What a day! Weather was beautiful on Sunday and I made sure I arrived early at the Cowbell Half Marathon to park easily and avoid the stress of standing in too long a line for the “Johnny on the Spot”. I’m on my own today, or at least I thought, and I find myself, pre-race, standing in the middle of Frontier Park chatting with a young man from Chesterfield who had chosen the Cowbell as his first half marathon run. Ryan told me his training had been going well and I assured him that he chose a good course for a first half (later that morning Ryan would pass me somewhere around mile 8- looking towards me with a smile on his face).
I’m standing on my own again waiting for the time to walk to the line and thinking about the possible outcomes today. I’ve computed race pace to meet my best 13.1 time and to get a 2 minute PR. The last 2 half marathons I’ve done did not turn out being the best experiences for me. I not only did not meet my best time, I added minutes each time. Although I didn’t acknowledge this to anyone, today would determine for me just exactly what part running would continue to play in my life. I knew that running would always be important for me to maintain my level of fitness both physically and mentally. However, the competitive desire to continue going back to the drawing board, rethinking my training, pushing to the next level to hopefully break the 2 hour mark might not be the best goal at my age. Perhaps I’ve peaked and need to allow myself to just enjoy all the wonders and fitness advantages of running.
Ok, here I am standing at the start in the corral for those intending to do a 10 minute pace. I’m wondering, just for a moment, do I belong here, should I move further back in the herd as not to get in the way of these faster runners? I’m packed in, so I stay put. The run has started. I remind myself to glance at my Garmin to make sure I don’t go out too fast. Oh wow! It’s Jackie and Sam (my daughter and granddaughter) cheering me on. Asked everyone to stay home today, but she surprised me anyway. After the first mile or two, I stop looking at my Garmin in fear it will only create anxiety for me. I’m doing OK as I move through the miles, reminding myself that next weekend my daughter will be running in the Chicago Marathon in pursuit of a 2 hour and 46 minute marathon time. This will get her to the Olympic trials. I try to tell myself that if I can work through the points of pain during this run I can take some of her suffering away the next week. This works for me when it gets hard at various times during the run, mostly when I reach the long hill after 10 miles. Unfortunately though, we can’t take anyone else’s pain/discomfort away, we all have to do the hard- no excuses if we want the glory.
Mile 8 is significant because it’s at this mile I make eye contact with Ryan-and Jackie shows up again. I’m working hard to keep my pace and I look at Jackie and mouth the word “hurt”. She cheers me on and says “It’s supposed to hurt”. I know, I know, you have to be a distance runner to understand.
I’m getting there and my calves start to talk to me. They seem to be saying, we’re not going to hang in here too much longer. The hill is behind me and it’s pretty much down hill from here. Calves start to scream. I see the finish!! I look up and say, please don’t let my calves lock up. I can’t go down now! I shift my weight to the back of my heels to keep my calves from locking. Wow! Several feet away from the finish the clock says 2:02- 5 minutes better than my best time and I run through the finish. I’m thinking thank you- thank you to all who were in my corner in preparation for this great day!