Georgia Half Marathon

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Georgia Half Marathon

At 10:38 on Sunday, March 18th my son texted me.

Mac: Did you finish?

Me: Yes

Mac: How did it feel?

Me: Legs and hips were tight the whole run. Feet started hurting at 8. Chills at 10. Legs dead at 11. It was awesome.

Yes, that is my entire first half marathon experience in a nutshell. It was truly, truly awesome.

I signed up in November full of big plans on how I was going to crush my first attempt. I found a training plan, got my form tweaked with some physical therapy, and then began running. It took no time at all for my ego to whip the whole half marathon thing up into a big frothy mess of anxiety and stress. In the past, I would have pushed myself training to the point of injury or just given up and given in. This time I decided to let go.

I let go of times and expectations. I trashed the training plan, focused on muscle building and doing the physical therapy exercises, and ran how far and fast I wanted when I wanted. My mileage was lower than my expectations. When anyone even alluded to what my “goals” were for the race, my response was that I had one goal and one goal only and that was to have fun.

While I openly hoped for having a grand old time, my ego would not allow me to completely let go of all goals. I did want to finish in under 4 hours (seriously, if it had taken longer I would have been really embarrassed) and I really was hoping to be done by 3 hour and 30 minutes. From the times I had been noting when I bothered to note them, I believed it was doable. I had no plan on race day other than to 1. stay with my friend as long as I could (she was running the full and feeling a bit antsy about the whole thing) (btw…she did her first sub 4 hour marathon…amazing) and 2. get as far to the back of the crowd as I possibly could.

The race started and I waited a full ten minutes before jumping in somewhere near the middle. My plan began to form with each step I took. As it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the first mile, I decided I needed to keep my pace under control and kept reminding myself to hold back and shoot for 12 minutes. I hit the first mile at 12 minutes and 26 seconds. Perfect. Yes, my right hip was tight but otherwise I felt good and decided that I could run to 3 miles, if I kept this pace. I got to the 3rd mile in 37 minutes and some change. By this point, the tightness in my right hip had moved to my left hip and thigh. But still feeling good, I decided it would be lovely to run to mile 7 as that would get me more than half way done.

A lovely lady named Anne pulled up beside me and asked my pace. Since she was doing the same, she asked if she could run with me. We trotted along gabbing about the race and running for the next two miles. She decided to walk at 5 and I pressed on alone. I noticed a lady who appeared a bit older then me at around mile 2. I would pull away from her on the uphills and she would pass me back on the downward portions. I joined her just before mile 6. Her name was Erin and her goal time was sub 3 hours. I was still feeling good and thought a sub 3 sounded lovely (ok I was completely stoked to even think that I was running at a sub 3 pace). I asked Erin if I could fall in with her. We hit the halfway point at 1 hour and 19 minutes.

Mile 7 followed quickly and I decided that 10 might be a good place to walk. Erin and I chatted as we forged ahead. Erin is 65. Half marathons are not her thing. Her thing is triathlons. She just uses half marathons to train for her triathlons. I pray to God that when I’m 65 I have that much vim and vigor left. I was happy just to be able to hang with her and I’d like to think that she enjoyed having a younger lady struggling to keep her pace.

Yes, my feet began to hurt at 8 and the tightness continued to move around my legs but there was no way I was stopping before 10. Erin got a cramp and dropped off to walk at 9.5, but I continued running towards mile 10 knowing that if I could get there it would be the first time since I was 18 years old that I had run 10 miles at one time. I had noticed I was running near the 2:45 pace group near mile 5 and asked one of the girls in the group what her clock time was. We were only a minute off each other, so I had kept an eye on them knowing that as long as they were in sight I had a sub 3 locked up. They were doing the whole half marathon by running 2 minutes and walking 1. As I pulled past the 10 mile mark, tears welled up in my eyes. My hands went numb and the chills started. I decided I had done enough for one day. It was time to walk.

Knowing the 2:45 group was behind me, I decided to walk until they caught me and then finish with them running 2 minutes and walking 1 for the last 5k. Someone joked that we had just completed our warm-up for our 5k and now it was time to race. I laughed but my only goal was to finish and I wanted to be under 3 hours. For the next 3 miles the chills came and went and I could no longer feel my legs. The people in the 2:45 group were super friendly and we chatted and encouraged each other as we forged ahead.

Just past mile 12, as we started our 2 minute run, the group began to pull away from me. I told my legs to pick up the pace so I could stay with them and my legs said no. In all honesty, what my legs said to me at this point is for mature audiences only. I pleaded for leniency, I begged for another mile, I promised lots of post race love. They agreed to keep moving, but they refused to increase the pace. So, I tricked them. I let them wusie out during the 2 minutes of running, then I closed the gap and caught the group during the 1 minute of walking.

Krisitne who had done the entire race with the 2:45 group began to fade at 12.5 miles. As I faded next to her, I told her we were going  to cross the line together and we were crossing the line with our group. She agreed. It was a fight to keep moving forward and there was no kick as the 2:45 pace leader and our little band of bedraggled runners ambled across the line. Nobody finished fast, but we all finished and we left it all on the course.

There were hugs and tears and thanks and congratulations. I’ve never been more grateful than I was when a volunteer wrapped an ice cold wet towel around my neck. Another volunteer handed me chocolate milk. I kept moving forward afraid that if I stopped and sat, I wouldn’t be able to get up again. I couldn’t open my milk. A volunteer graciously did so for me.

At 10:41 on Sunday, March 18th my daughter sent me the following text:

Andie: How did you do?

Me: 2 hours 46 min.

Andie: Is that good? LOL I don’t really know. Wait didn’t you want to finish before 11:00.

Me: I was praying for a sub 4 hours and hoping for a sub 3:30. So, I’m happy.

Andie: Nice! It’s because of your positivity. LOL

My daughter may want to give the credit to a positive attitude. I know better. All the real credit goes to my legs and I’m just deliriously happy and endlessly thankful that they chose to keep moving. My legs are awesome and they are getting all kinds of love.

10 Comments

  1. Denise– this is so inspiring. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with my knee. I’m running a 5K on Saturday then have an MRI on Tuesday. ;-)If I end up needing at least arthroscopic surgery, I’m counting on it being better than ever. Either way– this essay was SO inspiring. I’m so proud to know people like you who just keep moving. AWESOME

    • You mean people like us…you are out there too! Good luck with the 5k and the MRI. I hope both go well. I believe what’s most important is that we keep trying new things and like you said, “we just keep moving.” We have a lot of years left for all kinds of fun.

  2. I just became a regular follower of your blog. Thanks for all the good info

  3. Denise, I am BEYOND proud of you. WOW!!!

    Loved reading about the people you met up with during the race, too.

    • Aw….thanks. The people were truly the best part of the experience. From my fellow participants to the volunteers, every single person was beyond lovely.

  4. Wow. So proud of you… and the fact that you can run and carry on a conversation/pay attention to people/surrounding and remember details. I would have been a mess. Congratulations to you… what an awesome accomplishment!

  5. As you know, I am planning to run a 5K in April. I did 9 miles today as part of my training; it took me 2 hours and 18 minutes. There is no way I will EVER run as fast as you do. But that isn’t the point, is it? Like you, I am giving my legs a lot of love right now. 🙂

    • You’re exactly right, it’s not the point. Even when I was on the track and cross country teams in high school, I always had an idea of what I thought I could do time wise and I only tried to better my times. It’s nice to see how you stack up when it’s all said and done. That being said, in a small race with a bunch of slow kids you could come out in the top and in a big race (like Publix Georgia half that I just ran) you could end up in the back of the pack (like I did). There are too many variables on any given day that will impact your performance: heat, terrain, illness, pollen, sleep or lack of, nutrition, etc. I love seeing your progress and can’t wait until we get to do a race together. YES, love your legs…they’ll get you there in the end.

  6. Ditto this for my half today. I did my worst time ever, it was HOT ,humid and I had really wanted to go 2 extra days to the beach instead. This was for David, he has been disappointed with his performance the last 2 races and wanted to do better. I was glad to finish today. Good news is that I got a great workout in and gave it my all. Now it is time for the beach, walking will be much more pleasurable!!!!

    • It’s no fun to have a bad race BUT you are an amazing athlete and I know this is the exception not the rule. Have a great time at the beach. It’s well earned.

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