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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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  1. Running even three miles is not mediocre in my world. I think you're amazing. You wanted to keep going! That is AWESOME!! And next time, you'll have it in the bag.

    I'm so proud of you and proud for you. I'm tearing up!

  2. Did you say you ran over five miles? That's amazing! I could barely do the 5k. Go, girl!


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