Monday, August 26, 2013

The Half Marathon: An Event to Remember

My journey to this point in my life actually started last year.  The end of last summer, I saw my friends posting pictures of themselves completing Half Marathons, and I thought, "I really want to do that too!"  But there I was, totally out of shape.  Having gone through a whole summer sick with serious asthma flareups, and the farthest I had ever run at that point, was a 5K and that had been the year before.

I have always wanted to be a runner, but I wasn't built like a runner.  It didn't come easily to me.  Genetics keep me from losing weight despite a healthy diet, good food choices, and regular exercise.  In fact, I have been running since March and haven't lost a pound!  I have a ton more muscle, though!  Yay!  My legs are too short to run very fast, and my asthma is a huge struggle as I run along... it is SO unpredictable!  One second I am fine, then I run past a newly mowed lawn and I flare up!  I am prone to blisters, and finding good shoes is hard for me.  And because I don't LOOK the part, I have a hard time telling people I am a runner for fear that inside they are laughing at me.  I get self-conscience that way.  I know, it's silly.

So all last winter, this thought of wanting to run a half marathon nagged at me.  I would go back and forth about being all pumped up about it, to feeling like a total idiot that I could dare to think that someone like me could do something like that.  I talked to Ben about it, and he said I should go for it.  He even suggested that he would like to run it with me.

Now, I have mentioned this before.  I prefer to run alone.  It's my thing.  Running is MY time to be alone and to ponder about life.  Thinking that he wanted to run WITH me, filled me with anxiety.  He is so much faster than I am.  Why wouldn't he just want to run ahead as fast as he could and finish with an awesome time?  Why would he want to stay back with me?  We had tried to run a couple runs together and he was constantly "trying" to motivate me to do faster when it only really ticked me off.

So he tells me that to motivated himself to stay with me on the run, he would wear a 30 pound ruck and use the 1/2 marathon as a training exercise for him.  Whatever....

So, I waited for the race to open up for registration.  I heard that the 2500 slots filled up pretty fast because the Top of Utah Half Marathon was a fairly popular one.  So I waited for the exact day it opened to jump in and register, and I was determined to be one of the first ones.  I didn't want to give myself time to back out.  I NEEDED to sign up FAST before I changed my mind.  The hour it opened, I signed myself and Ben up.  Then that was it!  We were in.  No backing out now!!! I felt sick.  I literally almost puked.

Then that next week, my cousin Sarah, came to visit.  A few months before she had had some knee surgery and was looking into getting back in shape... or back into running that is.  I told her I was going to run a half marathon.  Instead of laughing at me, like I was SURE she was going to do, she got excited and said she wanted to run it with us!  I was actually pretty excited!  I thought, well, here is someone who could relate to me.  Even though she was taller and a bit thinner than I was, we still had the same genes when it came to speed and running.  I was sure that she may be faster than I was, but not much... And even if she was a TON faster than I was, she could always run ahead or even if she wanted to stay with me, she wasn't the type to nag me to hurry up.

And that is how we got our team of 3.

Sarah and I trained all spring and into the summer.  We couldn't run together because she lived too far, but we checked in on each other every few weeks for the updates.  And we both worked really hard.

I admit, though, I felt lots of frustration when I compared myself to others.  I tried not to.  But I did.  I couldn't help myself.  It was hard to see my other friends losing weight when I wasn't.  As much as I was happy for them reaching their goals, it was frustrating to see their speeds get faster and faster when my speed only went up a little.  I trained hard.  Ate perfectly right (except at the family reunion), and did everything the race training sites suggested.  My speed only went up a bit, but the distance I could endure grew longer and longer.

The highlights of my summer, were of course, the Ragnar:

And the couple 5K's I ran with my boys and family:

I even did a virtual 10K that was super fun:

I ran 7.5 miles from my home town Kanosh to the neighboring town in Meadow.

My cousin, Sarah, came up for Ben's commissioning a few weeks ago, and we did an 11 mile practice run.  It had been the farthest she and I had ever run, but it gave us the confidence we needed to keep going.

And 2 weekends ago in prep for the 1/2, Ben and I ran from Fillmore, Utah to our home town of Kanosh for a big run of 12 miles, and a cool down of .8.

You can imagine the joy I felt inside when I KNEW all my hard work was going to get me through this half marathon that has seemed to stinkin' scary!!!

The night before the big half, Sarah drove up from SLC and we all went to pick up our race packets.  

We look excited, but we were super nervous!  Sarah had come down with a cold, I had aggravated my sciatica the day before, and Ben was still recovering from a twisted ankle a week or so before.  But after all our hard work, there was NO WAY we weren't going to give this our all!

We woke up at 4:30 am on the big day.  And drove to the finish line where we parked our car.  We were pretty quiet as we made that drive, unloaded and hopped the bus to go up the canyon.  I think all three of us were thinking about what was coming and wondering if we were going to be able to do it.

It was very intimidating to see all the athletic looking people.  I was sure I was going to get run over.

The sun started coming up and around 6:45 people started gathering around the starting line.  Now, if you haven't ever been to a big race, this starting line business is crazy!!  But organized.  They put the fastest people in the front and the slowest in the back.  You just need to find your estimated time of completion and stand with that group.  With 2500 people standing around, that can be a little crazy!

We found our spot pretty easily, though.  And were pleasantly surprised to see that we were smack in the middle of the throng.  We weren't the fastest, but we weren't the slowest by far.  In fact, we probably easily passed a hundred people in the first 4 miles.

When the horn sounded, we were off.  It took us three minutes to get to the start line... which was pretty good anyway -- gave us time to warm up a bit, get our music ready... all that stuff.  I felt a surge of adrenaline as we crossed the start point and off we went.

Everyone pretty much thought Ben was crazy with his huge pack.  He got teased about being an aid station.  But most people thanked him for his service, which was nice.

Sarah and I kept pace pretty good.  Ben just bounced along beside us.  We didn't' talk a whole lot.  Mainly because I think we were all busy praying that we wouldn't die, that we could keep running and not stop.  Before we knew it, we had reached past mile 6 (Sarah and I PRed our 10K time at that point, which was totally awesome! And completely unexpected!).  And we were half way there!  We kept up the pace until about mile 9 or 10.  It started to get a little toasty outside and we were starting to get tired.  But we just kept pushing.  Each of us encouraging the others, not by obnoxious remarks, but with "Way-to-go"s and "We are ROCKING this!"s and even a few "We got this, guys!!  What's another 3 miles?  Just a 5k!  That's it!"  There were no, "Hurry ups" or "Come on, pick up the pace!"s  -- only group encouragement to keep pressing forward.

At mile 11 we stocked up on Gaderaid and orange slices at the aid station.  It gave us a little extra zip to help us to continue on.  Then we turned a corner and saw the hill.  Our spirits sank a little.  But we kept pressing forward.  One foot in front of the other.  We just HAD to push on.  I was normally pretty good at hills... but at those times I was usually pretty fresh... this was mile 11!!  I was tired.  Sore.  Felt some blisters coming on... it was rough.  But our little group of three stayed strong and we ran it.  Slow... but we didn't stop!  We got to the top, and turned a corner and there in the distance was the finish line!!  We could see it!!  It was so close, yet so far away, but here we were at the homestretch!!

The more we ran though, it just didn't seem like that finish line was getting any closer.  At one point, I looked over at Sarah... she looked like she was going to puke.  I looked to Ben whose face was red from the run with his ruck, and I thought about how blessed I was to have these two amazing people running by my side for one of the greatest adventures of my life!

I started out wanting to run this on my own.  But as we neared that finish line I realized that I would have missed out on so much!  They were my strength and my motivation.  I might have given up and walked had I not wanted to press a little harder for them.  And I know I would NEVER have made my time goal without them!  The journey was hard enough, but having them with me made it a lot easier.  

Just when we felt we might just die and never make it to the finish line, we heard the crowd cheering.  They were cheering for everyone, but at that moment, they were cheering for us.  With the finish line 20 yards away, we grabbed hands and the three of us completed this amazing journey together as we crossed that finished line.

In my mind, I thought it was going to be a moment of jumping up and down and lots of back pats and "way to go"s.  But I think we were all in a little shock that we actually made it and needed a few moments after they put the finisher medals around our necks to let it soak in at what we just did.  We were a solemn threesome as we hobbled toward the water and chocolate milk -- until I broke the ice by blurting out "OH MY GOSH!  WE JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON!!!"  Then we cheered, hugged, and even cried a little.

I know that for many people, a half marathon is a walk in the park.  But for us that day, it was something HUGE.  Something none of us ever dreamed we might do someday.  And not only did we run without walking, but we beat our goal time by 3 minutes!

And suddenly all the hard work and sweat and blisters, were SO WORTH it!  For that moment!  I can't decide if I want to laugh or cry when I think about it!  Because I think back to that girl a few years ago:

And I want to tell her to hang in there!  That to keep working hard because she is going to one day do some amazing things.

The moral of this story:

1.  No matter who you are or what you look like!  You can do amazing things.  Don't let anyone EVER tell you that your dreams are impossible.  If you work hard, anything is possible!

2.  You don't have to travel your journey alone.  Being with loved ones, will not only lift you up to greater heights, but sharing the special moments with people you care about make those times so much sweeter!  We don't ever have to be alone.

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you’d like to win but you think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,
For out of the world we find
Success begins with a fellow’s will -
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outclassed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battle doesn’t always go
To stronger or faster men;
But sooner or later the man who wins,
Is the one who thinks he can.

~Walter D. Wintle



The Mom said...

You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank for sharing the ups and the downs.

Olivia R said...

Thank you for your honesty. I am running my first 5k in sept and can't imagine being able to run half, heck even 5 miles. Wishing Florida was closer to you, as I would love to run alongside you, even though you prefer to run alone!

Ariana said...

I loved reading this, Cat! Your experience at each mile sounded painfully similar to mine. Although, I ended up walking/limping the last mile of the Louisville half marathon. My goal was to finish without dying, which I did. Yes! It feels wonderful to reach a goal. Congratulations to you all!

Terra Lorien said...

You've ALREADY done something amazing!!! Congratulations!!! You continue to be a source of inspiration for me:)