A few months ago I talked about how I signed up for the Route 66 Quarter and Half Marathon in Tulsa. While it sounds crazy and really daunting to me, I believed I could train reasonably and see what my body could do.
Then my dad invited us on a two-week vacation that scheduled us to arrive home the night before the Quarter Marathon. Ugh, a little, but doable.
So I created a little schedule for my training. I could already run 2-3 miles easily, so this was cake, right? My body would prove me wrong. Around mid-June, I got sick with my ulcerative colitis stuff. While it was manageable throughout the day, running literally made me sick. Plus, I got put on prednisone, which makes me really hungry and retain water. It was not fun and really frustrating.
Early July, I finally started feeling better, but I got an ingrown toenail infection -- we think caused by my running shoes since the are the only closed-toe shoes I wear in the summer. I've had ingrown toenails in the past, but never like this. It was so infected I could feel pain all the way in the base of my toe. And it was explosively disgusting.
Still, I was determined to run the race, no matter how out of shape I was. I'd already paid the money, and it was something I really wanted to do, so I figured I'd just walk/jog it. But a few days before the race, I got an email and found out there was also a 5K that day, so I bit the bullet and decided to switch from the Quarter Marathon to 5K, roughly half the distance.
Extremely disappointed, I drove downtown to the running store to switch races, feeling like my tail was between my legs. Even though I knew it was something I had to do, I felt ashamed. To make things worse, when I told the official I wanted to switch races, they immediately assumed I wanted to switch to the higher distance, and I had to lay down my pride even more and announce to everyone I could only do the 5K.
On race day this past Saturday, I was a tiny bit nervous. Not because I was afraid of what others might think about me, but because my stomach issues had created a HUGE mental hurdle for me. I knew my time would be less than stellar, so at 6:16 a.m., I told JT and Sampson to stay home, snoozing away through the 7:30 start time. (They WILL be at my half marathon, though; that's the big deal to me!)
I drove downtown and found a parking spot, another thing I was nervous about. I found one person I knew, who I was not expecting to see at all. She's a friend of my mom's who had joined a Couch to 5K class at the running store. It was so encouraging to me to find someone I knew and to see the group in the blue shirts who were running their first races!
The race started and I just told myself to keep my pace slow. In other races, I've started toward the beginning thinking if I started out quickly, I could slow down and still keep a good time.
Not so much.
But this time, I enjoyed my music, concentrated on breathing, paid attention to signals from my body and actually enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I ran the entire time despite maybe only running a handful of times in the last two months. I was slow, but I was consistent. And I actually had fun!
With this being my third race (I've run a 15K and another 5K in the past), it was the first one that was truly fun for me. As I ran, I took little mental snapshots of what was going on around me. Feet pounding to the rhythm of my iPod. Smiling faces cheering and giving out water and Gatorade. Tired and determined soldiers trudging through the same battle around me. Inspirational music for monster hills (The race staff was playing "Chariots of Fire" when I reached mine). Crossing the finish line both with my feet and with my mind.
The finish line is a victory, I'm realizing, regardless of a runner's shape, size, or completion time. But I have to admit I was most proud of the group in the blue shirts who gathered the courage, strength, and gumption to set their minds to something and do it.
I'm excited to get back into running, to buy a brand new pair of running shoes tonight (!!!), and especially to see the finish line of the Half Marathon in November.