As I go through my daily activities this week, I sometimes stop and think I can’t believe I ran a half marathon a few days ago. I did it. I DID it. I did it. Being someone who commits to things almost to a fault, I’m not as surprised by the fact that I did it as I am by how good it felt — how good I felt during the run and how good it felt to cross that finish line.
I was nervous coming into this race. Like really nervous. I bumbled around like a crazy person trying to pack the day before, and my stomach was in knots just on the drive up to the Hyatt Lost Pines. As a blog ambassador, I felt I had to set an example. I didn’t have to win the thing (although one of our other ambassadors did!), but I felt immense pressure to get through the race with no struggles, no pain, no grumbling.
These feelings plagued me during training as well. I was apprehensive to voice my concerns and my insecurities to my blog, my fellow ambassadors, and the Muscle Milk half marathon challenge participants. Everyone would find out I was a fraud, that I wasn’t a real runner. After all, race ambassadors are supposed to be inspiring. They’re supposed to know what they’re doing.
But we’re also supposed to be relatable, and if struggling with training for a 13 mile race isn’t relatable, I don’t know what is.
Lucky for me my mind was put greatly at ease by the wonderful women around me. Missy, who I know well, shared a good dose of nervousness with me, as she suffered her share of aches and pains during training. Lisa, my roomie who I just met in person the day before the race, kept me distracted (and up way too late!) the night before with hilarious stories about her kids and husband. And one of my besties, Lori, met me at the starting line just before kickoff for a pre race hug and chat. She runs way faster than me, so that was all I saw of her until she passed me after the turnaround.
I run alone. Part of me says that I just haven’t found a buddy that runs at my pace (I haven’t), but the other part of me really likes to run by myself. Solitude isn’t something I get a lot of, and running is my time with my thoughts and my music and my body. But I was thankful for the other runners around me. I imagined during the race that had I been completely alone and just on a training run, I would have convinced myself to stop when it got hard; I would have given up when it hurt. But a group is motivating. We moved as a pack, albeit with different members at times. So runner with the lotus flower neck tattoo, thank you for somewhat keeping me going for a while during miles 2 and 3?
I was amazed at how effortless much of the run felt, mentally and physically. Mile markers didn’t plague me or taunt me with how far I had left to go. Maybe it was because I missed my nemesis, the 2 mile marker. Maybe it was the hydration stations along the way. All I know is that I never once during the race thought I couldn’t do this or that I wouldn’t finish.
And then I hit the last three miles.
ZOOMA is a hilly course, but for the most part, the hills didn’t bother me that much. Except that one that I had to lean into so hard I thought time was literally going to stop. And the one that didn’t have an immediate downhill, and I thought my legs were never going to recover. And then there was that time I got passed up by a pack of 13-year-olds.
But oh, the last three miles…The last three miles were supposed to be on a relatively flat golf course. “Relatively flat” meaning small gradations on hard concrete that killed my hip that started aching at mile 9. And “golf course” meaning winding, maze-like paths that tortured the mind with the monotony and ability to see all the runners ahead of you zig zagging through the never ending trail. If I ever thought I was going to die during this race, this was it. I didn’t want to walk unless I absolutely had to, but I wasn’t above collapsing in a heap of vomit and determination (that’s a joke for those of you who think I might actually put my perseverance above safety, although I do walk a fine line at times and have the ER trips to prove it).
The last mile was HARD, hearing the crowd buzzing, the music playing, seeing the finish line, but knowing you still had to run around the resort one more time to get to it. But as I rounded the corner, the finish loomed in front of me. I heard people cheering. I saw Lori, who finished eons before me, waiting patiently in the cold, rooting me on to the end.
And then I was done. I was done! And I was smiling.
I always wanted to run a race, but never had the push to do it. But once I committed I was committed. As the race drew near, I seriously burned out on training. I just wanted the whole thing to be over. I was tired of getting up early to run, tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough. Self doubt is one of my demons, and I wear it well and often. But during the race all I could think about was how grateful I am to have these legs that can carry me this distance, this body that can withstand the beating, and this mindset that says there’s no way in hell I’m quitting now. How could I ever waste that?
I also have a lot of people to thank for getting me through this accomplishment.
My husband. I couldn’t have done this without him. Like literally. Someone had to watch the kids. But his support was insurmountable, even on the mornings when he didn’t want to get out of bed to make the kids breakfast in my absence. Especially on those mornings.
My fellow ambassadors. No idea why they allowed a novice like me into their group, but they did. Their valuable knowledge on all things running opened me up to a world I nary knew existed. Their motivation when I was feeling down on my training was priceless. Tricia, thank you for reaching out to me, and Erica, thank you for letting me tag along in the Muscle Milk Challenge FB group.
The Muscle Milk Light Half Marathon Challenge participants. You ladies rock harder than you will ever know. I may have been an ambassador, but y’alls enthusiasm really kept me going when I was burned out. Congrats on your first half!
My friends. My old friends Lori and Missy, who talked and commiserated about training with me, and my new friends that I made during training and at the race, who opened my eyes up to the fact that this was a really fun event, even if you’re not in it to win it.
My readers and Facebook friends. I feared that a lot of you would grow weary of these running updates, since it was kind of a change of pace for my blog, but so many of you came out of the woodwork to tell me that you were inspired by what I was doing, and that it was motivating you to run a 5k, 10k, or even your own half marathon. My heart swells every time I hear that my words or actions have inspired someone to stick with it or to get started. Because that’s what being an ambassador for this race was all about.
So what race are we running next?