I finished my first ever half marathon on Saturday at approximately 10:40 a.m., in about two hours and ten minutes (give or take a couple of minutes—my Nike app and the race clock had a minor disagreement). I ran well—much better than I anticipated—and was astonished by my times. I exceeded my expectations by at least a minute a mile and so finished the race at least 13 minutes faster than I expected to. And I ran happy! There are pictures to prove it, thanks to The Little Woman and my pal April who were strategically placed along the course (i.e. volunteering) and could take my picture as I passed their stations.
But what has amazed me even more than my time and finishing the race is the sheer outpouring of support from my family and friends, both in real life and on Facebook. I realize that I’ve been engaging in some serious shameless self-promotion and have felt slightly bad about it. I go back and forth in my thinking about why I feel bad—I think part of it is how I was raised (sorry mom and dad—you’re always on the hook): to not be prideful, to not draw attention to ourselves, to not brag. And then there’s the me of now, the me that has learned to ask for support, to reach out and make connections with community.
Four years ago I couldn’t have imagined ever, ever, ever running. I mean, I ran when I was in high school and into my early twenties, but once I had kids and then a job, exercise took a back seat to just getting by. The Little Woman and I used to laugh at the runners we saw on the side of the road as we sped by in our car on our way to Saturday morning breakfast. Then middle age set in, and we realized something had to shift if we were going to move into old age with any sort of grace (and longevity).
Long story short, here we are, entering footraces on our weekends, becoming those runners at whom we used to laugh. But even at that, running a 5K seemed doable while running 13.1 miles, well that just seemed crazy. Who would want to run 13.1 miles for fun? And then I had this amazing six months in which I was able to focus on going to school and running. Throw in a little anxiety and I found myself in the perfect position to perfect my running. Without really even trying, I ran 90 miles in January, then 80 in February, and once I realized what I was capable of, my competitive juices started flowing and the race (so to speak) was on. Each month I ran more miles. I became hooked on my stats—miles run, times, splits, averages. I’ve racked up close to 800 miles so far this year.
I started losing weight and getting faster. I made friends with other runners. We started running together on the weekends and then on weekday mornings. When I didn’t feel like crawling out of bed, I knew I had someone waiting for me. This support thing really works. The turning point for me came in April, at the run to raise money for the victims of the Oso mudslide. I went out with the goal of running those six miles in an hour. I finished with a personal record of 56 minutes and came in third in my age group. Things got completely out of hand from there.
Last month when I registered for the Chuckanut Footrace and the Windhorse Half Marathon on back-to-back weekends, I wondered if I’d lost my mind, but I just kept going out each morning and putting in the miles. I listened (sort of) to my friends about what I should do the week before the half, and I did my best to taper. I struggled to back off the week before the race, because as I’ve written previously, running makes me happy. It’s how I deal with my anxiety (returning to school at 51, not working, changing careers, being an erstwhile writer/poet). I live for mile three when the endorphins kick in. I am endorphin dependent, I’ll admit it.
I needn’t have worried. I had great support, great training, great advice beforehand. The Little Woman was at the halfway point handing out water and cheering me on. And she was at the finish line to hang the medal around my neck. My buddy April was at mile 2.5 and 10.5 (on the way back) pointing me in the right direction. My friend Cami was at the start and finish line organizing the race and providing inspiration. And all of you, Dear Readers, were out here in cyberspace rooting for me as well. Thank you all. It takes a village.
I’m ready for the next challenge. Bring it on and run happy!