Thoughts On: Half Marathon Madness and Sadness

So, I ran a half marathon. It might be the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done.

Words are never going to capture this, and I’m hesitant to even TRY, but here. HERE. Have some nouns and verbs while I try and scrape my life off of the bottom of my running shoes.

Training: every step I took, I was gunning towards the future finish line, towards a better version of myself—and getting closer to who I was in the process. A long run offers a look at your human core more than any other activity I know. You see who you are, and imagine who you might be when it’s all over. I poured myself into those twelve weeks. I was up and dedicated. I ran in the morning before the sun came up, in the blinding heat and the rain. I was nervous, but I was ready.

Race day: hot for October. Myself and about 12,000 other runners ran through the heat, through the doubt. Some people came in costume, so I can officially say I’ve been running with Batman and I passed the Flash. I had one mantra, over and over: I bet on myself. I bet on myself. I bet on myself.

I chugged over the sticky pavement of the gel station, and pushed past the intense rib cramp when I guzzled too much water in the last mile. I went a little crazy during the last kilometre—a talking to myself, shuffling in agony kinda crazy… But all the pain went away for the big finish.

I heard my family call my name from the sidelines, and I took out my headphones and I finished the race the way I had finished all my training runs—speeding straight for home.

All the pain of the furthest, no-walk, no-break distance I had gone in my life burned away, I felt… happy. It’s the kind of happiness you remember for the rest of your forever, so mingled with raw intensity and shock and exhaustion.  That happiness was three months of hard work paid off. That happiness was me, alive! Me, accomplished!

Every step that propelled me forward over the last 100 metres signalled the end of one dream, the final pulse of one goal; with each step after, I felt the steady beat of a new beginning, the fresh heartbeat of a future challenge. I grinned, cried, gasping so much a volunteer asked me if I was alright. A female runner to my left doubled over and vomited.

Now it’s over. To be HONEST, those two post-race recovery weeks were a little wobbly and frustrating. In the wake of this huge accomplishment, I’m trying to figure out the next goal. Do I want to be faster? Run further? Keep it up? Post-race blues are trying to set in. At least with winter looming I know I can keep myself warm with all I’ve done, and begin the search for the path forward, whether it’s a race or just a quick 3K around the neighbourhood…

That, and I’ve always got a wicked race medal to remind me I’m a lot tougher than I feel.

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Saving the Last Kilometre

Two weeks from now, I’ll (hopefully) have finished my first ever half marathon. This morning, I set out for the last ambitious long training run before the big event. Since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I was in the place I started running: my hometown. I mapped my route through farm country and wrote all the turns on my arm to avoid needing GPS to remember the route, or how far I had to go on each long stretch.

It was a challenging run. Training in the big city means having breaks at red lights everywhere. Out in the country, there were no red lights to rest my legs, and more big hills than I’ve ever taken on.

I was in some pain coming up on the 11th kilometre. I was pushing harder than I’ve pushed myself, and was already thinking about being home, even with another 8km ahead. That’s when the universe spoke: I ran by a church and the sign outside caught my attention.
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“Life isn’t a race—find joy in the journey!”

I’m not religious, but I think of myself as somewhat spiritual. I can find subtext in everything, but this went above and beyond subliminal messages and into the category of “weird cosmic signal” and “breathtaking coincidence.” So I breathed deeper. I started up running again, and tried to enjoy the feeling of my lungs being full and the sight of changing leaves… even as the hills kept coming.  I still got to enjoy that my legs were WORKING and I was out there!

At the end I nudged myself just a little further along to a full 20km. That means there’s only one kilometre left, and I’m keeping it for race day. Some people run the race distance BEFORE the race to make sure they can finish. I get it, and always, always, to each their own. Still, I’m listening to my instincts and the universe, and holding onto it, running on a little cosmic fate.

You might say I’m saving that last 1000 metres for a special occasion.