Friday, October 26, 2007

The Longer Version

Being new to this, I have a feeling that me describing this race is going to be more emotional than technical. I have no other frame of reference! So you’ll have to excuse me “newbie” telling of the story:

It’s a little funny, but Nike really got it right several years back with their “Just Do It” campaign. When people ask how I did a half marathon, my reply is something along the lines of:


Don’t get me wrong, there is training involved. Lots of it. You work hard for your goal. But as I was “lining up” with 22,000 other women, looking as though I was about to throw up, never was it an option to turn back. I never once thought of NOT running…even when my thoughts were: “What the heck am I doing?!?!?!”

Ahhh yes, I was nervous. But I was also excited.

For the first 12 minutes after the official time began, I felt like I was in a parade. A very slow, slow, slow parade. I was expecting that, but it’s still pretty funny. Even after crossing the official starting line, you’re still dodging people left and right, front and back. It keeps you on your toes…and keeps you blissfully distracted when your stomach feels like it’s about to jump straight out of your body for the first 2-3 miles. Oh…and that nervous bladder that thinks you need to stop at every. single. porta-potty. I didn’t, though. Stop, I mean. The smell alone is enough to keep me running.

Around mile 4 I had my first hill. True, they weren’t cable car hills, but they were still San Francisco hills. My heart felt like it wanted to join my stomach and leap from body. I had to slow down. I had to walk the hills. I live in flat, Valley-Land. I trained in flat Land of the Valley. I had very little hill experience. But I was keeping a good pace, I didn’t get discouraged. I just knew from that first hill on that I would have to walk up those hills.

Now, I have to stop for a minute and tell you how BEAUTIFUL the scenery was the entire weekend. (There are a few pictures here.)One of the best things about the Bay Area in the fall is how clear and beautiful the weather is. I ran along The Embarcadero gazing out at the bay, the boats, the Bay Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts. Further along, I made my way through the Presidio, barely taking my eyes off the Golden Gate Bridge glowing in the morning sunlight. I got to see how “the other half lives” as I made my way past homes where I couldn’t even afford to rent out the smallest bathroom. And then, at about mile 10, you turn a corner and you are staring at the Sea Cliffs and the beauty that is the Pacific Ocean. I have to tell you all this because I couldn’t have imagined a more amazing way to spend an October morning. Take away all the hard work for just a minute, and all I could think about was how LUCKY I was. I felt such peace and joy that I may never be able to think about that time without tears coming to my eyes. (Please excuse any typing errors from this point on.) I felt so blessed to have the ability (and the goal) to make my way through 13.1 miles of awesome.

You may now know why I don’t have very many specifics for mile five through ten. I was just a happy JP running through beautiful scenery, walking up the hills, empowered by the sisterhood of 22,000 women all there for the same reason. I grabbed water and Gatorade at some of the aid stations. I grabbed an orange slice at yet another station. Life was good. I had to remind the tears of joy and excitement to stay away because OH MY HECK, YOU CAN’T CRY – YOU’LL DEHYDRATE YOURSELF!!! There's no crying in baseball marathons!

Around mile 11, my right foot went a little numb. This used to happen to me A LOT before I learned that you need to buy your running shoes a half to a full size larger than you normally do. But this was the first time it had happened since then. I tried loosening my shoe a little…but the “damage” seemed to have already taken place. It was annoying, but I could deal with it. Even though I could feel the blister forming on one of my toes. (Bummer!)

Right before mile 12, one of my coaches was there to “hang out” with me for about a ¼ of a mile. I was so excited to see her and chat with her for a little bit. It gave me a huge boost. So it made me laugh that as soon as I passed the 12-mile marker I actually thought to myself: “I only have one mile left?!?! Seriously? ONLY ONE MORE MILE? This is GREAT NEWS!!”

Of course, the last mile was the hardest. I was still doing fine, but the numb foot was more than annoying at this point. But I kept on keeping on. And as I started seeing more and more markers lining the way, the tears just started welling up. My throat did that funny thing it does when you’ve got a big cry coming on. And as I crossed that finish line, I heard a loud “MOMMY!” and I turned to see my family, just as I grabbed my little blue box and my “silver metal.” I was done. I did it. I had completed my first half marathon. My first event of any kind.

I laughed. I cried. It was one of the best things I have ever done. I felt JOY. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. I was so excited. I was tired. And dang-it, I was finally hungry!

But now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: How long did it take me? But first, an if then statement for your enjoyment.

IF I had better prepared for the hills, I’m excited to say that THEN my time would’ve been under three hours. Even still, after have only been running since August, I’m still proud that my actual time for my first half marathon was 3:20.

And I didn’t steal anyone else’s bib number.


foxontherun said...

Congrats! Your story has me laughing and crying. I loved reading about your experience. You did awesome and you make me want to put on my shoes right now and go for a run.

cherl said...

Okay, I'm crying now as I think about my own finish lines and races. Isn't finishing an amazing feeling?? Congratulations, JP!

Team Hanni said...

I LOVE reading race stories!!! What a fabulous, and BEAUTIFUL race! Thank you for sharing your awesome experience, and making me cry. Congrats!

Suzie Petunia said...

I am so happy for you! What an amazing accomplishment! A 1/2 Marathon is a huge "first race". You've inspired me - I want to run for a good cause, too. I wish we could have all been at the finish to share in your joy! At least we can here and now. Way to go, JP!

Polliwog said...

JP, I loved reading all about your adventure. Having lived in SF for 4 years, I know those hills are formidable. I didn't take up running until I moved to FLAT Michigan. So many congratulations to you, and thanks for sharing your feelings about it all. That's the best part.

SeanandJess said...

Congratulations! I live in the flat land of Phoenix and had the same exact experience of facing hills when I did my triathlon. My first half-marathon is in February and lucky for me it is in the Phoenix area so no hills. Thanks for sharing!

M&M said...

I already posted on this and for some reason it didn't show up. :-(

Well, I am so so proud of you!! A half marathon is a big undertaking for a first race and you did awesome. What a great accomplishment especially knowing you only began running a few months ago. Hills have been difficult for me also. I had to allow myself to walk at St. George and I am glad I did.
I cried as I read your report. We all have those same emotions. That is why we are all here in this blog, to share in these moments together. The good and the bad. I can't wait to hear how your next races go. You are amazing!

Chelle said...

This was a great race recap! Loved every word, JP. Thank you for letting us share in the joy of your running journey. Congratulations to you for a solid effort and beautiful race.

Annie said...

Hello lovly running mommies! A running friend of mine just informed me of your blog. I spent the last 20 minutes or so reading your entries. How fun to have so much support from other women around the country. I just finished the Baltimore 1/2 marathon and found myself wishing I had girl running buddies. Now I at least have some cyber running buddies! :) How do I get in on the blog? Is there some sort of initiation or rite of passage? :) Could the Marathon Mommy blog leader please e-mail me? Thanks!

Ang said...

I loved your recount of the event! Thanks for sharing! You are awesome! I love that your family was right there waiting for you! Thanks for making me want to get my buns in gear and go run! I needed some inspiration!