They say doing a half marathon means you are only "half crazy" but I don't think that is entirely true. On November 15, 2014 I completed my first half marathon and the emotions I experienced in those 4 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds put me on a rollercoaster that even the best of therapists would have enjoyed riding. When I signed up for my first half, I had these grandiose ideas of training hard, racing harder and being 100% badass. In reality, I lost my mind.
I have already talked about how my training was derailed in a previous post so I won't discuss that too much other than to say my longest run before the half was 8miles, so going into this on Saturday morning, I was NOT feeling very confident, but I had something to prove to the people around me and more importantly, to myself. It was bitterly cold, 27degrees at the start line, people were everywhere, I was there with 2 of my friends (a 3rd friend and fellow sponsored athlete Mike, was running the full) and I was freaking out. I didn't notice that my wave had started and we were moving... faster than I typically am. My two friends were be my side when I teared up, panicking that I shouldn't be doing this and we were only .25 miles in. My Garmin said we were at a 14:35 pace and my average was a 16:30, in the back of my head I could hear random voices saying "don't start too fast or you will burn out" so I slowed down, partially out of fear and partially out of need. I watched as my friends pulled away from me and every time they would look back, I would wave them along.
I made friends with a super nice lady who would become my half marathon best friend for the next 8miles. We kept each other going by talking about our journeys, family, her son, my dogs, how freaking far apart the port-a-johns were... she was my sanity. We pushed through the never ending park of hills, we cheered when we were finally able to pee, we had become warriors together. As we came out of the park around mile 8, where the half and full courses came together, I watched Mike fly by. He was the first familiar face I had seen in miles... I cried. Around this point it was evident that my new friend and I were going to have to power through even if it meant separately and as she kept telling me, "you are here to run your own race" and waved me forward. I kept looking back and she would keep waving me ahead so I sent up a bit of thanks to her for being my angel the last few miles but my feet had set a pace and I was unable to try and change it.
The next thing I knew I was surrounded by full marathoners coming over into the half side of the course and they were flying by. Every time someone took the chance to tell me I was doing good, I would tear up. My arms were starting to feel like they weren't working and I felt weird. I looked at my hands and they were so swollen I was afraid they would split if I tried to close my hands. I downed some almond butter and the swelling almost immediately went away. Then I saw the next familiar face, a fellow RunJunkEe, Nick, who was cheering at mile 10. I could barely form words and behind my sunglasses I was full on crying, he gave me a bear hug and told me to grab some gummy bears. I was so thankful he had been there or I think I would have lost my resolve.
At mile 10.5 I sent Mike an incoherent text that (should have read) "10.5 can't stop crying" although he apparently understands race text gibberish bc he texted back in his own form with "stay calm you're almost there."
At mile 11 all I could hear in my head was the words from another fellow Sponsored Athlete, Addie, "run the mile you're in" so I tried to run some more. I felt I was shuffling backwards at this point.
11.5 a coach named Sue from team in training walked alongside me. I cried because I was going to get swept off the course. She assured me I wouldn't, even if I was over 4hours, and handed me a pack of sport beans. I thanked her, she patted me on the back and I cried.
Holy Shit Mile 12! I am convinced anyone who saw me thought I was nuts since I kept repeating, "Just keep moving, too close to quit, run the mile you're in, you've come too far, run the mile you're in, if you quit now I will kill you!" Another coach, this time from Sportsbackers named Aaron jogged up to talk to me, he asked if I was okay, I told him I wasn't sure and asked if I really wasn't going to get swept, he assured me I wouldn't, patted me on the back and checked in one more time on me and made sure I knew I could do it.
13 miles people are yelling, cowbells lots of cowbells, more yelling, a couple people reach out to high 5 me on the way down the hill... My eyes are burning from the tears. My feet are having trouble finding the ground. Are these even my feet? I see the blue mat, I turn off my Garmin. Shit camera guys! Try and smile... Body is shaking, arms are jelly... shoulders racked with sobs... I cross the finish line. I aimlessly wander looking for someone who still has some half medals since everyone has changed to full, I find one. Someone thrusts a hat and a blanket in my hands. I fumble for my phone. I find Mike waiting just past the finish line in the grass. He gets up to hug me and a sob all over his shoulder. I find my gear I had checked, someone hands me a banana, I forgot to eat it. I find my other friends and we limp to the car.. holy crap did I just actually finish?
It isn't until hours later after my husband has put me into a hot bath and tells me how proud he is of me that I am alone. I sob. Thankful of my friends who were there, of my family that supported me, of the strangers who reached out when they could tell I was in need. The sobs racked my body and I realized that I can do anything. I may be a really slow runner but I made it through even when my weight and my disease has tried to hold me back. In that 4 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds I found myself. I realized am worth something and on top of that, I am a half marathoner.
crawl, walk, run... just keep moving,
Megan, the Half Marathoner