Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MORE Half Marathon

I finished. That's the most important thing. Every time I start getting frustrated, I keep telling myself: I finished.

I already knew the weather was going to be unseasonably warm and I was already nervous about the prospect of that - weather was the one factor I couldn't control. I slept well through the night and woke-up around 6:15 Sunday morning. It was already above 70 degrees.

I had a little bit of coffee and a banana with peanut butter. I nervously pinned and re-pinned my race number on my shirt. At about 7:15 AM, Mike and I headed towards Central Park. The butterflies really set in when I saw all the women fluttering around the start line. Mike tried to calm my nerves, but 13.1 miles suddenly seemed like a much bigger task than I had imagined.

Mike kissed me good bye and good luck and I lined-up in my corral. Then, the announcement was made that the full marathon was cancelled due to the extreme heat. All the marathoners could run the half-marathon. In addition, the half-marathon was made into a "fun run", where no official times would be kept in hopes people would not attempt to overexert themselves.

While this development didn't matter so much for me, I felt awful for the women who had spent the last four months training for the marathon - I couldn't imagine how heart-wrenching that news must have been.

The race began with little incident. My body felt good and my splits were exactly where I wanted them - I ran the first four miles between 7:20 and 7:40 each. I was more than on pace to hit my goal.

But after I passed the marker for Mile 4, I started feeling weak. There was no doubt the heat was starting to have a huge effect on my performance. By mile 5, I was dizzy and dehydrated. Eight miles to go? I didn't feel like I could walk eight steps without collapsing.

To make matters worse, the water stations were completely spread out on the fully exposed east side of the Park. I couldn't get my electrolyte balance up high enough to regain my starting strength. I felt like my body was converting the water straight into sweat.

To make matters worse, I started to worry I wouldn't finish. I kept thinking how easily I had completed so many of my long runs; not only finished them, but felt like I could have kept going. I wasn't even at mile 7. I felt defeated; I wanted to cry - partly because of the pain, partly because I was so upset.

But my body didn't have any water or salt to spare on something as silly as tears. I had another lap, another 6 miles to go. I knew I wasn't going to let myself stop, so I might as well toughen up.

I don't know that I toughened-up, but I did keep going. Instead of thinking about how much further I had to go, I tried thinking about why I was here. That's right - I not only signed up for this, I paid for this!

I thought back to elementary school, to the recreational soccer league I begged my parents to let me join. They were probably more than a little confused by my request, given the fact that I was not exactly interested in playing sports or particularly coordinated. But they handed over the $50 registration fee as well as their Saturday mornings for the next few months so I could play.

Fairly early in the season, my dad showed up a few minutes before practice concluded. When we got home, he proudly exclaimed, "She's a good runner! She doesn't run like a girl - runs with with her head high and has a good kick." For a girl who proved to not be terribly gifted at soccer (only one notable play the entire season), this compliment was the highlight of the season. Even as a kid, you don't forget something like that.

I thought about back in high school, when my Mum and I watched coverage of a half-marathon in Virginia Beach over the Sunday paper. "You could do that," she said to me. I rolled my eyes and returned to my Fruity Pebbles. Evidently, she had forgotten my detest for running. "Why would I ever run thirteen miles?" I quipped - probably with a much snottier teenage attitude than I recall. She shrugged as she sipped her coffee, "I don't know, because you could."

It didn't mean much to me then. But that little exchange has gotten me through more than a few tough miles. She already knew I could do something like this, long before I believed in myself enough to actually go out and run it.

I thought about all of the encouraging words from family and friends. I thought about how Mike would never let me forget if I gave up and quit. More importantly, I realized I wouldn't let myself forget if I quit.

It was a battle and I'm not really sure what kept my legs move across the finish line, but I made it in just under two hours. My finisher's medal felt heavy around my neck as I struggled to hold my cup of Gatorade and look for Mike. I didn't have to look far, as he appeared behind me - ready to congratulate and console as he knew I hadn't hit my time. He boosted my esteem and made me laugh as I tried to catch my breath.

Two days later, I'm still sore. I've started to think optimistically about not hitting my goal time. This was, after all, my first race over five miles. If I had just gone out on my first attempt and nailed it, maybe I would start to lose some appreciation for the distance and never had the drive to go out and do it again, just faster than before.

And that's the funny thing. I've never had my body feel that weak before and I've never had to physically push myself as hard as I did Sunday morning. I detested the last 9 miles of the race. I was drenched in sweat, Gatorade, dirt and water when I crossed the finish line. My whole body ached Monday morning.

But I can't wait to do it again.


  1. Allie, a wonderful article expressing so well how you felt during the run that I almost felt I was in your running shoes.
    Also like the photo.
    I am unbelievably proud of you and your completion as it took guts and determination.
    Keep on going as you will get where you want to be.

  2. You ALWAYS amazed us then and still do now! We are really proud of you :) Mummy and Daddy

  3. I tried to show you the way of the knife, but was afraid you would cut yourself. Poached pears in wine are yummy with figs, oh yeah!! Try the pears with whole cloves. What variety of figs are you using??? Sounds soooo yummy! This time of year, pears are coming from south america and may be a bit more firm, try red pears vs bartlett or d'anjou. Love you!! Daddy


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