So I did it. I ran my first half marathon, and even though my legs are still sore, I feel a smile coming on every time I think about crossing that finish line.
Here's how it happened:
Over the past two weeks, I have been doing lots of exercises on my left leg, paying special attention to my hip. I've been working my muscles and stretching my IT Band whenever possible. I even visited Brandon at ProFormance Physical Therapy to have him do Graston on me again. It was that important to me to finish my race.
On the morning of the Foot Traffic Flat, I have to admit that I was nervous. I worried about everything I could think of, namely disappointing my family and friends for not finishing and damaging my knee. But I didn't let the dark thoughts stay with me. As it got closer to race time, I made my third trip to the bathroom (by 6:45 AM), adjusted my brand new iPod Shuffle, stretched, prayed a little, and gave myself pep talks - "The important thing is that you finish - not win - the race" and "You know you can do this. Trust your legs and your training."
At 7:00, the gun went off, and I crossed the timing mat and pushed "start" on my Garmin. I remembered not to start off too fast, but I liked looking down at my Garmin to see that I was way ahead of my virtual partner (who was set at an 11:45 pace).
Before I knew it, the first mile had come and gone, and I remember thinking, "One mile already? Shoot, I only have to do another twelve of these and I am done!"
Oh, silly me! Around mile 4, my left knee started to give me trouble. I caught myself feeling angry at my body. But, I kept running, and even though the pain never ceased, it didn't really worsen until the last couple of miles. The exercise, training, rest and ice had paid off. I wasn't going to let my knee beat me.
The course was beautiful and flat, and when I wasn't concentrating on my time or my gait or my iPod, I took in the scenery. I was happy to be alive, surrounded by green farmland, running my first half.
I smiled and ran. I lip sync-ed to Taylor Swift and Billy Idol. I proudly wiped away the sweat dripping down my jawbone and smiled some more.
At mile 8, I came face-to-face with the mental challenges of running. Admittedly, I kind of wanted to cry. I passed the mile marker, did the math, and felt discouraged that I still had another five miles to go. The miles seemed to be getting longer. As I ran, I visualized brontosauruses shaking the earth as they walked, for that was how heavy my body felt as its weight slammed down on my knees.
At mile 10, my virtual partner started to mock me. She told me that I was behind my goal pace, and even though I wanted to tell her what's what, I couldn't; my tired legs just couldn't seem to pick up the pace. I ran when I could and walked the rest.
At mile 11 or so, Scott passed me up. This was both good and bad. For a split second I felt sorry for myself that a marathoner (someone running twice the distance) was passing me. But then I got over it and was glad to see a familiar face.
"How you doing?" he called out to me.
"I'm dying," I replied without thinking.
"Me too," he said as he moved farther and farther ahead of me.
At that point I decided to make a deal with myself - I was allowed to walk until the 12.1-mile mark (on my Garmin), and then I was going to run with everything I had for the last mile.
11.9 miles, 12.0 miles, 12.1miles...
And my once-stubborn legs picked up the pace. I knew better than to try to sprint with a mile to go, but nothing short of the Divine Hand of God could have kept me from running my best for that last mile.
Right around then, a gentleman who I had been following started to walk. Apparently unable to mind my own business, I told him that he didn't want to walk now; we only had another mile to go. I asked him if he wanted to "run it in with me." He said "yes," told me his name was Ken, and admitted that this was his first half marathon. "Mine too," I said with a smile.
With only two-tenths of a mile to go, a strange thing happened - my eyes started welling up and getting blurry. Now for those of you who know me, that may not seem like a big deal; after all, I have been known to cry at the movies and because of sad books (or kind gestures or especially beautiful words), but I really didn't think that I would be one of those runners who cried at the end of her race. I guess I always envisioned myself as the smiley girl at the end of the race, beaming with joy.
But that isn't what happened. Instead, I sprinted forward, and through blurry vision, I ran towards my friends at the finish line. Two hours and thirty-seven minutes after I started the race, I finished.
Once my legs took me across the timing mat, my emotions (and a fair amount of snot) flowed out of me. I cried first for the accomplishment, second for my sore knees, and third for my tired body.
I was happy and sore and relieved and proud all at the same time. I had done it.
Four days later, I am sitting here in front of my computer thinking about my race, and a part of me feels like it was all a dream. I think I am still kind of in shock that I actually ran a 13.1-mile race. But when I close my eyes and remember all of the emotions I felt - as I ran and when I finished - I know that it was real, and I want to keep running. I don't know what my next goal is, but for now that doesn't matter. I think that for a few more days, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy my accomplishment.
<3 and thanks for the encouragement...