, and hay bales surrounding the venue.
I go inside the building and decide to use the restroom one last time before the race because no matter what, I’ll feel like I have to pee when I start to run. I might as well know that my body is just toying with my emotions if I’ve already gone. There is a line and it isn’t moving very quickly. I turn on my watch when we’re leaving the building and it says 6:41am. Shit. My group photo is at 6:45 and I still haven’t found the starting point. I feel tears start. I suddenly have a mini sobbing session and pull my sunglasses over my face so nobody can see that I’m crying. My husband calmly points to the starting line ahead and the people from my group not far away. I get there and attempt to strip down, get my number on my tank top while lifting my group photo shirt and trying to pull my running shoes on and get them tied. The group photo turns out like this:
Can you guess which person is me? Yep. Down front with the mouth wide open and eyes wide. Was I crying 5 minutes ago? Yes. Am I somehow in a photo looking like I am happy to be there? Yep. Ok, then.
When we finish doing our pre-race warm ups, a mentor named Jane stops me and asks if I want her to meet me somewhere near the end of the course so she could pull me in at the end. I tell her that I would really appreciate that. She’s running the 10k race that starts 30 minutes after the half marathon. The night before, Jane topped her age group in a 5k. She still plans to take her time and energy to help me finish.
I nervously walk to the starting point and found Angie, a mentor that agreed to start out with me the previous weekend. We listen to the national anthem and suddenly, it is time to start. Angie, another mentor named Jason, and I were sticking together and chatting. It seemed surreal to me that we were talking to each other and other runners so casually. Everyone is so calm and kind. It isn’t like running a 5k race where you start to catch running buddies somewhere in the middle if you didn’t start with one. Here we are just smiling away on our run:
I do a lot of listening because I honestly am trying not to hear myself panting. The conversation was light and funny and every once in a while, I have something to add. My first mile is a little faster than I intend and I joke that I will slow down at the end and just keep the pace I was going for as long as I can. Only, it turns out to not be a joke. Taking off a little fast takes its toll on my body. At the water stops, I drink from my own bottles and I refill when I need. I mindlessly take the packets of GU from the volunteers and stuff them in a little side pocket because the nutrition gel I brought with me is HUMA and that was what I’d been training with. Near the last 5 miles, I tell the people I’m with that I’m getting irritable. I really am. The sound of my race bib crumpling is getting on my nerves. The snot in my nose is annoying me. The random people entering the trail in large groups (that weren’t part of the race) are making me angry. The mentors tell me that it is normal for me to be annoyed. They try to keep me out of my head. When we reach the point where only 3 miles is left, I start feeling my body revolt. My hips and back are hurting and I don’t think I have the energy to change my gait. I change it by lifting my knees further forward and the pain subsides, but I don’t feel like I can keep up my speed. Jason asks if I want him to get my mind off of the run. I say that would be good. He proceeds to untie his pants and show me his tri shorts covered butt. It’s amusing, and lightens the mood. We get a good laugh and Jason gets a crowd at the park we are running past to see him trying to re-tie his running shorts. Angie wants me to go just a little faster and she pushes me to just take it up a bit and tells me she knows that I can and that now is the time to do it. Jason threatens to turn into a ‘raging a**hole’ at the end. I tell him that I’ll ignore him because Jane is waiting for me near the end. He and Angie try to convince me that she either won’t make it to meet me or is going to be really tough on me to get me to finish. Jane is waiting for me right as I take my last gel pack and water stop. Angie and Jason run ahead because Angie is really close to a personal best and I want her to get it. Of course Jane came back to meet me. I even have a photo of us running together.
Jane continues on with me and tells me not to look at my watch anymore for pace and to let her pull me. She says that’s what I asked her to do and that is what she is there for. She is totally right. We run together and I ask once if I can stop and march my feet. She declines and says, “not this close. We’re too close to the end.” So I speed back up to get behind her and she keeps telling me about the end being downhill and that I just need to get to the hill and let it take me in. She keeps telling me that I’m kicking ass and my time will be great. I look ahead and it really isn’t so far away. We are greeted by one of the runners who are volunteers that run people in at the end. She joins us to the top of the hill and turns back to find other people who need help. Jane and I are chatting when I see 3 people ahead with signs. I tell Jane, “I think those are my kids.” It is my kids. They are all holding homemade signs for me!
Jane breaks away from me just past this turn to stand aside. She already ran a 10k and is running with me to be a great mentor. I run as fast as I can manage for the finish line. There are two men in front of me there and I’d normally slow down, but I just can’t bear to not keep going this speed. I pull around them on their left and run into the finish line area when the clock says 2 hours and 19 minutes (and seconds I don’t remember).
I just ran 13.1 miles. I walked only a few times and it was for hydration or nutrition. I got into my head and I got back out before it ruined my run. I am sweaty. I look to my right to see Julie from Fleet Feet with my medal ready to put over my head. She puts it on me and we hug and it is awesome.
Yes, I had to keep moving for a while after. I didn’t enjoy eating my favorite sandwich, a gondola, after the race. It tasted a little like sand from the dryness in my mouth. I shared in some laughs with some fellow runners that I know. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd. We exchanged congratulations. I felt really good about what I’d done. I felt good about the race.
At home, my family had gotten me flowers and a sweet card.
Later in the day, I was tired and sore. My stomach revolted because I didn’t have my usual post run granola bar. It was grumbly and crampy the rest of the day. I ordered in pizza for dinner and the pizza was delicious!
I had the arrow drawn on my left thumb knuckle. I had people tell me they’d read my blog. I had people congratulate me for my running and for my weight loss. It was a great day! Today, I woke up and told my husband I’m running 14 miles next weekend. I was kidding, of course. I am excited to continue running and do another 13.1 race someday. Yep, I’d totally do it again.
*Special thanks to the people who took the photos including Kristin Techmanski, Samantha Quigle, and my husband Matt.
**Thanks Fleet Feet Sports – Bloomington for the training program, the purple shirt, the race day tent, and the experience.
***Thanks to all of the mentors who spent time helping people run these races. Especially the mentors that I got to run with and talk to.