Monday, October 10, 2011

The changing of the guard, not forever, just a little while

7 weeks ago, I had written off my race.

5 weeks ago, I started giving thought to next year's goals.

4 weeks ago, I started walking and running again.

3 weeks ago, I thought maybe I could walk 4 or 5 miles of the race then cut the course and quit. At least I would have started it.

2 weeks ago, I ran 8 miles and thought maybe I could run 8 miles then walk the rest.

1 week ago, I ran 8 miles and thought maybe I could run 13.1 miles really slowly....

Then, I thought "Why bother at all?"

I'm not a medal-bagger. I've run a lot of half marathons (closing in on a gazillion of them).

They hurt whether or not you are trained. Do I really want to run or walk 13.1 miles just to do it? 


Two days before the race I considered a few things:
1.) This was going to be my last half marathon for some time. I don't know how long, but I'm taking a vacation from anything longer than a 10k.
2.) This is my birthday race.
3.) Could I even finish? Isn't that a little bit overconfident? I hadn't even run more than 8 miles since July.

TWO DAYS before the race, and I didn't know if I was going to do it.

Then, I went to packet pick up. In the packet, there were two bumper stickers: one for the half and one for the full marathon. they read: I ROCKED 13.1/26.2 miles. 

I immediately thought to myself: NEWBIES.

Where did the excitement go? The half marathon used to be my favorite race. 

The day before the race, it snowed, alot. Not wanting to miss running in the first really cold snowy day, I went out. 

It was THIS race years ago that was done on 10/21 when a snowstorm hit. the conditions were almost identical to what I was running in. But that year, I ran the marathon. 

Many of you know this story, many of you REMEMBER my race report. I didn't train for the marathon. I ran 14 miles once, called it training and figured my fitness would carry me through.

Fitness and Mr. Tea meeting me at every mile from 18 on to give me warm, hats and mittens. 

Sort of weird isn't it? 

Almost identical conditions, yet back then, there was no doubt I was going to do the race. 

Once again, I turned to Mr. Tea: What do I do?

Mr Tea: I'm not giving anymore race advice. You can do a half marathon in your sleep, walking backwards & juggling baboons. You do whatever you want.

I hate that answer.

What's the harm? Just go do the race. You feel like you need to prove something don't you? Like you need to prove that you're not just going to wimp out, huh? 

Look, you're perfectly healthy now. I know you haven't run long. I know the 8 miles was a run/walk. I KNOW you didn't taper or anything, but....but

couldn't you just try it?

With that, I decided to do the race.

That's when the most remarkable thing happened.

I met someone doing her first half marathon. 

We ended up running it together.

I've never run a race with someone before.

Right from the start, her nerves/energy started to pour over to me. I remembered what it was like standing at the start of my first half marathon. At my first half, I was so nervous that i didn't eat breakfast (which I paid for later).

Fast foward....years later.....

We started running, and she took off like a bolt of lightning. I almost stopped in the middle of the street, with sheer shock.

Then, I saw her stop and put her hands on her hips. I ran up to her, and she said, "That was dumb."

I said: It's not dumb. I bet you got a sweet race picture.

From then on, we ran.

We had a plan:
Run to the aid stations. Walk through the aid stations.

When we can't make it to the aid stations, we'll run 3 songs and walk a minute.

When we can't do that, we'll walk one song, walk a minute.

When we can't do that, we'll walk the uphills and run the downhills.

But no matter what, we are going to finish this race.

And our evil little plan worked. 

We only walked aid stations until mile 8. At mile 8, there was supposed to be an aid station. She wanted to stop. I wanted to stop. I needed some water. We were still running. That's when I saw the aid station around mile 8.25. We decided to run to it.

At the aid station, we decided to walk for awhile: one song. We hit a turnaround marker at 8.5 and decided to run. Running was getting harder now. I think it was even harder for me than her. This was the furthest I'd run in awhile, but I was not going to stop.

Just then, I saw mile marker 9. We both wanted to take a break. I said, "We can make it to mile 9. When we get there, let's take as much of a break as we need."

Mile 9 has never seemed so far away. 

She said, "Why does this hurt so much more today?"

I said, "Because you are running really fast. You told me you wanted to beat 3:30. We're going to DESTROY 3:30. I bet we even beat 3:00.

After mile 9, it all became a blur. We talked less, ran more than you would have thought. 

But finally, we were down to Walk the uphills, run the downhills. 

As we closed in on the bridge, i told her to turn off her ipod. She said, "Why?"

I told her: You have to hear this. We are about a  half a mile from the finish, but you can already hear the crowd screaming for us. 

She instantly got tears in her eyes: a half a mile. I'm going to run it as hard as I can.

"Alright let's do it."

As we were running, passing people left and right, I realized that this was going to be my last half for some time, but it was her first. In so many ways that day, it was like the changing of the guard. 

I looked over at her as we were running. I could see the tears streaming down her face.

13.1 miles earlier, we were total strangers. 

Now, I couldn't hold back my own tears, for her

for me

for the changing of the guard.