Sunday, November 15, 2009

my first half-marathon experience

Preface: I signed up for this race back in the spring when I was training regularly and saw no reason I couldn't get ready in 7 months. There was no reason I couldn't have been ready, but I let my head get in the way. I have basically not trained at all in the last few months. Which brings us to...

Catepeiler crossing the parking lot road in Lo...Image by veganstraightedge via Flickr

4:30 a.m. this morning: the alarm goes off. We ate our bagels and were ready to go at 5 a.m. We parked and took the shuttle to the start line, where by 6:30 we were among thousands of people waiting to use the portapotty. Nissa and I were in our corral at the start time (7:30), but we didn't actually get to the start until an hour later. No big deal, I knew it would be this way.

I spent the first three miles trying to overcome my certainty that I could not do this, which Nissa really helped with, reminding me I get in my own way too much. Nick had told me yesterday this race would be a major psychological hurdle for me, and he was right. I approached it as a psychological hurdle, hoping if I could get past it the next time would be easier.

By Mile 3, Nissa went on her way, and I kept my (much slower) pace. At each mile marker I just told myself now I just have to make it to 4... now I just have to make it to 5... In these little chunks, I really started to believe I could make it. It would take all day, but I'd make it.

Between Miles 5 and 6, it all started to fall apart for me. First I realized the police cars were on my heels. Anyone who has ever done a race knows the police cars bring up the rear, corralling the slowest runners to mark the end of the race. I couldnt' keep pace ahead of the cars, so I let them pass. This was really ok with me, I just wanted to keep going.

But one spectator really cracked me open when he looked me in the eye and gave me the most pitying thumbs up. I realized I was that person who makes a great human interest story, the girl who overcomes physical inferiority to accomplish something mediocre. I did not want to be that girl! And I started to cry.

With the police cars getting farther ahead of me, I saw what was even worse. The ambulance and the street sweepers were passing me too. I had not anticipated my slowness would leave me totally outside the race. They were opening the blockades, cleaning up the water stations. I started crying harder because I was being culled totally from the race.

Then as I walked on the sidewalk and cried, a photographer stood right in front of me taking my picture. Look, I understand journalism. I know the crying girl, struggling to stay in the race makes a GREAT picture, but I did not want to be the girl in that picture!

I sat down on a bench to get all this self-pity and frustration out of my system, but I was always ready to keep going. I thought I would take my race number off and become just a girl strolling the next 7 miles through town. But I realized then, I couldn't go on. Physically I could, but there would be no water stations, no roads blocked off, no one to look after me if I collapsed. I was too afraid to go on in this unfamiliar area.

So I was done at six miles, took a cab back to the parking lot to meet up with my heroes, Nick and Nissa, who killed themselves to actually finish.

But wait, there's more. I don't want this to sound like a story of defeat or failure. It is really a story of inspiration. Because, listen to me, I want to run more than ever now. I want to do a hundred races and never be the girl who gets left behind and melts down halfway through. See, this was the benchmark that I will improve upon.
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