175. The Hail Mary Half Mary

Originally posted to Girl Can on August 3, 2010.  This is Race Report Part I of my first half marathon.

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” – Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets


Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge Harry Potter dork.  This particular line from the end of CoS has always stuck with me, but on Sunday it was a major source of inspiration for me.


Sunday I chose to run my very first half marathon.  I can’t even begin to explain the mix of emotions I felt in the few days leading up to it.  Over the last few months I’ve made many choices that have now defined me as a runner and a half marathon finisher.


I chose to sign up for a half marathon.  This is something not many people ever do.  I wasn’t even sure it was something I would ever do.  A year ago, I never would have considered doing it.


I chose to train, and not train, for the half marathon.   Somewhere along the line, I went into serious denial.  I was overwhelmed by the idea of running 13.1 miles.  Hell, I was overwhelmed by the idea of running more than about 7 miles.  I slacked on my training.  I slacked hardcore.  I hid from my training plan.  I hid from the fact that I was signed up for this half marathon. The furthest I had run prior to Sunday was 7 miles – just a little over half the distance I needed to go.


I chose to go pick up my packet on Saturday afternoon even though I had to drive myself into the city (which is something I hate doing) and pay $19 to park my car for less than an hour.  I could have chosen to give up right there before I even made it to the starting line.  I was so nervous going to packet pick-up I was in tears driving to McCormick Place.  I chose to text Laura for encouragement when I was on the edge of a panic attack walking to pick up my packet.


I chose to get up at 4:00 on a Sunday morning: before the sun was up when some of my friends were just getting home from their Saturday night shenanigans.  I actually drove by people catching cabs outside of a 5am bar.  I rode the very first Orange Line train into the city that day.


I chose to start the race.  I chose to run the race.  I chose to keep going even when I wanted to give up.  I chose to run the last 3.1 miles.  I chose to cross the finish line running strong even though I felt like I had nothing left in me.


The fact that I felt so unprepared really fed into my nervousness and panic.  This is what led me to call this race the “hail Mary half mary.”  I  felt like I was throwing a hail Mary pass running this thing.  I had serious doubts about my ability to finish the half marathon.  Waiting in the starting corral, I was fighting tears and panic.  I was absolutely terrified, but I had made it this far.  I had chosen to show up; there was no turning back.  I made the choice to go it alone.  I made the choice to run the race.  I made the choice to do this for myself.  I made the choice because I knew it was what I needed to do.  I needed to prove to myself that I could do it because if I could do this, I could do anything.


I knew I would cross the finish line, but I wasn’t sure how much of the race I would actually end up running.  Going in to the race, my plan was to try a run 2 miles, walk 1 mile approach.  Once the race started I decided to take it one mile at a time and see how I was feeling.


I started really strong.  I ran the first 4 miles or so without any problems.  I knew I would be a struggle later in the race so I kept my pace a little slower than average.  Around mile 4 I fell in with the 2:45 pace group.  They were running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute which seemed like a pretty good strategy so I held with them until about mile 7.5 when I really started to struggle.  My ankles were starting to hurt; my legs were tired, and I had pretty much decided to hell with time, I just want to finish and get my ass back on the train home.


The Denise from Ohio showed up next to me.  She asked how I was doing and started chatting with me.  She encouraged me, shared tips with me, and pretty much kept me going.  I tried to encourage her as we talked and walked together to mile 10.  I can honestly say Denise saved the day for me.  I will always be grateful to her for helping me through the hardest part of my race.  It was while I was walking with Denise, I decided I wanted to try and finish in under 3 hours.


Denise and I decided to start running again around mile 10.  My goal was to run the last 5K.  I didn’t make it the whole 3.1 miles without a few walk breaks, but I ran for 90% of that last 5K.  Over and over again, I kept telling myself it was my choice, that our choices define us.  I pulled out every mantra, and power phrase, and trick I had in my arsenal.  I remembered Denise walking next to me telling me how I was about to become part of a very small group of people to ever completed a half marathon or marathon.

Ultimately, I finished the race in exactly 3 hours.  When I signed up, I predicted my finished time to be 2:45.


Considering my lack of training, my fear going in, and everything I felt during the race, I’m extremely proud of myself for finishing in 3 hours.


I didn’t take any pictures because, honestly, I was too busy being terrified to even think about taking pictures.  I was so focused on what I needed to do.

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