About a year ago I decided to start running. I'd been working with a personal trainer to help me lose the last of my stubborn baby weight, and in the process I learned that I was capable of doing so much more with my body than I'd ever thought was possible.
On my first day of training I couldn't even do 1 push-up. Not even 1! After 5 weeks of intense training I was able to do 15... then 45 and now 100.
Before I began working with her I considered it a good week if I'd walked for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Now I am working out 5 days a week - 2 days of strength training and 3 days of running.
I've amazed myself with my potential - potential I didn't even think was there! On the positive side, it's given me a lot of self confidence and rid me of a lot of self doubt. I have a lot more energy. I'm not constantly worried about my physical appearance anymore (will those pants make my hips look wide? will that shirt accentuate my pooch?). And I feel great - physically, mentally and emotionally.
This past weekend I ran my first race, a half-marathon. This is something I never thought possible. Much like the first time I was asked to do a push-up, I remember the first time I tried to run. It was back in college, about 12 years ago. I lived with 2 runners at the time. I'd always danced for exercise, so it was a new experience for me to do something so hardcore. My roomates asked me to join them several times and I chickened out several times. But I decided to give it a shot one night. Oh my. Wow. I decided then and there that running wasn't for me and that I just wasn't athletic enough.
Fast forward to now. About 4 months ago I was running 3, sometimes 4 miles. But knowing I could go that far was miracle enough to know I could push myself much further. And so I did. I modified a novice half marathon training program that had me increasing my mileage by 1 mile every 2 weeks, up to 12 miles which I ran the last weekend before my race. And with the exception of 2 or 3 times I succssfully stuck to that schedule throughout.
On race morning my alarm went off at 5 am. My very first thought? To be completely honest, it was "I don't want to do this today!" It was very cold outside. We'd arrived in San Antonio the night before and had quite the experience picking up my race packet and getting dinner. The city was packed with out-of-towners. I knew this race was going to be big, but word was that 70% of the runners were non-Texan. Out of 33,000 registrants, that's alot extra people driving around. There was lots of traffic and lots of lines, everywhere we went. I had a feeling that this race was going to be like no other. And I suppose it wasn't, as it went down in history as the largest running event ever.
The race was scheduled to start at 7:30. We left the hotel around 5:50 and set out on the 15 minute drive to the parking lot where I would then have to take a shuttle to the starting line. It took us 50 minutes to get there because of traffic, of course. Which was fine, I was still there 50 minutes before the race was supposed to begin. When I got to the line for the shuttles, I began to panic. It wound around and around and around the lot and had HUNDREDS of people in it. I knew there was no way they were going to get all of us there by 7:30!
A man next to me in line interupted my thoughts or dread and fear and said, "Is this your first race?" I must have looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "Is it that obvious?", I said. "Well, your race number is in the wrong place!", he tells me. Hehe... I'd pinned it on the back of my shirt. But I didn't think it mattered and it felt less in the way there. Little did I know that it would also have prevented me from finding any pictures of myself after the race! So I got it pinned to the front of my water belt where it still felt out of the way, but was visible. I listened as Neil entertained me with how he'd gotten to this, his 59th race. He also taught me all about "throw away" clothing, since I also had some confusion as to whether to wear my race number on my top layer or my bottom layer of clothing. I am thankful for Neil because he broke the ice for me that morning, and helped me feel like I belonged there.
I also met a women named Suzanne. And Suzanne and I stuck together right up to the starting line. She'd run a couple marathons and was doing this half marathon "just for fun". How nice it would be, I thought, for this to become "fun". Lol! Because I was a bundle of nerves!!! Not to mention freezing my derriere off. It was about 40degrees outside and we were just standing there getting stiffer and stiffer and the minutes drolled by. I was grateful to have conversation with Suzanne to keep my mind off the chaotic morning that lie before me.
We finally got on the shuttle, which was heated. That was nice. But when the shuttle dropped us off a mile from the starting line I didn't think it was so nice anymore. I had to warm up all over again! And I had to go to the bathroom. So we dodged into a Whataburger along the way and got in line with about 30 other people that wanted to avoid the porta-potties. The manager was so kind to let us crash his joint without buying any food!
After relieving ourselves one last time we continued on our way. Alas, it was about time to start the race. I'd not eaten anything in over 2 hours, and I am hypoglycemic, so I broke out a marathon bar which I was saving for after the race and ate half of it. I also stretched a little. Thankfully my muscles had loosened up enough from the walk that they were responsive!
They conducted a wave start, where all the runners are organized by corral (based on their projected finishing time). I didn't make it in time to start with my corral, so I went with Suzanne to hers. She'd decided to begin walking so I had to say goodbye to her as I quickly memorized her email address. We hope to end up at the same race again sometime in the future!
The first 2 miles of the race were all about getting around walkers. Which was difficult. I wanted to break out full speed, taking advantage of the adrenaline rush I felt, but I couldn't. I was feeling pretty discouraged... but strong. Around mile 4 I could see that my hopeful finish time of 2:10 was looking fairly bleak. Which disappointed me because I finished my 12 mile run just a week earlier in 2:01. So I knew it was very possible. I continued trying to dodge people and zig zag my way through the crowd, and the next 4 miles went by pretty quickly.
By mile 8 it seemed like the crowd was thinning out a little. They had several local bands playing along the way, and I had a good running mix on my mp3 player. I also thought a lot about how far I'd come, and got all teary and choked up a few different times. I looked around at the spectators cheering us on along the way and felt so proud of myself for doing this! I knew my husband and kids were home cheering me on just as they had my very first time around a track. That brought me comfort and I decided that it didn't matter what my finish time was. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
As I hit mile 11 I was feeling pretty fatigued. All the slowing and then trying to pick up the pace and make up time was hard for me. Almost everyone walks through the water stations, which I was not prepared for. There were also several bottle-neck areas along the route where we moved from nice wide roads to narrower ones. So I really had to focus to keep my spirits up and not get frustrated.
At mile 12 there was a nice drop which I enjoyed sprinting through. Then we turned a corner and there was an uphill climb ahead of us. A pretty steep one. I wanted to scream! I mean, how rude to make us finish a race like that! Lol! But I did it (cursing only a little;))... and at the top of that hill I ran full force for the finish line. Most people had really slowed down, so I found a clear route and I just went for it. The announcer said over the mic, "And runner #16894 finishes strong!" That felt so good to hear.
I slowly meandered my way through the masses to the medic station, where I downed a salt packet and stretched my muscles well (they were feeling a little crampy). I ate a bagel, a banana, drank a yogurt drink and a powerade and more water and I was feeling pretty good! Even today my hip flexors are a little sore, but that's it! I think my training was so slow and steady, but persistent, that I was well prepared - physically - for this race.
My chip time was 2:31. In Februrary when I run my NEXT half marathon I know I can make my goal time of 2:10, and maybe even better! I've decided that I want to keep this up. I finally, after a year of trying to convince myself, feel like a runner! And although it was somewhat disorganized, this race was exciting and the perfect learning experience for me. I am grateful for the opportunity, I enjoyed the energy of the runners around me, and I am especially enjoying the sense of accomplishment I feel now that I am done!