There I was in a sea of runners. The cool air felt refreshing as the race started. I pushed start on my iPod and off I went, slowly at first. I found my place along the left side of the road. This is where I always run. It just feels right. From a cluster of runners the crowd begins to thin as each runner falls into his or her pace. I’m focused on my breathing for the first couple of miles. In and out, in and out until it becomes even and rhythmic. I’m never sure when it happens but at some point in each run my breathing becomes unnoticeable.
Despite all the people running around me I’m not competing against any of them. Each race I race against myself only. This particular race is just for me. I’m not even trying to earn a PR this race. I’m running it simply because I can. Eight weeks ago I couldn’t have run the race. I couldn’t have even run the 5K I was really supposed to run at this event. My revised training plan called for a 13 mile long run. When the weekend neared I knew I wanted to run the half yet I waited though to make a final decision. I kept an eye on the weather. High 50s and sunny the weather bug app showed. My husband finished his weekend job the day before. My sister had some free time and said she would come up to see us and a friend who lives in the same town as the race. My best friend’s house is on the course and her and her family were all going to be home. All signs pointed to running the race except for one. I had to work the night before. I’ve never run anything longer than a 5K race after working. I told myself I have run plenty of long runs after working and the race was simply taking the place of my long run. No pressure. All systems a go.
Mile 3 comes and goes, other than a quick walk at the water station I don’t stop. I’m trying to enjoy the experience, take it easy with my pace so I don’t burn out and make it up as many hills as possible. I get lost in my own thoughts for the next few miles. I am thinking about this journey to the marathon. I can’t believe that just weeks ago I was in agony with the slightest movement. I glance down at my legs with admiration. These legs I’ve chastised for years for being so big and making me look like an Anjou pear. In case you didn’t know skinny jeans are not made for pear shaped woman. I have new admiration for my legs. They certainly are capable of amazing things. My body is moving effortlessly as my thoughts wander. I can’t help but wonder who I am these days. I don’t even remember what weekends were like before running.
Around mile 6 two of my friend’s sons rode their bikes in my direction. They told me that I would pass their house at mile 7 and then sped off to let everyone know I was coming soon. We were heading up a big hill but as it started to level off I spotted my friend’s driveway. There she was with her four boys, her mom, my husband and my son. They were all cheering for me. My son ran towards me with a cup of water shouting Go Mommy Go Mommy over and over. Runners passed me smiling. It certainly made up for what has become tradition at the end of my half marathons.
I was half way there. The course had a few more big hills to conquer, but I was assured that the last couple of miles would be mostly flat. Sometime around mile 10 my calves started to burn. All those uphill climbs were becoming downhill slides. I tried to take the downhills slowly because I didn’t want to injure myself, but it felt so good to coast along.
The last two miles were along a fairly busy main road. Cars whizzed by. The scenery grew redundant. The sun began to fade and the air grew cooler. I knew the finish was near. Soon I saw it ahead. As I got closer to the chute I scanned the dwindling crowd for my family. I crossed the finish line and looked around again. Somehow I knew they weren’t there. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself. This was my third half marathon and I have yet to be greeted at the finish by my family. Each race has it’s own comical story. This one is no different. It really doesn’t bother me as long as they are there in some way.
Another race phenomenon unique to me is that I have yet to receive a medal. I’m ok with this too, but that Disney medal is mine!
In 13 months I have run three half marathons. I’ve wanted to write this post for a week because so many emotions ran through me during the race. This one challenged me more than the others. I conquered the hills and surprisingly they didn’t slow me down as much as I thought they would. My body continues to surprise me. I continue to surprise myself. I suppose it’s fitting that I’m writing this on the eve of my longest run yet. My alarm is set for 5am and tomorrow morning I WILL run 20 miles.