Why would I be nervous? Oh. I don't know. Maybe because I was running 13.1 miles and had ran only ONCE since Christmas. (Smart, right?) But I knew I had to try. I had a lot of people asking me what I hoped to finish in, what my goal was. Honestly, my goal was to start. To keep my heart rate within a safe range, and to hopefully finish. I knew I'd be lucky to finish under 3hrs with the lack of training this last month. (You lose endurance and speed so quickly when you stop running....)
Saturday morning there was a nervous buzz around the house. My mom and I got up and dressed, got a bite to eat. Before we knew it, it was time to head over to the starting line. It was a little chilly outside (frost on the windows) but I could tell it was going to be an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day! I was not disappointed...
As we arrived at the starting line, we met up with my sister-in-law and her twin sister. I believe it was both of their first half marathon's too. We stayed inside the convention center until right before race time to stay warm. It was fun counting down the time with them!
(Emilea, Felice (my sis-in-law), my mom, me)
I began the race with my mom. I was planning to stay with her as long as possible. (But in my head, I knew I would have to drop behind eventually to not over exert myself.)
We ran the first 3 miles together. It was fun! So fun! I was feeling great, but I noticed on my Garmin watch that my heart rate was jumping up into the 170's and I had vowed to myself to stay under that to make sure I wasn't putting this pregnancy at risk. I slowed, and told my mom to keep going...knowing she would do awesome. (And she did!)
After my mom pulled a head, I teared up for a moment. Knowing this run was different than I had originally planned. But also at the fact that I was still able to use my body in ways I never could with a previous pregnancy. I felt strong, and yet vulnerable at the same time.
I quickly got lost in my surroundings. I love people watching! So watching all the runners and the spectators, it's a magical thing during a race!
At this point in the race, I was very familiar with the route. I had ran it many times before. I knew just what to expect. It was probably the most challenging part of the route (in regards to elevation) but I felt great. I would run and run and run until my heart rate reached the maximum I was okay with. Then I'd walk and let it drop back down. This was the only way I knew I could run the race without pushing myself and risking anything.
Each of the aid stations were no more than 3 miles apart. I stopped each time and guzzled lots of water, and some gatorade, hoping to prevent dehydration.
As I ran up one particular hill, I was feeling kind of blah. I was again wishing to have been able to keep up with my mom, I was thinking about where she was on the course. I ended up pulling out my phone during one of my walking periods. I sent Jason a text. Told him I had dropped behind. He was very sweet and told me I was doing great! To just worry about my pace, and to run at a pace that I was comfortable with. I felt reassured.
I was 1/2 done.
As I turned onto a main road, it was a lot of fun. (And a lot of work!) It was the yuckiest hill of the route. I'm not going to lie. I walked a lot of that hill. But during that stretch I was greeted by my cute neighbor honking and waving. Then Jason passed by with the kids in our car, honking and waving. It was the burst of energy I needed!
As I ran down that hill, it was mile 8 and I was running strong. I looked at my Garmin after the race and besides those first 3 miles, mile 8 was my best. A high 10:00 min/mile split. It was at that point that I saw my cute kids and husband along the course. He had pulled off and the girls had their homemade signs, cheering me on! I ate it up! Jason told me I was only about a minute behind my mom and sister-in-law at this point. I felt good about that! I said quick goodbyes and knew I'd see them next at the finish line.
The last 5 miles are done on the trail. I had never run the trail before. I wasn't prepared for how boring it was. womp, womp, womp. I tried to get lost in my music. I tried to focus on other things. I tried to let my mind wander. Mostly, I just kept moving forward. Knowing the faster I went, the faster I'd be done.
As I rounded the corner to 11 miles, I saw my dear neighbor and her family! I teared up. I had no idea they planned to be at that rest stop. She gave me a hug, told me how amazing I was. (I felt far from it at that point!) I guzzled a bunch of water and gatorade. I was tired. I wanted to be done. Seeing her gave me a push though. It gave me the motivation to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I remember looking at my clock at that moment and seeing 2:09 and thinking I could really finish this thing in the high 2:30's possibly! I was excited and ready to push!
Then, the last 2.1 miles happened. Those last 2.1 miles were hard. Like really hard! I'd take a step and my calves would buckle with charlie horse type cramps. I'd have to stop and stretch them out, then start jogging again. Rinse, and repeat! I kept praying that they would just go away so I could finish this thing strong! Or at least for a banana... But each step I'd take, they'd cramp up. Then as I'd stretch the calves, my shins would get a terrible cramp. I'm not exaggerating when I say I was less than hopeful about finishing the race. I could barely take a step without needing to stretch it out...
I was about 1.5 miles out and stretching against a wall when I saw someone walking back toward me. It was my sweet neighbor. He asked if I was ready to finish this thing.... I wanted to tell him no. Just go tell Jason to get the car and come pick me up. But my pride was too much to admit that I wanted to quit. (Although, I'm sure he could probably tell...)
We started jogging slowly, I started talking to him. Asking him how he'd done. (You know, the guy who decided to run this race just a week prior...he, who is such a stellar runner that he only needed to run like 6 training runs before the half to finish sub-2hour...) (Yeah, I wanted to slap him too...) :)
I honestly don't remember much else we talked about, just that he was taking my mind off the hellish last mile! I could see where the finish line was. I knew it was just ahead, but my calves were doing anything they could to keep me from that finish line. We had to stop a few times so I could stretch them out. But as I neared the last bend I knew I wanted to finish strong. I knew there would be no walking across the finish line. So one last stop to stretch and I was off...as we hit mile 13, the course turns and the last 0.1 miles is a straight shot to the finish line. Curtis told me I'd done great, and that the last tenth was mine....he then stepped off with his family who were there cheering me on.
Running through the finish line chute is exhilarating. I was trying to focus on running...and not letting my calves give out on me...but yet trying to look through the crowd to find faces I recognized. I heard the cheering long before I saw the faces. As I crossed the finish line, I felt amazing. I forgot for a moment about all the bad and hard, and just lived in the moment!
Then, I almost fell because of the spasms. As I bent down, I saw my mom...cheering me on. I saw the smile on her own face...and for one more second, I wished I could have seen her as she crossed her finish line.
As they gave me my medal, I felt amazing. I had so much support from friends, family, neighbors! My kids were thrilled. Well. 2 of my kids were thrilled. The other was TICKED! Like seriously M.A.D. She was mad because I didn't register HER for the race! She wanted to cross the finish line and receive a medal and she made sure we heard about it all afternoon!
After receiving my medal, it was kind of a blur. I turned in my chip, realizing I had no idea what my time even was. But it didn't matter. I finished the whole 13.1 fricking miles while carrying another human in my belly. I was able to cross this half marathon off my bucket list, even if my plans along the way had changed. I finished.
But I couldn't have finished without you. Each of you! From your emails, comments, FB messages, texts, phone calls, letters. I have been overwhelmed at the amount of support I've received! I feel blessed to have such amazing people in my life...those who were cheering for me at the finish line, and those who were there in thought!
It's now been a couple days and the excitement and exhilaration is still there. There is something addicting about a finish line. There's something about putting in all the time and effort in training, and then crossing that line and feeling the accomplishment! I crave it.
And that is why I know this will not be my last race! In fact, I have lots of races I hope to run in the future....
So you might be wondering what my official time was. I wondered to after I got home Saturday afternoon. Finally, I looked it up. I came in at 2:50:03. While I surely wasn't the fastest (by a long shot), I also wasn't the slowest. But even if I had been...I'd still have been faster than if I'd been sitting on my couch all morning! After all, unless you are a massively professional runner, isn't it all about putting forth your best effort? And that's what I did. I put forth the best I had for this moment. And I finished.
And guess what, you can too! Maybe you've never run a day in your life. Or maybe you run every day! Where ever you are in your journey, you too can accomplish greatness! You too, can cross finish lines along the way! You too, have a cheering section, rooting you along! You too, have the strength to become your best self! So maybe it's a literal race you want to run...or maybe your finish line is referring to something else. Either way, step out and let yourself be strong!