Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not just a finish line, a new beginning

Final straight away, I was loving life 2013 RNR
If you've followed my blog since I started you probably already know how big of a deal the Rock N Roll Half Marathon was to me last year.  My very first post I described how I used to feel about running and how I didn't even think I could finish a half marathon.  My follow up to that was this story about how I stumbled upon a free race registration for the half marathon. 

Finishing that half marathon was really a game changer for me.  Previous to that race I had only run 5 miles.  Yes, you read that right, 5 miles (of which I actually only ran about 3 miles and walked the other 2).  Maybe I was crazy or maybe somehow deep down I knew I could do it, but whatever the case may be, I showed up that morning and finished all 13.1 of those miles.  It wasn't graceful and I struggled quite a bit but I made it.  I crossed that finish line, gathered my spoils and celebrated quietly with myself as I realized I had no one there that day to share this moment with.  I was so afraid of not finishing and being embarrassed that I didn't tell anyone what I was doing.  Knowing that I did it all by myself pushed me far beyond my comfort zone and was truly a brand new start for me.  That day, I realized that I could conquer anything.
A random stranger I cheered on last year

As you can imagine, I've been looking forward to my rematch with the Rock N Roll ever since then.  In the days leading up to the race I shared as much wisdom as I could with my friends who would be taking this on as their first half marathon.  I bubbled with excitement as my friends now shared the same passion and zeal for running that I have.  I've turned them into race junkies.  The day before the race I met up with Abby and Ashley at the expo to get our bibs then headed back to their place for a pre-race dinner.  We feasted and relaxed while watching a League of Their Own then went to bed early to get enough rest before the race.  The next morning we all checked and rechecked our gear on the way downtown.  As we approached the starting corrals I got message after message from various friends all trying to find each other to offer good luck wishes. 
Almost to the starting line

Sam found us as we were taking some pictures and downing our chia seed gels.  She made a last minute decision to do the half marathon instead of the 5k.  I assured her that I would stay with her every step of the way, no one gets left behind.  There was some nervous energy as we all made our way gradually to the starting line and once that countdown hit 0 Abby and Ashley were off.  As much as I would have liked to be with them for their first half, I knew Sam and I just couldn't keep that pace up for the whole race.  We glided through the first few miles with no problem.  Somewhere along the tunnels though my GPS got a bit wonky and started giving us some erroneous mileage reports.  We thought we had run our fastest 5k ever until we reached the 5k sign some ways later and realized it was a trick Nike+ was playing on us.  I wasn't able to get it calibrated back to our actual course so my results for the race, while really amazing, unfortunately aren't accurate. 
Photos courtesy of Zenaida

After about mile 7 or 8 I started to lose steam which is the norm for me.  I battle through those middle miles up to mile 10 and then get my second win to finish strong.  With Sam, I had no idea what her pace or energy levels would be like so I tried to keep it as even as possible and take walk breaks whenever necessary.  When we hit the turn from 31st onto Lake Shore going south I saw Zenaida who cheered me on and snapped a few pictures of me.  I needed that little boost as we were really starting to wane.  This was a tough spot for Sam, she thought from 31st we turned north to head back towards the finish line.  That loop down before coming back up to the 10 mile mark was a little rough.  It also doesn't help that before you get to that point you already hear the announcer saying "3 more miles" and then can still hear him a mile later when you approach 11.  It's like that 10th mile lasts forever.

Coming out of the McCormick Tunnel
Once we hit the sponge station I was feeling ecstatic.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sponges and mister.  They are exactly what I need at that very moment.  Being a past participant this particular aid station was the one I kept going on and on about.  I could tell that Sam was fighting with all she had to try and get through those final miles so I tried to stay as positive and encouraging as possible.  After coming through the last tunnel at McCormick I was ready to take off and quickly realized I needed to transfer some of that energy to Sam who just wasn't feeling it anymore.  She told me to go ahead but I didn't care about my time, what I cared about was getting her to that finish line.  If you've run this race, you know how brutal that last ramp onto Columbus is.  We walked up the ramp and despite my best efforts couldn't get us back into our stride.  The closer we got to the finishers chute the more I pushed Sam to give it all she had.  Finally I turned to her and said, "Look, I'll give you to that street light to walk.  Once we pass it I need you to dig down to whatever you have left and kick it hard until we cross that finish line.  You're not allowed to stop."  (before the race I had also threatened to carry her if need be to get her across that line)  She agreed and said she would soak up as much of the walk as she could before hitting the gas.  We crossed under that light and took off.  I'm pretty sure she hated me, but once we got through it and the enormity of her accomplishment set in that hatred subsided. 
Me, Abby and Ashley

Johnny (Abby's husband) was there to congratulate us and also look for Ashley.  We regrouped after getting through the finishers chute and Abby told me how the race went for her.  Finally we found Ashley on the other side of the crowd trying to rehydrate after losing so many fluids the last few miles.  She had gotten really sick and couldn't keep anything down after mile 10.  They headed back to the car and I stuck around to get some more pictures and look for other friends.  I wanted to soak up as much of that moment as possible.

Happy Finisher Face!
The look of pure accomplishment...Congrats Sam!!!!
Looking back on it now I realize how crazy it is that just one year after finishing my first half marathon I was checking half marathon #7 off my list.  I still have another 2 on the books for this summer and then my first full marathon in October.  It may not seem like much, but considering less than 2 years ago I could barely finish a mile this is a huge accomplishment for me.  I may not look like it, but I'm an endurance athlete.  I'm a runner.  I'm a beast and I wear those titles proudly. 


  1. Congrats on half #7. Awesome job!

  2. There is no way I would've been able to push myself that hard without you! I would've allowed my head to win and I would've walked a lot more! Thank you SOOO much for being not only my motivation for that day, but for all days! You really do inspire me to do more and be great. Your 7th & Half Anniversary, my 1st ever but they were both equally meaningful & awesome!! Also, I have to say thanks to Mother Nature for being in such a beautiful mood. I was pretty worried about her...