Finisher

As you might have noticed, I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Also, my laptop died. Here I sit tonight with my brand spanking new laptop. I love the click of keys.

As I navigated to my blog I looked at the last thing I started to write, the day after the half marathon. I don’t know what I was thinking trying to write anything that day. My brain was positively mush. So here is what I began . . . “I’m at home today surveying the damage of at last two weeks of neglecting my house. Yeesh. Oh, and recovering. Yesterday was the big dance – the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I ran and finished the half marathon. I’ve heard other participants call this race tough, weird, dramatic, interesting . . . it was just straight up crazy. It started with me waking up late. My alarm didn’t go off. I rushed to get ready and thanks to my amazing chauffeur, I made it just in the nick of time…”

Now, I will finish the story!

My running partner and I joked and laughed nervously as we made our way to our corral, and hoped that we were in the right one. It was dark and perfectly cool . . . great racing weather. Then we saw the flicker of lightening illuminate the clouds accompanied with the low rumble of thunder directly followed by the first delay announcement. A collective sigh swept across the expanse of jittery runners. No matter though!  One little delay wouldn’t hurt. We’d be starting just a teensy bit late. A teensy bit late had come and gone more than an hour and several delay announcements later. The crowd was irritable, sweaty, damp and thirsty. I can honestly say I was willing to risk being struck by lightening as long as I could just run the danged race.

By the time we started, it was unbearably humid, and  I would soon find out just what humidity would do to my poor body. Three miles in I was crazy thirsty, and sweating profusely. Five miles in, we’d lost sight of the pacer group as we got caught up at a congested water station.  Eight miles in I was badly dehydrated and struggling with cramps in my calves. I tricked my partner into going ahead without me. While it killed me to walk, it killed me even more to see her not run her first big race.

At mile 9 I was miserable and sad. My training had gone so well. I had worked so hard, for it to end like this?  Just as I was ready to cry I looked up and saw the face of the man I had just begun dating. He was waiting on the corner in his church clothes, grinning from ear to ear. I gave him the sweatiest, most disgusting hug of his life (which he argues was also his best hug ever!) Truthfully, seeing him there to cheer me on was better than an energy gel. Only four miles to go!

I don’t remember much about those last four miles except a lot of pain. My feet were so swollen they felt like they were trying to escape my shoes. The cramps in my legs were excruciating, and I had taken in so much water I was sloshing. I vaguely remember crossing the finish line (and glimpsing my family screaming like crazy people to my right!). I got my medal, wandered through the finishers area, found my partner, said a few expletives and stumbled to the medical tent. Then I sprawled out on the concrete for an hour with my family standing around me.

Friends, this race messed with me. It pushed me physically, sure, but mentally and spiritually, it hurt. It’s taken me literal months to bounce back. It’s forced me to accept some things about myself – okay, chiefly that humidity and I do not mix. It doesn’t make me a weak runner or mean that I am in poor health. It means that if it’s humid, I better not push so hard or take my butt to the YMCA. And that’s okay. I have also realized that I often do expect way too much of myself. The truth of the matter is that most everyone I talked to or read about felt that this year’s race was miserable and exceptionally tough. Why am I so hard on myself for finishing 15 minutes slower than I had planned?

So I was slower than I had hoped I would be. I never stopped. I finished. While I don’t know that I will be doing any more half marathons in the near future, I do know that what was my worst race might have very well been my best race. Perspective is golden. I have run three 5Ks since then with a few races including a 10K and a marathon relay leg on the horizon. I think my new motto will be, “I may not be fast, but I finish!”

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