As I mentioned in my post about the Halloween Half Marathon, I signed up for another. I officially decided that my goal is to complete a half marathon each month over the course of at least six months. Right about now, you might be asking why the heck I would do such a thing. I don’t blame you. I may ask myself that very question during the course of this endeavor, but we shall see! I really just felt like I needed something to work towards, something that would force me to push myself.
My second one was the Orange Theory Half Marathon. I was nervous the night before the race. I was worried about the timing restriction. The race required that the first 7 miles be done at a maximum of 13 minutes per mile. That was a few seconds faster than I averaged at the last one, and I was hurting at that one. At the same time, I was really excited for this one. I tried my best to do everything right. Even though it wasn’t a lot of time since the last one, I trained every single day. I practiced eating before my long runs, and tried to make sure I stayed hydrated. I was as prepared as I could be. I won’t say I was supremely confident, but I felt pretty good about it.
A few days before the race, I was listening to my coach’s podcast. His podcast partner Mike, mentioned a friend of his that was super excited to be training for his first half marathon. He mentioned how he got into running later in his life and wasn’t fast but had just done some 5ks and a 10 miler recently. He found joy in running. I thought how he was a lot like me and listened on eager to hear the story. Just then he mentioned that the unthinkable happened. His friend fell off a ladder that was about two stories high. He landed on his side, shattering his hip and doing damage to his spine. Here he was getting ready to run his first half marathon one minute, and praying he would one day walk again the next.
I don’t know why, but it just hit me. I found myself in tears just thinking about this person and the strength it would take to just keep moving forward in life. I don’t know if he has a family, but I thought about the impact his injury would have on everyone around him. I have heard so many similar stories having worked with others like him, but his story just resonated with me for some reason.
I reached out to Mike and asked his friend’s name. I also let him know that for whatever they are worth, my thoughts and prayers were for his friend. I told him that if it was ok with him, I’d like to put his friend’s name on the inside of my bib and take him with me on this half. Mike loved the idea. On the back of my bib I wrote: For John and for being thankful.
The morning of the race could not have gone better. I woke up on time, I felt nervous but calm at the same time. I had my coffee, my food and got ready. We left on time, and found adequate parking when we arrived. I was stoked. We made our way towards the start line and I got in the very long line for the bathroom. I waited and waited, not sure exactly how far from the actual start line we were. It was about 5 minutes to start and there were still about 8 women in front of me. I couldn’t wait any longer. We headed for the start, which turned out to be two seconds from where we were. Dang. I could have waited and gone. Oh well.
I have the worst bladder, so I was terrified that it was going to be a while before I could go. Thankfully a little over a mile and a half in, I spotted someone coming out of a golf club building. I took a quick detour and finally felt relief. With that out of the way, I was able to focus on trying to keep pace.
I guess every runner has different preferences as to what they listen to when they run. Some listen to music or podcasts. Others don’t listen to anything at all and prefer to be with their own thoughts. For training runs, I either listen to a podcast or listen to nothing. For most races, I have always listened to music. I have playlists with upbeat tunes to get me moving. I wasn’t sure what I would listen to for this one. In the Halloween half, the music annoyed me. I decided I would listen to my favorite book, The Obstacle is the Way. I wasn’t sure how that would work out, but it ended up working great. I could just tune it out when I went into deep thought, or I could listen to some amazing stoic philosophies and stories that made complaining about a run, silly.
For the first time in a long time, I had a great time during a race. I was surprised at how the miles seemed to just pass by. The course was awesome and the weather was perfect. I had no major aches or pains by the time I approached the bridge and the turn around which had to be done in the time cutoff that I feared so much. I planned to walk the bridge if needed, but didn’t have to. Part of me was almost thinking I programmed my watch wrong, and maybe I was not going as quickly as I thought because there were so many people ahead of me. I later realized that the not so fast people (me included) could not always make 3 hour cutoff and they probably didn’t attend. I’m usually middle of the pack but this time I was almost concerned I’d be last!
Once I knew I made the cutoff, I thought to myself that I could slow down some. But, then that little angel (or devil) of my coach popped onto my shoulder and said “what if you didn’t?” So, I continued to push. I began to struggle a bit around mile 10 and then I just reminded myself that the aches and pains would be over soon. I thought of John off and on throughout the race. I never thought things like “poor John” even though I do feel for him. I tried to not use the thought of him in that way. Instead, I thought things like “I am grateful for being able to do this. I hope one day soon John will be able to run his half.”
I’ve never completed a race with so much gratitude in my heart and on my mind. I was thrilled to cross the finish line 12 mins better than my best time! I now had October and November in the bag. The December race was literally around the corner. The following weekend. Why did I do this again?