Monday, October 26, 2009
GoDaddy.com YMCA Half Marathon Experience
I have been training with a running group since August. I joined their advanced program and they have been a very constant motivational force in my life through all the rough parts lately. I run with them Saturdays and then again during the week. My marathon is 2 months sooner than the one the group is training for so I get to the canal early and run 4 miles before I meet up with them and then run their schedule. This group is amazing - they challenge, they push you, and most of all - no matter how slow your run is that day - they are always there waiting at the end. I've even found a girl there who is a true running partner to me. I've never had that before but we are stride for stride matched in pace during our training runs. Not only is she my running partner but she's become my sounding board on long runs and a true friend. It's a great feeling to have that support plus the group's support but I didn't realize just how amazing they were until Saturday...
The race was a local event and it started early at 7:30 am. Most of the advanced running group had decided to run this race as part of our training...(really when did I get to the point that a half marathon was only a "training run"??? seriously!)...so we met there early to do our usual warm up together. I had a couple other friends that were running with me and the group welcomed them into the warm up also. I wasn't really nervous about this race - I mean I did run 19 miles the week before - 13.1 is a "light" day for me (I know...sick, very sick! lol). As I stood there chatting w/the group the nerves started to set in. I had already gone to the bathroom a few times but nerves always give you the urge...the line was around the building and there was only 10 minutes to the start...we hit up the bushes...so glad we did...then we're in line and I try to start up my ipod...guess the sync didn't take...so now I was looking at 13.1 miles with NO MUSIC -- grrrrrr but nothing I can do now...we line up - this is a smaller race so no corrals, just everyone in line, I try to stay towards the back....we all wish each other good luck...the gun fires and the race starts...my running partner and I only manage to stay together for the half mile...my pace is too fast but I can't seem to slow it down...and we are headed downhill for the first 2 miles...the no music is ok for awhile....I would pace off of whoever was next to me...I tried to keep up w/my friends I came with but their pace was too fast. Most of the members of my group are way faster and they were way ahead.
The street turned onto a canal that we would follow for 9 miles...it was rocky and the terrain was difficult...the dust from the canal was getting in my lungs and making it hard to breathe...I was having a hard time with my footing and the top of my foot was starting to ache. I ignored it for the first 5 miles but then it got so numb I had to stop for a 30 second run break. I was disappointed in myself...I never stopped in the half marathon I did in January...but I couldn't seem to run through the pain. Since this was an out and back I got to see each of the members of my group as they made the turn around and were running back towards me. They were doing great and we all shouted encouraging words and hi-fives as we passed. I ran a couple more miles and made it to the turn around there I grabbed a gu and walked for about a minute to release the pain in my foot. I caught up with one of my friends and paced off of him for about a mile...it was nice to have that since without the music I was struggling to keep pushing my pace. After a mile he started having knee problems and stopped to walk. I kept going....oh I needed some motivation...the run was tougher than I thought and I was struggling w/the frustration of having to walk every couple miles. My pace was faster than in January's half but the walk breaks were killing my time. Nothing I could do but finish the race...I pushed I sang in my head to keep a beat...finally I realized that as I ran my race number was brushing against my skirt....swish, swish, swish....I used that as a beat and just kept saying 1,2...1,2...1,2...it helped...I knew I was behind where I wanted to be timewise but I just wanted to finish strong...we hit the end of the canal...last 2 miles...just 2...all UPHILL! It was tough...we were back on the street and the pressure in my foot released but I was struggling...the dust...the heat...the uphill...mentally this was a tough race I made it up 1 mile of the hill then I walked for about 30 seconds and just as I was contemplating just walking it in I heard my name....2 members of our running group had trekked back down the last mile to cheer us on...as I passed them one asked if he could run the last mile in with me...are kidding of course...the other asked how far back my running partner was...she was waiting to run her in....that last mile was harder than the whole race...you hit dirt again...sand even...and then a tough climb...as I'm running next to my group member he's talking me through the hills...20feet of climb...30 feet of sand - watch your footing...just over this hill...I stopped thinking and just listened to his voice and let him talk me through that last mile...we get up to the top and I finally see the finish line...he sticks with me until I start pushing the pace....I've got to finish strong...I push and push and push....I hear the other members of the group cheering me on as I hit the final stretch....I take it in alone...I finished strong....I turned around to thank him for getting me up the hill and I don't see him...he had gone back down that hill AGAIN to go run my running partner and the other girl that was running with her in...while we waited my group cheered on my friends as they finished just as if they were part of the group...then my running partner hit the top of the hill with one group member on each side...we were all cheering her on...her kids were there and run in the last few feet with her holding her hand....it was so awesome.
My running group:
My running partner:
We had brought beer to celebrate the race and I knew the first couple guys would finish an hour before us so I had given them the key to get to the cooler when they finished...but they waited for us! As we gathered around my car and enjoyed the cold beer and compared race experiences I realized that even though there was no medal for this race...the support and encouragement from having a group...and not only a group to run with...but a true support team that didn't leave any of us behind was the most amazing experience...I would trade a medal for the support of this team any day....I did not run this race alone...My time was not what I wanted but I did my best that day and found something that means a whole lot more than a medal!