You know that childlike excitement you once felt? The kind that kept you lying awake in bed long after your parents tucked you in the night before a big field trip. That’s how my day started on October 30th, 2010. More precisely I woke up at 4:30am with a mind full of questions, thoughts, and excitement; its race day. The day I have been looking forward to for months. The day I attempt to run my very first ½ marathon. I lay still for a little while going over things in my head but really I was nervous about trying to stand up since I had been nursing a hurt leg for a little over a week. I knew that if I stood up and was not able to put my full weight on my leg I was never going to make it to the starting line. But I also had a time line I needed to stay with so I got up long before my alarm clock sounded. My leg felt ok still a little stiff in the left calf but manageable. Off to shower, yes I shower before I race, I have to wake up somehow! I had all my gear laid out the night before so it did not take me long to get dressed and ready to go. Being that I was ready to go at roughly 6:00 and I did not have to leave my house till 6:45 I had a little time on my hands. So I made some coffee for myself and my husband who by this time was slowly making his way out of bed only after giving me the one eye open look after seeing the time on the clock. You know the look that really says “its Saturday and I’m up way to early wouldn’t you rather take up a sport that starts later in the day”? But being the wonderful man that he is he never verbalizes this and begins to get himself ready to be my biggest fan!
I know I need to eat something but I have such a mix of excitement and nerves I am not hungry. I drink one small cup of coffee and grab a pack of crackers along with bottled water and a banana to munch on in the car. We left the house around 6:50 as planned and drove the 45 minutes to Boston. The run was set to start at 8:05 and we were there by 7:40 so I had plenty of time to get my packet, drink some water, and have my first GU Gel for the day. I have to say the consistency of the GU Gel is just nasty! I have some of the GU chomps at the house but I decided to go with the Gel and I can’t even recall why.. The weather was perfect! I was afraid it was going to be very cold and I had opted to wear my running shorts rather than my long running pants. But there was very little wind and it began warming up rather fast the later it was getting. About 10 minutes before the race began I told my husband and my second biggest race day fan Blue, my black lab, that I would see them in hopefully about 2 hours and off I went to stand with the other racers at the starting line. The congregation at any starting line is a story all to itself; they are just crazy esp. if there are thousands of runners. And then just like that the race started!
I have learned my lesson about allowing the initial desire to “run like hell” right out of the gate is not the best thing to do in any race of distance so I settled down the desire and set into a slow comfortable pace. It’s funny the way the mind works and the thoughts that run though your head at seemingly random times. Around mile 2.5 there was a cattle pasture to my left. There were roughly 50 or so cows standing in group and they all started running at the same time in the same direction the race was going. I immediately began thinking of my grandfather who was a cattle farmer. This lead to thoughts of my grandmother who was and will always be one of my favorite people in the world. I will admit I looked up towards heaven and smiled because I knew I could feel their presence. Now if I had been at about mile 12 I may have thought I was delusional but I was still feeling super strong. A lady that had been in front of my for a while panicked when she saw a police car approaching towards us and cut right in front of my causing me to stutter step a little. She kept turning around saying she was sorry so I took my ear buds out and ran with her for a while. We chatted about running and our goals and occupations. She was a teacher in Fl and was running in her 2nd ½ marathon. The thought crossed my mind once again that my grandmother was cheering me on of all the occupations in the world I find myself talking with a teacher which just happens to have been my grandmothers occupation. I’m just saying I know Im not crazy!
I had my second GU Gel on the run around mile 5. Next time I will make sure to take it near a water station. I had to deal with the taste for longer than I wish I had to. I lost the teacher at the turnaround. I believe she stopped to drink her water and I have gotten good at drinking and running. My mom called me just after the turnaround and I spoke with her briefly without ever missing a stride. If you’re wondering why I have a phone on me it’s because I got lost in the 15k I was in last year. I searched for my running group and husband for about an hour before Hawk, my running partner, spotted my hat. They will never let me live that one down. I still felt good around mile 7. My leg was holding up very well! My stride was off a little because of the soreness to my calf but I somehow forgot it was even bothering me. At some point you don’t even feel your legs anymore they are just there moving on cue. A youth minister from Thomasville caught up with me around mile 7.5 and we chatted for a while. I had my third GU Gel at mile 10. This one was a lime flavor and SO much better than the others I had. I sort of needed to Pee and there was the dreaded port-a-potty at the 10.5 mark. I thought it may be best I stop and pee since I knew the last three miles were going to be hard on me but as I simply started to slow my stride I could feel my muscles burning. It honestly felt better to keep on running at my pace than to slow down so I kept running.
As I had predicted the last three miles were the hardest for me. I had never run more than 10 miles EVER! I simply did not have time to expand my distance when I was training for this race. Most days I got in a minimum of 4 miles and some days I was able to do up to 6. Now if you count the biking I did then there were a few days I ran 5 miles and did a 5 mile bike ride. Needless to say I was starting to hurt a bit. I never allowed the option of walking to enter my mind. I tried to focus on any and all positive things I could. I pushed through the pain and crested the last hill which offered a view of the finish line. I knew my tank was about out so I held my pace rather than kicking in the afterburners. I was almost exactly ½ a mile away from the finish when I felt a funny pain in my right calf muscle. I did not know what it was at first it felt like someone had just slightly squeezed my leg. It was gone as quickly as it came on and I thought for a moment I had only imagined it. Then it happened; a full lock up of my right calf muscle that stopped me in my tracks. If I had even thought about taking another step I would have fallen on my face. I have never experienced a leg cramp before but I let me say they SUCK. The cramp subsided enough that I was able to get running again. I knew I needed to get to the end fast before It locked up on me so I “ran like hell” just hoping it did not come back and send me airborne.
I was able to finish without any more cramps thankfully. My husband and lab met me at the finish and helped me to the truck where both my legs went into fits of convulsions. They hurt but are funny to watch at the same time. My only guess is that I got dehydrated and that is what was causing the cramps. More water next time.
My time was 2 hours and 23 minutes. Not what I was wanting but in the end I was okay with it. Not to bad for my first ½ marathon I don’t think. Now if I can just work up my mileage and add tempo runs as well as some hill work I think I can take a good bit of time off my next attempt. Till then I will own the feeling of the race finishers exaggerated enthusiasm that gives you a sense of superhuman strength, unreasonable optimism, and unbridled genius!