Last Saturday, I ran in the Baltimore Half-Marathon. When I initially decided to do this race, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting into, and for everyone out there who has considered it in the past, I have a few things to say about my experience.
First, why did I even decide to do it? Frankly, I wanted nothing more than so prove to myself that I could. I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch, I run quite a bit, but had never before gone beyond 10 miles. 13.1 seemed like a perfectly attainable goal. I began gradually increasing the distances of my training runs over the course of 3 months. I had no doubts until a couple weeks before the race, on a 12 mile run, I finished, but by the end my right foot and left knee were aching so bad that I could do little but ice them for the following 2 days while I could barely walk. My confidence was admittedly a little shaken, but I determined that I would stay the course. For the last weeks leading up to the race I continued my lifting regimen, but did little running. I wanted to give myself the chance to heal.
Race day arrives. I’m excited but not nervous, remembering the foot and knee incident, I have told myself that finishing is my goal, I am not running for time. Finally FINALLY it is time to start, and I set off at a conservative pace in the 3rd wave. After the first mile, I start feeling confident, I pick up the pace. I feel so good, there is so much encouragement from the watchers as well as the other runners, that I find that I am truly enjoying this run. Suddenly, I have to pee so bad it hurts. Crap, there goes my time… maybe I can hold it for the next 9 miles. No, I had told myself not to worry about time, and I didn’t want this discomfort to ruin my fun, so I sucked it up and stopped at the next bathroom stop. I lost 3 or 4 minutes in line, but I felt infinitely better.
Resuming the race, and feeling great I picked up the pace again. Going going on this beautiful day, before I knew it I was halfway there, then more. Hell, it felt easy. Then mile 11 hit. Every muscle in my body screamed. I thought maybe that I’d slow to a walk, just for a minute, just to give my legs and feet a break. Very tempting. Then again I noticed all the people along the street, cheering genuine encouragement to total strangers, their support was just the push I needed. Reason took over, I knew if I started walking, I wouldn’t be able to run any more, so I grit my teeth and kept going. From then on it was a mental, not a physical challenge, I just willed myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other and ignore the protests of my body. The last 3.1 miles felt like it took 3.1 years, but I made it. I ran through the finish line grinning like an idiot. I had done what I set forth to do for no better reason than to prove to myself that I could.
Ultimately, I ran a 2:04:24. Not a terrible time. More importantly though, I felt proud of my accomplishment, and I felt warmth and gratitude for all the other runners out there, my loved ones who came to support me, and for all the strangers along the course who didn’t know me, but still wanted me to succeed.
Maybe next year I’ll run the full marathon.