There are things we do because we need to. There are things we do because we want to. And then there are the things we do because we have to.
A week and a half ago, I had to run a half marathon.
I am not a runner. As a kid, I hated running. I picked up running as a teenager when I discovered just how terrible I was at sports. I loved being active, and if I couldn’t make the varsity basketball team, well . . . After my rock-climbing accident, I discovered cycling. My right shoulder was severely damaged in the fall, and in the months that followed, my right arm couldn’t swing properly. Running was out of the question; cycling, on the other hand . . .
I got my first road bike for my 21st birthday and was hooked. I still ran often because, let’s face it, putting on a pair of running shoes is a lot simpler than pumping up bike tires and fixing flats, but, in reality, cycling had my heart. That’s why the furthest I’d ever run until October 20th was seven miles. That’s why the furthest run I’d done recently was six.
I’d always thought about running longer distances, of course. I had friends who’d run half and full marathons and reveled in their dedication. How could I not admire someone who purposely put their body through that much pounding? I wondered if I could do it, too—and knew deep down that I could—but I hesitated to sign myself up for the task. Why would I, unless I had to?
And that’s when my dad’s girlfriend and brother’s fiancée signed up for Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco. And that’s when, how could I not, too? There is a deep competitive streak in me, and not the least with myself. If they were doing it . . . you damn well better believe I was going to do it, too!
The weeks leading up to the race were tough. I often chose to ride my bike over going on long training runs (“Because I wanted to!*) and then there was my two-week excursion across the country. When I made it back from my trip, I had exactly one week until the big day. That week, I ran a few times, bought inserts for my shoes, wrote a blog post for good luck, and got in my car and drove to San Francisco . . .
And . . .
I ROCKED IT!!! Err . . .
For a more accurate picture, here’s a glimpse into my mind that day:
4:30 a.m. The hotel
Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep . . . Ugh. I could sleep at least four more hours. (I hadn’t made it to bed until about 11:30) . . . Here’s to the crazy ones . . .
5:45 near Union Square, approx. 45 degrees F
Brrr, it’s freezing!! . . . (Jumping up and down in place.) Can’t we just get started already? . . . Brrr . . . Oh, hey look! The full moon . . .
6:30 The race starts
Finally! (Runners were starting to move. We were in sections according to our anticipated paces.) . . . Now how much longer ’til my group starts?!!
6:53 The starting line
Yes! Walking, walking, walking. Okay, people, let’s move already! I’m cold!!
7:00 The Embarcadero
Running! Downhill and flats so far. This isn’t so bad . . . There’s the Bay Bridge — part of it, anyway. I’ve never seen it at sunrise before . . .
7:15 Fisherman’s Wharf
Where are all the people? I’ve never seen Fisherman’s Wharf so empty! . . . Aww, look at that guy with the sign! “Go Stranger!” it said . . . This is kinda fun!
Mile 4, near Chrissy Field
Ouch! (My left knee had given me a lot of problems on my training runs and started bothering me around Mile 4.) Oh boy . . .
Knee’s okay. Phew! But look at this hill . . .
Later (halfway up the hill)
Time to shed layers! Too hot . . . Hurry!!!
I made it! More than half way there! But now where are we going . . . ?
Uphill. Walk . . . No! No walk . . . Run . . . Slowly. Slow and steady wins the race . . .
Three more miles . . . Only THREE MORE MILES!!!
Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
Are we there yet?
ONE. MORE. MILE!!!
At this point, I began picking up my pace. I’d run this far, and, though every step set firecrackers off in both my feet and legs, I had every intention of giving this last little bit everything I had. And I did. I sprinted through Golden Gate Park to the finish line for a time of 2:06:59, or an average of 9:42 per mile. I was 838 out of 5,182 in my category (Women Ages 25-29) and 3,807th overall. I beat my dad’s girlfriend and brother’s fiancee across the finish line, and, most importantly, I beat myself. I did it!
* * *
After the race, my legs were wobbly and my thoughts scattered. Where was my family? I looked in vain for them in the crowd. I began to get cold and put my layers back on. Finally, forty-five minutes later, I found my dad and his girlfriend. We never did find my brother and his fiancée . . .
While I was still running, though, I was already thinking about what I would call this post. “Pushing through the pain . . .” Would it be worth it? I had no doubt that it would. And yet I knew I wouldn’t have been able to finish this race without all of the wonderful women running beside me. They were my momentum. They were what kept me going. Just after the finish line, a woman beside me collapsed. My legs almost buckled, too. I hadn’t realized how tired I was. But I was filled with immense satisfaction . . .
Life is full of pain. Is it worth it to keep going? Absolutely. Do we need each other to get through? Undeniably. Will I sign up again next year? You bet.
I’ve no doubt you’ll be signing up for your own challenges, too. GO YOU!!!
*Related story coming soon
Images: Mine and Nike
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