“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”
– George Sheehan
- Second half marathon = *check!*
- Goal time met = *check!* (Well, my goal was 2:30 and it ended up being 2:30:44. Those last 44 seconds don’t count, right?)
- PR = *check!* (My first half marathon took 2:43)
- Miserable pain in legs and hips afterwards? = *DOUBLE CHECK!*
So, today, I completed my second half marathon in Mount Airy, North Carolina. It was called the “Mayberry Half Marathon.” Yep, that Mayberry. If you aren’t familiar with the area, this is the town that the Andy Griffith show was based on. And buddy, let me tell ya, they sure use that as a draw to the area! (As they should.) You can see everything from Wally’s Service Garage to Floyd’s Barber Shop. Pretty cool stuff.
So, my day started with a 4:15 a.m. alarm. (Whaaat? Seriously? I’m getting up at 4:15 a.m. to go make myself miserable??? Yep. Welcome to being a runner.) And not only did I get up at 4:15 a.m., but so did my boyfriend and his kids to come along and be my cheerleaders. If you’re a runner, you know how very much this means to us. Yes, we’re running for ourselves and it’s a very private, personal sport, but when it comes to races, there’s nothing like a cheerleader. And I had three. His kids had the option of staying home, but they chose to go to support me. Talk about warm fuzzies. 🙂 They’re just as sweet as their dad.
So, after our 2+ hour trip to Mount Airy, I get all signed in and get my sweet shirt. (I was also given the shirt and goody bag – complete with running socks (super sweeeet!) for my Australian friend Zoe who earned hers as well from across the world. Read that blog here if you missed it!) So, I’m checking out my awesome long-sleeved silky moisture wicking shirt and suddenly I notice this little phrase written up the arm.
Um. Say what?
Now, although I don’t live “too” far from Mount Airy (about two hours away), I wasn’t extremely familiar with the terrain. And let me just say…. Holy. Cow. They weren’t kidding. The hills were insane! I started out thinking this was going to be a pretty chill course. I love looking at the little smile on my innocent, unassuming face as I took off from the start line. That smile started fading right about the 8 mile mark as my legs started screaming at me that this was the worst, stupid, most idiotic idea I had ever had in my life. And I couldn’t help but agree with them. Yes, the course was beautiful, but who the heck cared!? I was too busy looking down at my legs to be sure they were still there because the numbness was starting to make me doubt that fact.
But alas, scout or no, God followed through and allowed me to cross the finish line. Barely. Nah, I’m exaggerating. Without knowing what the course was like, I had hoped for a 2:30 finish and I finished in pretty much exactly that. 2:30:44. (As I mentioned before, those 44 seconds totally don’t count. I was right at 2:30, so I’m going with that. Bam!)
Note the distinct difference in my face from before the race to after. Ha!
Am I proud of myself? You bet I am. Why? Well, lots of reasons. One – I finished. Two – I started. Three – I got this awesome medal…
(There’s that mention of hills again! This time I knew why!)
But aside from all that stuff, you know the deeper, more real reasons that I’m proud?
“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.”
– Richard O’Brien
Keeping that quote in mind – here’s one of those reasons.
That picture is the result of my friend Zoe’s half marathon that she ran, in part, because of me. Our training together for the last few months led her to run her first half marathon all on her own in Australia. Together, we helped each other get to this point, and she SMASHED it! I’m so proud of her. And I’m proud of myself for helping to inspire one other person out there in the world to feel this intense feeling of pride in herself. There’s nothing like setting out to complete a goal, and completing it. There’s a strength there that can’t be explained. But trust me – it’s good stuff.
And on that same note: I also got to witness a couple success stories at the race itself. I spoke to one woman just before the race who was telling me that she was unsure if she would even be able to run. She had trained hard and had started experiencing some serious pain in her hips and knees just a week or so ago. The pain wouldn’t ease. She said she was just going to do a little warm up and then make her decision whether to follow through with the race. This conversation occurred in the bathroom line just prior to the race, and I lost her after that. Throughout the race, I thought of her and wondered if she had been able to do the race at all. At the awards ceremony, I got my answer. She finished THIRD OVERALL. How do you like that!? I felt so proud of her it was almost like I knew her personally. And that’s another reason why I love being a runner. We are as proud of each other’s accomplishments as we are of our own – even when we barely know the person.
I spoke to another guy who was completing his 11th half marathon of the year. One per month. And he was from Nashville, TN, and is planning to run the Music City Marathon in April – the same one that I’ve got my sights set on for my own first full marathon. Eh, we’ll see. My legs still hurt too much right now to make that decision. But either way – small world. I just love the conversations that take place among runners. We’re a family of sorts. We get each other. And we all see each other as equals – whether we finished 1st or 120th. That’s one of the most beautiful things about this sport in my eyes.
And finally, to wrap it all up. You know what really, really, makes me love these races? This.
I am so lucky to have my biggest fan by my side through it all. He is always, always there. With an encouraging word and a congratulatory kiss, he is part of the reason for my success. Yes, I believe in myself – and I know that is the reason why I keep progressing. But to have someone believing in you along the way? That sure does add to the sweetness of the whole thing. I’m so incredibly blessed. I hope he knows how important that is to me. I’m in a women’s running group on Facebook and I hear of so many stories that don’t always work out this way. So many significant others don’t understand what it’s all about. And without the understanding, they don’t follow through with the support and the encouragement that these women so desperately need. I saw one woman mention that she has done everything she can think of to show her husband how much running means to her. She has posted her bibs and medals on their bedroom wall – begged him to come to races – and still. Nothing. I feel so bad for her. Support from our loved ones is a gift that we eagerly open like a kid on Christmas morning. I am so sorry for the women like her who have nothing to open. Thank goodness she has that women’s running group on Facebook. Hopefully it can put a little salve on her wounds as she receives the virtual back pats from those of us who understand.
But for the grace of God go I, man. I’m tellin ya.
Thanks for joining me on the journey. And if you haven’t started your own journey, my request to you is this. Start today. It’s out there. There is something that is going to make you feel the pride in yourself that running has allowed me to feel. You need it. Trust me on this. You need it.
Find it. And don’t stop searching until you do.
“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.”
– Patti Sue Plumer, U. S. Olympian