Congratulations on your finish at the 2011 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8k!
Reading those words in that email yesterday after running the Shamrock Shuffle 8k was like waking up in my dream. Waking up to a life that was not my own previously. To understand you might need a little insight into my history with the Shamrock Shuffle.
My family has been walking and running the Shamrock shuffle the past five years. When we first started participating I could barely walk it. I was overweight. No, strike that. I was obese. I tipped the scales at 300 lbs. Then the next year I was pregnant. Then the following year I walked it and finished the race 20 minutes quicker than 2 years prior.
Last year they took away the walking category, but my sister signed my dad and I up (walkers are welcome, but you need to walk at a 15:00 min. pace, which is speed walking). We were both a little scared. I told him we could do it, and no matter how badly our race results might be, we were going to finish. As the race started, we almost got trampled. People on the bridge cheered us on, and he looked at me, winked and asked - Want to run just a little bit? Just for show? - And we ran. A few minutes later, I noticed my dad wasn't next to me anymore - I looked back at him in the sea of runners. He waved at me and said to go ahead. So I did. I couldn't stop. A mile later I finally slowed down. I felt bad I had left my dad behind. I called him on his cell phone and waited for him. I couldn't let him do it alone. We were the last people to finish the race. (We actually had the pace car following us and telling us to get off the street, and the person in front of us had one leg - no joke).
What happened after that race is nothing short of a miracle. I began to RUN. Finishing last and having the pace car following us and telling us to get off the street was humiliating. That does something to a person. Also, I LIKED running during that race, and felt the thrill. I wanted more of that.
So I began the Couch to 5k program and in 2010 after graduating from Couch to 5k I ran five 5ks.
Then I signed up for the Shuffle in 2011. I trained for it as I trained for my 5ks, adding a little time and miles on every training session. However, there was a point where I thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I think it was because I viewed the run as one big mountain to get up. I wasn't digesting it piece by piece. My friends reassured me that I could do it, and Jenn (KITHKINCAID) told me to just add a mile on at a time to my training. That gave me peace and reassured me that this was doable. My partner Blaize (DANCINGEARTHMOM) has been a constant support to me during my training, cheering me on my runs and having the faith that I could do it. Aundrea (OFFDREA) also has been cheering me on and virtually high fiving me on my runs too. My best friend Cheri had recently run an 8k and assured me that yes, the distance felt longer than a 5k, but that I could do it. And of course my sister Kris, who is a huge inspiration to me, has been patiently listening to my calls of uncertainty and pushing me on. She is pregnant this year so she wouldn't be able to run with me, but she assured me that I could do it. My sister Kara told me I could do it. My entire family knew I could. And all my Sunny Gals were behind me 100%.
So you could say that this race means a lot to me (ya think? LOL). I even painted my toes green in honor of the upcoming race.
That morning I prayed that God take any fear away from me and replace it with peace. I think starting off the day this way really helped me get into my mindset. The night before I created a playlist of songs so that each mile I knew where I was at just by my song list.
My dad picked me up at my house in the burbs and we drove out to the city. Traffic wasnt bad. We parked about a mile away from the event as we knew (from past years) that the parking lot would be jammed and take us an hour to get out of it. The walk to the race served as a great warm-up for me. It already felt warm outside, and it was going to get hotter. In past years it has snowed, rained or just been plain freezing out for this race, but this year it was going to be a record-setting heat. At 9 AM it was already 75 degrees out.
As I got into my start corral and was lined up waiting to run my nerves were jumping. The race said it had 40,000 participants.
The official race start time was 9 a.m., but I was in the last corral, so we didn't move until 9:50, so it was almost an hour of move up a little, wait. Move up a little, wait. My dad was so sweet and stayed with me near the fence so that I wasnt alone.
I know I am a 36 yr. old woman, but to have my dad do that it was just really touching. I had looked for Jenn (KITHKINCAID) as I knew we were in the same corral, but it was a mob of people and I couldnt find her. Later I found out that I was actually in the H corral, not the G, so I was in the last one. It wasn't marked very well. I contemplated whether I should visit the port-a-potty before the race, but I didn't want to have to jump over the fence or force it open to get back in as some people were doing, so I stayed put.
Starting Line - Source: Chicago Tribune
Then we were off! First song on my play list Airplanes B.O.B/Hayley Williams. I got motivated and inspired by the crowd. There were people up on the bridge cheering us on. I looked for my sisters, who I knew were going to be on the bridge, but didn't see them. I was going to wave anyway, but didn't, lol. It was amazing. Then through the tunnel and I knew there was no turning back.
Photo Source: Chicago Tribune
I paced myself and even though I had the urge to run faster I didnt my plan was to finish the race strong and run the second half faster than the first half. I didn't look at my watch, I felt like that might freak me out (and make the race seem longer) so I made a deal with myself -I could look at it at the mid-point of the race and that was it. So I kept running. I felt strong, but also the heat made my chest feel really constricted, which I am not used to.
Then we passed the first mile marker! It felt like a short amount of time. I didn't look at my watch at the time, but later reviewing my Garmin I ran that first mile at a 10:35 pace. I kept running. We went up a slight hill and I could see all the runners and it made me feel like a part of something larger than myself. I felt like I was living, and this is not something I would have planned or set out to do just one year ago. I have come so far.
Photo source: Chicago Tribune
Next onto Michigan Avenue. This race is cool because the city of Chicago shuts down certain streets that are normally very busy. Michigan Avenue being one of them, a prime shopping place for Chicagoeans and tourists. But today it was open and us runners owned that street! This was the first refreshment stop and I hadn't planned on stopping for Gatorade until the 2nd and final stop, but I thought with it being 75 degrees and feeling like every drop of it, I should hydrate. I slowed down to get my cup, drank it while fast walking and then threw the empty cup on the street. And I was off (again)!
Pedestrians waiting to cross the street. Source: Chicago Tribune
I looked to my left and saw my name on a sign, Go Kath, Go! Since it said Kath and not Kathy, I looked closer and saw it was my sister Kris and her boyfriend Ben! I was in the middle of the street so I tried running to the left to get their attention. I waved both hands in the air (look Ma, no hands!) but I didn't say anything. I'm not sure if I could speak at that time, lol, I was so excited and speechless I guess. They saw me and turned the sign around as they cheered. The other side of the sign read Run Your Irish Ass Off! OMG, this got me so motivated and I pushed further. I ran off and later my sister told me it looked like I wasn't ven sweating (ha!) and that it was easy for me. Whaat? LOL.
Photo taken after the race of the sign
Next came the 2nd mile mark. Almost halfway there. I kept running and my playlist pushed me further. Didn't peek at the watch. Jerk It by Thunderheist came on. (Pace 11:15)
The next mile went by slowly, but I was pacing myself and I mentally knew that I could do it. I just kept going and enjoyed the experience. At this point there were a lot of walkers so I had to maneuver around them but it was all going well. I started to get a side stitch, which I never do, but I slowed it a bit and it went away. Then the 3 mile mark came as well as the 5k mark. I looked at my watch then and I was doing pretty good time. My 5k time was 37:33, and my PR for a 5k is 36:01, so I wasn't doing too bad. (Pace 11:55)
The next mile is a bit of a blur. It didn't feel hard to me, but I was in the zone, so I don't remember much of it. Wolf Like Me came on by TVOTR. I did start to use my mantra here, I had set aside a few words to use when things got hard, and my mantra was Run Strong. A lot of my songs had that theme, too. Stronger by Kanye West was one of them. This one came on at this time and further engrained the mantra in my head.
Once I hit Mile 4 I pushed it. (Pace 13:45) I looked at my watch and knew that to finish anywhere near my goal of finishing in an hour I would have to push it, I would have to run a 10 minute mile. We ran for a bit, then turned the corner and came upon the HILL. My sister had warned me about this hill, that it would come right before the finish line. The perfect song came on, Move Along by the All American Rejects.
When all you got to keep is strong
Move along, move along like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along just to make it through
Most people at this point were walking up the hill. It was a difficult hill, I don't blame them. But I had read a quote about hills in a running magazine. The quicker you get up them, the faster they are over with. I pushed it and ran strong up that hill, I wanted it BEHIND me. Then we turned the corner and I saw the finish line! It looked so far away though. It was at least 2 city blocks away. But I fast-forwarded my Shuffle to go to my ending song, Coming Home by Diddy/Dirty Money/Skylar Grey. It is so inspiring and I love the beginning with Skylar singing. My pace this last mile was 12:54, but when I pushed it to the finish my pace was 9:57.
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits and they've forgiven my mistakes
Back where I belong, I never felt so strong
I feel like there's nothing that I can't try
and if you with me put your hands high
If you ever lost a light before, this ones for you
and you, the dreams are for you
I'm coming home
~ lyrics from Coming Home by Diddy/Dirty Money/Skylar Grey
As I crossed the finish line I reached both arms up into the air and formed Vs with my fingers for Victory! I had done it!!
Pictures of me nearing the finish line courtesy of Marathonfoto
My pacing throughout the race really paid off because I finished the race in just a minute over an hour, with my official time being 1:01:48.
But even better than the time is the tremendous amount of growth I've done in the past year. Last year I would not have been able to run the whole race, whether or not I stayed by my dad's side or not. I wasn't a runner then, but I feel I can call myself a runner now. And I love it. I've lost 85 lbs. and am closing in on my goal weight.
Comparison pictures from last year's shuffle compared to this year
My family @ the Shamrock Shuffle, 2007 (276 lb.) - 60 LBS HEAVIER
Me at my heaviest at the Shuffle, taken from a cell phone.
My family was there to cheer me on, after I crossed the finish line I saw my sister Kara, and then my Dad, as well as my sister Kris, Ben, and Kara's boyfriend Jan. I have the best family in the world, they all came out just to support me. Everyone gave me a hug, and my Dad told me I was a Hero, now how cool is that?
Next I called Jenn (KITHKINCAID) to see where she was at, and we planned on meeting at a nearby statue to get some photos taken.
Jenn looked AMAZING, and I also got to meet Holly (CHICAGOHEALTHY) and Glenn (GLENNYB).
As I was leaving I met another Sparkie but I don't recall her name.
My family and I also took some photos.
Then we went to Patricks for some beer and grub. I have a thing for breakfast burritos after a long run, so I ordered a breakfast burrito with chorizo yum! I only ate half of it though, and didn't touch the hashbrowns. The beer was the best I've ever tasted, but I always say that after the Shuffle.
When I got home my daughter Lucy, who had been sick, had made me a card and spelled out Congratulations. She was so excited for me, they had watched the news coverage of the Shuffle. She was so sweet and disappointed that she couldn't pick me out from the crowd. And despite being sick, she suggested we go out to eat to celebrate, and that just melted me.
After getting my gear off I took Lucy for a walk. I knew that the fresh air would do her good, and so we packed up the stroller and went out to the park. And despite the feeling I had when crossing the finish line, THIS had to be the best feeling of the day. It was 86 degrees outside, and after my longest race to date I didn't want to curl up on the couch... I wanted to be with my daughter and take her for a walk. I felt like a healthy mom!
THIS is why I do this. This was one of my goals this whole time - not a goal that you can set your watch by, or see your progress as it unfolds. Those are great goals, too. But no, this was more of a feeling. A feeling like I had made it. Like I was that healthy mom I saw in a Leslie Sansone blog and put into my scrapbook three years ago and knew I wanted to be, writing -This Will be Me Someday!
As we were leaving, I caught my reflection in the door and smiled. Yes, this was the woman and mother I had become. A healthy woman, wife, sister, friend, and most of all, MOM.
For anyone reading this that thinks you can't do it, YOU CAN. Just put one foot in front of the other. You will surprise yourself. I know I have.
God can do anything, you know -far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! ~ Ephesians 3:20
"Those words you sometimes hear?
"You're not worth fighting for?"
They're a lie. Nothing more.
You are loved.
You are worth fighting for.
So go into your day, strong friend, knowing that nothing can defeat you.
You've already won."
~ Holley Gerth, DaySpring Writer
P.S...Shamrock? I beat you.