I had never expected to take up running when my eldest daughter asked me four years ago if I wanted to run a 5k with my granddaughter who was taking part in Girls on the Run. Because I wasn’t a runner, I had to decline, and my daughter B. ran with her.
The following year, I volunteered to do the race with my granddaughter (I’d started running), and sat at the airport waiting to fly to St. Louis as flight after flight was canceled due to weather. I never made it that year.
During subsequent discussions with my daughter (at that point my GD had stopped running), she expressed the wish to run a Disney HM prior to her 40th birthday. I volunteered to do it with her when the time came. We discussed it now and again, but she did nothing about it. Six months ago I asked, and because she was busy she decided a race closer to home was in order, and the St. Louis Rock n Roll Half Marathon was selected. Before she could change her mind, I signed up and told her I had. She quickly signed up as well.
I sent her Jeff Galloway’s half marathon book, I sent her a Gymboss, and she finally started training. I don’t know how serious her training was initially, but by August she was in earnest. Three weeks prior to the race, she called to tell me she was having back problems, and her doctor had told her she had a swollen disc that was causing sciatic nerve pain. She saw a physical therapist and there was talk of a twisted pelvis (sounded familiar – I hear that regularly) and so she started working on straightening things out, and strengthening her hips and thigh muscles. No running before the race, though the doc and physical therapist told her she could run the race. At this point, her longest distance was 9 miles.
B. was definitely nervous the week prior to the race, but she was determined to run it. She had been training with two friends, so the four of us were embarking on this adventure together. The night before the race we planned to stay at a downtown hotel so we could just roll out of bed and walk to the start. But first the Expo!
With the promise of give-aways and food and beverage samples, the grandkids had to come along. B. was worried they would not enjoy it, but they loved it.
Of course they got hopped up on sugar from all the samples they consumed. And it was St. Louis and the World Series, so you know the atmosphere was already charged!
We fell asleep that night with the game on, and all four of us would wake at various times to make a comment about the game. Before I knew it, the alarm was going off. Time to get dressed.
With temps in the low 30s, there was a lot of debate about what to wear. No one wanted to take one of the garbage bags I’d brought, so I was the only garbage-clad runner in the group.
Off we went to find the start line. Then we found our corral. B. considered it auspicious that it was #18, as we’d been staying on the 18th floor of the hotel.
A good 20 minutes after the start of the first corral, we finally got our chance to start. B. had chosen 1/1 intervals; I guess she thought 30/30 was for sissies. We used her Gymboss, but I had mine set for 30/30 and ready to go when needed. Off we went. All three of them expressed surprise at the clothing strewn about, so I had to explain about that. I removed my garbage bag and tossed it to the side as well.
B. had the presence of mind to realize that she had started too fast, so we slowed down a bit. With cold temperatures, the race was very enjoyable and the first four miles went by quickly. Then we needed a potty break. When we spotted one, we got in line. It wasn’t a long line, but for some reason it took a good 13 minutes! Then we were off again, and passing the 5 mile marker feeling strong.
Somewhere between mile 7 and 8, I heard B. saying “this really sucks!” Since she’d brought along Cliff bars for the run, I told her to eat one. She told me she wasn’t hungry, and I replied that obviously her brain was. She ate and started feeling better but I could still hear her huffing and puffing more than I liked. At mile 9 I told her we were switching to 30/30s and she didn’t argue. Clearly it was difficult for her at first: she had never tried the shorter intervals. But within five minutes, she realized she was doing much better. The uphills weren’t as hard, and we shuffled through the downhills without walking, taking advantage of momentum.
Towards mile 12 we encountered an uphill highway ramp that really discouraged her. By then her “lady”, the MapMyRun voice that she trains with, was silent because her phone battery had died. So I started announcing pace and distance at regular intervals which kept her entertained. I also started actively cheering them on. One of her training partners was a stronger runner, and would have surged ahead if left to her own devices. The second one was starting to falter a bit at that point as well.
Finally we got to the final quarter mile or so, and B. was seriously dragging. I grabbed her by the hand, then grabbed her friend by the other hand, and plowed ahead.
As we neared the finish line, they both felt stronger and went on alone. But I grabbed B’s hand at the very end because I wanted to finish with her.
Finally we were done, and with medals in hand we went to find her husband and the kids. The kids had made a sign for us (my very first!) and paper medals which we all wore proudly. Predictably B. was in tears, and started telling them all about the race and the moments that were most meaningful. She was particularly touched by the “You are awesome, random runner!” sign she’d seen, and was stunned at the number of people out there cheering on runners they didn’t know.
Plans were immediately made to run the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, and to sign up for the Chocolate Run 15k – including the kids! B. and two of the kids want to run the Disney Princess at some point in the future, but she’s also quite sure she has no desire ever to run a marathon. We’ll see.
I suspect this experience will wind up in a sermon or a blog (B. is a rabbi) – I hope she’ll send me a copy.