Friday, June 27, 2014

Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Have you ever seen one of those ads for a race that has someone really inspirational that makes you WANT to run a crazy distance?  Sometimes I see those things in real life and it makes me believe in magic.  Last year around this time 5 miles was the longest distance I had run.  I was still reeling off that accomplishment when I volunteered at the Spring Half Marathon.  The company I work for is one of the sponsors so we have a team of volunteers at an aid station and another group running the race.  The first wave of runners are what you typically expect at the front of the pack, just charging away in search of that elusive PR. 

As the waves past and the runners dwindled there was one man who stole our hearts.  This man was probably in his 60's or so and was doing the entire race on crutches.  Yes, crutches.  Luckily for us we would get to see all of these brave souls a second time as they passed our aid station again on their loop back to the finish line.  As that same runner approached our table on his way back we all erupted in cheers.  Being in the presence of this unconquerable soul was truly awe inspiring and even brought a few of us to tears.  Despite what I can only imagine to be an intense amount of pain and agony, he still had a smile on his face.  I understand that smile, it's the look that says "don't worry, I got this".  It was in that moment that I promised myself to return to this same race next year and leave all my fears and doubts behind me to just the job done.

Pre-race with Juan, my running big brother
I wish I could say that I had the most epic race of my life at the Spring Half Marathon, but that wold be a lie.  I was feeling pretty sluggish that morning and still experiencing a bit of pain as I wasn't fully recovered from the past few races.  I knew this was something I had to do and there wasn't anything that could stop me.  The first few miles started out like any other race but I have to admit that 10k turnaround point was pretty tempting as I passed.  I kept pushing and eventually my body won and I had to take a break.  I gathered my wits and focused my thoughts on nothing but positive energy. 

My Team Perl family

When I approached my company's aid station the first time I was still in pretty high spirits.  I felt the pain, but it was manageable.  I hugged a few co-workers and trotted along down the course.  After hitting the turn and coming back around my heart started to drop.  I began to doubt myself and wonder if  I really had it in me to finish this thing.  I was walking up to my coworkers handing out water when I remember that fierce old man, crutching his way along and I knew there was no other option.  I simply couldn't give up, even if I had to walk the whole way back, I needed to finish.  I'm blessed with some amazing colleagues who are more than just friends or coworkers, some of them are like family.  They encouraged me and one of them even jumped in and decided to finish the race with me.  We walked and ran the last few miles together and I'll forever be grateful to him for helping me through.  As we approached the finish line a wave of relief washed over me.  It was finally over.  It wasn't a great race, and definitely not a pretty one.  But I finished.  And sometimes, that's all you need.

Post Race goodies!

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