I did something really stupid.
I ran a half marathon.
For which I had not trained.
I don’t mean I just didn’t get in any tempo runs or mile repeats or whatever. I mean my longest “long run” was 5 miles. Also, my average weekly mileage was 5 miles. So basically I’d been going for a 5-mile run once a week for the past 8 weeks. That means this half marathon was 13.1 miles of pure crazy, y’all.
Back in November-ish, when I registered, the plan had been to give myself something to train for and set myself up to feel like complete awesomeness on my 35th birthday.
As described above, that didn’t really pan out, but my competitive nature still kicked in and said, “Do it. You can gut this out. Get out there. This thing CAN’T HOLD YOU DOWN. YOU’RE ARUNNERDAMMIT.”
That kind of self-talk can only lead to good things, right?
Fast forward to race morning. My alarm goes off. I don’t remember why my alarm is going off so early on a Saturday morning. I hit snooze, drowsily hoping I’ll know what’s going on when it goes off again.
Alarm goes off again. I bolt upright in bed, remembering: RACE. This thought is not met with joy.
Stumbling into the bathroom, I find a note from my husband written in shaving cream across the bathroom mirror. “Good luck. Love u.” My first thought is, “Seriously, I JUST cleaned that damn mirror. I am not cleaning that up.” Then I decide it was thoughtful and I’m a jerk.
I go through an abbreviated version of my race-morning routine. The abbreviated version because, typically, hitting snooze is not included in the routine and I’m suddenly panicked because I don’t know how to get to where I need to park uptown and why did I hit snooze I NEED THOSE NINE MINUTES BAAAAACK.
I grab my race bib & a cup of coffee, and run out the door.
I get three minutes away from my house and realize I’m starving and about to run a half marathon on a glass of water and a cup of coffee.
So, naturally, I go through the McDonald’s Drive Thru. Yes, really.
I eat a Bacon, Egg, & Cheese on my way to the race. Like a boss.
My ninja-like navigation skillz lead me successfully around the correct parking garage three times and then into a different parking garage and then straight to the (3/4-mile-long) line of women waiting to use the bathroom.
Next stop: the starting line. This race doesn’t have designated pacing groups, and the half-marathon start is combined with the 5K start. So determining similarly-paced runners can be tricky. Left to my own devices, I resort to a tried and true method: look at people and make judgements about their fitness level based on their appearance.
The man with the teeny shorts, spindly legs, and Garmin the size of his head?
Too fast for me.
The woman in the compression socks and double braids with ice in her veins?
Too fast for me.
I wisely choose to start near the big man wearing jeans.
The gun goes off. Eleven minutes later, I cross the starting line.
The next 5 miles are quite delightful. Of course they are. I run 5 miles every week.
Miles 6, 7, & 8 are less delightful, but I’m still moving, spurred along by the cheers and homemade signs of
my fans the people who know the people around me.
In the “Homemade Signs That Made Me Smile Through the Pain” Contest, an adorable pair of 6-7-year-old boys win 1st place with:
HURRY MOMMY! DAD DIDN’T FEED US.
Second place goes to:
SMILE IF YOU’RE NOT WEARING UNDERWEAR
(Although I actually am wearing underwear, so I quickly turn my smile into a frown for the sake of accuracy.)
Third place belongs to:
RUN YOUR BUTT OFF!!! Oh wait, you don’t have one.
And honorable mention goes to:
GOOD JOB YOU’RE BEATING ALL THE PEOPLE BEHIND YOU
The reason the last one only receives an honorable mention is I can only smile for a moment before I’m paranoid that THERE IS NO ONE BEHIND ME. I am in last place, aren’t I?
But I reach mile 9, and something wonderful happens. My legs go numb.
I run the next mile or so in a zombie-like state, thinking, “Just get to 10 before you walk.”
I pass the 10-mile mark, the numbness fades, and the pain rolls in with a vengeance. My competitive side suddenly barks, “Suck it up! You DON’T WALK IN A RACE!”
My realistic side says, “Excuse me? May I speak? You are not, in fact, racing. You had a Bacon, Egg, & Cheese for breakfast, and you are shuffling. You can walk faster than you are currently running.”
Fellow competitors shuffle past. (I wasn’t in last place!) I feel respect for them. They’ve most likely worked hard to do what they’re doing. I don’t quite know what to call what I’m doing.
Through miles 10-12, I intersperse 3-4 walk breaks amid my shuffle-running, and with a mile to go, I find new strength. Due in small part to my strong desire for the whole thing to be over already, and in large part to the woman on the sidewalk holding the neon green sign declaring, “YOU CAN.”
I make the last turn, and the final quarter mile lies before me. At that very moment, heaven opens and the angels start singing “Can’t Hold Us.” Okay, maybe it’s Macklemore on my playlist, but whatever. It’s a gift from the good Lord, and I receive it.
I truck it across the finish line like the man in jeans is chasing me. (Kind of fast, but not really.) Before I even know what has happened, I’m holding a finisher’s medal and a bottle of PowerAde.
I wish I had a huge spiritual epiphany to share about this experience. But sometimes the only epiphany He gives me is, “It’s really stupid to not train for a half marathon and then run it anyway. But good job. Kind of.”
Well, amen to that. Here’s to learning lessons the hard way. And Advil. Lots and lots of Advil.