Yesterday, May 18th, was my 28th birthday and the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg. When I heard about this event last winter, I really wanted to participate, but Colby (the wise man that he is), counseled me not to. He knows that I am very competitive and intense and if I tried to train for a half-marathon, I would stress myself out. He thought that being in grad school was enough work for this spring. Maybe some day I’ll learn how to cope with my perfectionism.
Last weekend, the Pelts were over and learned of my desire to run this race. Yes, the Pelts deserve credit for many things in our lives (my first job, our townhouse, our blog…), and now we have one more thing to add to the list. Jason had access to an extra number for the race and I could officially run it. I couldn’t believe it. I had two dreams the next two nights about this race:
1) that I was able to run the entire race (I have never run 13.1 miles in my entire life, and
2) that I couldn’t finish and I had to ride a bus full of 500+ pound people back to the finish line.
I started training on Tuesday, went to our neighbor’s track meet on Thursday where I got inspired, and was excited to participate in this race with Brooke (Colby’s sister) when Sunday morning came.
Here are highlights from the race (Mile markers are approximate):
Start: The Gun went off and I had to wait maybe 5 minutes before I even crossed the start line (there were 6500 people in the race).
Mile 1: So much fun. People everywhere cheering and ringing cow bells throughout Central Park. I can’t stop smiling. It feels like the whole community is out cheering us on. So many flags and t-shirts proclaiming “Running in Memory of…” that I begin to cry. It is so inspirational and I’m feeling so honored to be there.
I begin to wonder if I will be able to really finish this whole thing (I usually only run 2-3 miles 3x a week). There is a rather large man wearing a kilt next to me. I decide that if I stick with him, I should be okay.
Mile 2: I have to go to the bathroom really bad and spot a port-a-potty. There is already one person in line and after wasting precious time waiting, I decide that I didn’t need a toilet. I go behind a big hill of dirt and just as I was about to go, I see a man coming who had the same idea as me. (For a moment, I thought this man was Ray Brown and I panicked). Darn it…I contemplate just peeing on myself as I continue to run.
Mile 3: I hadn’t spotted any mile markers yet, so I asked a man next to me, “Hey, do you know if we’ve run 1 mile yet?” Everyone around me started laughing…apparently we were almost to the 3 mile mark. I couldn’t even feel the pavement under my feet I was on such a high.
Mile 4: IPOD time. It was me, Bono, and the colors of sunrise as U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” filled the landscape.
The only thing that is holding myself back from peeing down my leg is the fact that I have to ride in Brooke’s car on the way home and I’m not sure there would be anything to sit on. Also, I knew Jason would make fun of me because that is only something people do if they are in the running to WIN the race. Running with a full bladder is UNCOMFORTABLE.
Mile 5: So much downhill. I let the hill carry me down as I passed groups of people. I couldn’t understand why everyone was going SO SLOW on all the downhills. I am enjoying seeing parts of the city I had never seen before.
Mile 6: I still haven’t seen the first mile marker yet. (That is why this mile-by-mile-account is VERY approximate). I think that I see Mr. Rogers. I decide that I am hallucinating and stop to stretch my tight calves.
Mile 7: I finally get to go to the bathroom. I see the mile marker for mile 7…I haven’t run 7 miles since 1998.
Mile 8: Old Town Fredericksburg…my favorite place. They hand out special “power jelly beans” packets and I grab one of each flavor and stuff them down my sports bra. I walk for a little bit while I enjoy the snack, horrified by how many people threw nearly full bags of jelly beans away on the ground. For the next 200 meters I contemplate ways to salvage them all.
I don’t like the fact that people are passing me and I start to jog again. Seeing Kristen Marks singing at the Library gives me an extra jolt.
Mile 9: The Rappahannock river and some prayer time…I turned off the IPOD so I could enjoy the harp music, the civil war re-enactors, and various musicians lining the river. I alternate walking with running every few minutes.
Mile 10: The Canal Trail. I keep pace with some SWAT team officers who are running in memory of a sergeant who died a few weeks ago. I chatted with them for awhile.
I hear my high school track coach’s voice in the back of my head: “If you’re talking, you’re obviously not working very hard, Anne Haley! Pick up the pace!” I realize that I only have 3 miles left and leave the SWAT team behind. I see a speed walker ahead and determine that I will not let a speed-walker beat me in a half-marathon.
Mile 11: I see Mr. Rogers again. I keep waiting for the hill that Colby had warned me about (we drove past it the day before). As we ran past the hospital, I came to the realization that I was ON the hill. I realized how little I had been pushing myself for the last 11 miles because I had a lot left. Passion worship music is on the IPOD. “Your grace is enough…”
A woman had pinned a few pictures and names on the back of her shirt and had written, “I have angels running with me.” I begin to tear up and start to run beside her so I could communicate how moving her shirt was. Just as I began to talk, she turns and spits on my shoe. She apologizes, and I decide to just focus on finishing strong.
Mile 12: I have to stop and go to the bathroom again. When I come out, the stinkin’ power walker and SWAT team guys were ahead of me. I regret not peeing on myself.
I start to pick up the pace and feel, for the first time, like I am really working hard. I pass the power walker for the final time.
Mile 13: We are running through Central Park again. This is my fastest mile; I can tell. I pass the SWAT team guys (which feels really good–I’m not going to lie) and cross the finish line. I look for Mr. Rogers so I can give him a hug. No luck. I don’t see anyone I know. It is slightly anti-climactic to finish such an exhilarating race and have no one to celebrate with. I jog through to the Expo Center where I wait for a free massage. There are few things in life that feel as good as a professional massage after running 13.1 miles.
I will never know my exact time because I didn’t have a chip in my shoe, but it was 2:24 minus however many minutes it took to get to the start line at the beginning. I am guessing my time was a 2:20. Today I am feeling sore and irritable, but I am so thankful for such an awesome experience. I think I have found a new hobby!