Yesterday John and I ran our first half marathon in two and a half years, the Carlsbad Half Marathon in Carlsbad, CA. We’d signed up in August thinking it’d be fun to have a race to look forward to and keep us motivated. Plus it was only a few miles from home. But our training wasn’t what it needed to be and, as late as the day before, I think we both would’ve been relieved if the race had been cancelled.
Knowing that probably wasn’t going to happen, I prayed for God to help me talk myself into being excited and to look forward to it. Like with any other major effort, success comes more from what is going on in the mind. I also sent out a request for encouragement on Facebook. Boy, did my friends come through with flying colors!
By the time we woke up Sunday morning, John and I were both in more of a “we can do this” frame of mind. The last time we ran the City2Surf race in Sydney (14k, about 9 miles), we almost missed it because the buses were already so full of racers that none of them stopped at our stop. So we took to heart the race officials’ admonition to add an extra 30-45 minutes for traffic.
So unnecessary. We were parked not far from the Start Line less than half an hour after we left home! It was cold and drizzly so we decided to sit in the car for another hour while we waited for the full marathoners to start their race. John napped a little and I tried to relax.
At 7:05, we decided it was time to get going. The rain was over and appeared to be leaving for good (it did); that was one thing to be grateful for. Now that it wasn’t dark, we could see the signs along the roadway in front of us. My start group, Wave 6, was right in front of our car! If only we’d brought two sets of keys, I could stay warm in the car for another forty minutes. John sang, “Na-na na-na-na!” while I complained.
We wandered up to John’s start, wave 3 (they break up the runners based on how long the runners expect they’ll need to complete the course), and stood around for a while, watching the other people. Hardly any costumes like in the City2Surf races. No Storm Troopers. No Superman. But we did see three ballerinas and a blue fairy.
About 7:20 we decided we’d better use the bathroom one more time so we didn’t have to stop during the race (which started at 7:45). There were dozens of port-a-potties, but my goodness – the lines! Geez, people, I know you need to wake up but don’t drink Starbucks before you run 13 miles! John and I stretched and kissed each other goodbye and I wandered down to my wave start.
I saw at least two women with “Baby’s First Marathon” on their shirts. Wow. And there were a lot of people raising their hands when the announcers asked who was running their first half marathon. I got to encourage other people that they could do it.
For me, the best part of this race was the actual running. Yes, it was funny to pass a table on someone’s lawn with a sign that said “Free Tequila Shots.” (I have no idea if they were actually giving them away.) And the various musicians set up along the way were nice. And I loved that many of the volunteers dressed up – there was a superheroes water station, a pirates water station, and others that I couldn’t tell what the theme was. (The volunteers were awesome! THANK YOU if any of you read this!!)
But the running was really the best part. For almost the entire race, I was thinking how great it is to run on fairly flat land! Even the hills weren’t anywhere near as bad as where we live and have been training (less than six miles away). The tide was more in than out and the surf pounded with a sound like wet thunder. At one point, I could feel the sea spray hitting my body and I giggled.
In order to beat my best time of 3 hours and a few seconds, I needed to run faster than 13.74 minutes per mile. At mile marker 1, I knew I was running too fast – pretty normal for most runners in a race. Instead of doing my usual-for-the-past-year Galloway Method of running for 3 minutes, walking for 1, running for 3, etc., I was just running. Like I said, it felt good.
At mile marker 2, I told myself that the only person I was competing with was myself and I tried to take it easy. But the part of my brain that was sick of running on hills was too happy to listen. Yesterday, I ran my fastest 4 miles ever!
At mile marker 6, while running up the biggest hill on the course, I did the math in my head and realized that I was going to come in 10-15 minutes early on this race if I could keep up this pace. Holy cow!
Now, the thing is, my normal style is to go slow for the first mile, pick up a little over the next few miles, then slowly slow down as I keep going and run out of energy. But the weather was perfect for me for the best run – cloudy and in the 50s. No sun blazing down on me, not freezing cold, not burning up, perfect.
So I decided to see if I could keep up this pace. I’d have about a 14-minute cushion if I slowed down too much, and I’d still beat my last best time.
I talked to some of my fellow runners, encouraging them and making them laugh. I cheered and clapped with the crowd as the fastest of the marathoners passed us, looping back to the finish line. I waved at a police officer and told him I’d give him anything if he’d give me the encouragement of writing me a speeding ticket, to which he laughed and replied, “You do look like you’re going too fast. You should probably slow down a little.”
Like so many others, I spilled water and Ultima (a drink high in electrolytes with no sugar) down the front of me while I tried to run through the water stations. I happily thanked a volunteer for a Clif Shots chocolate energy gel, then made a terrible face a few moments later when I squirted it into my mouth and realized it was coffee. (Note to self: brown doesn’t always mean chocolate, it might mean mocha. Take the pink one next time!)
I took several pictures during the first half of the race when the scenery wowed me, and while I still had the energy to enjoy it. I put them here in the order I took them, so you could experience the race with me. But on the second half, all I could think about was breaking my record by minutes rather than seconds.
At mile marker 10, I was happy to do easy math since I was getting tired. (The time on my watch divided by ten was how fast I was running.)
At mile marker 11, I suddenly realized that I wanted to throw up. Too many Clif Shots? No, I’d only had three. Not enough water? Maybe. It was still pretty cool out and I hadn’t been drinking nearly what I usually do. But I didn’t want to focus on vomiting because that might induce it, so I wracked my brain for something positive to think about.
Then I remembered something the high school track teacher said in practice. (I didn’t run! Too lazy and no one thought I could do it, so no one encouraged me. I did shot put and discus.) He said, if you don’t feel like you’re going to throw up at the end of a race, you haven’t tried hard enough.
I used to be glad he didn’t expect that of shot putters, but yesterday I clamped onto that thought with all I had. I was doing it! I was putting everything I had into this race and I could tell by how I felt! Yay me!
Now the race was winding back through more residential areas, then the business district and back to the Westfield mall where it began. There were a lot more people out, yelling and cheering. It occurred to me, not for the first time, that this is what it’s like in heaven, only we can’t see it. “…We are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses” cheering us on in our faith. So “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
These people are cheering me on in my short little race of a few hours, but everyone who has gone to heaven before us is cheering us on in our faith, encouraging us not to give up, to keep going, no matter how difficult the race gets. The apostle Paul said that he tries to forget what is behind, pressing forward to toward the goal to win the prize.
I thought about these Bible verses for the next mile or two, but boy it was getting hard to keep going. According to my watch, I could walk the rest of the race from mile 12 and still beat my time. I told myself I could return to the Galloway Method and I’d probably feel better. But I’d walked about 7 or 8 minutes of the last two and a half hours and it hurt my legs more to walk than to run.
I thought about all the great Facebook comments my friends had left the day before. I thought about how good I was going to feel when I saw my new best time. I thought about how the pain would fade in a day or two. I thought about another drink of water, but that made me want to throw up, so I stopped thinking about putting anything at all in my mouth.
Then, just when I could see Mile Marker 13, about a quarter mile from the finish line, a burst of sun beamed through a cloud break, through the trees, and onto the road where I was running. I smiled and shifted up a gear.
I got to the Mile 13 sign, told myself a tenth of a mile is only one block, and I kicked it. I ran as hard as I could for that block! I thrust out my chest as I crossed the finish line, raised my arms in the air and yelled!
Let me explain – we didn’t have timing tags on our shoes for this race, which is what I’m used to. The timing device was on our bib, which was pinned to most people’s shirts, including mine. John and I joked on Saturday that we’d have to cross the finish line sticking our chests out as far as we could in order to get one second closer to a good time. So I did! Probably the only time in my life I’ve stuck my chest out like that in public! LOL!
John – awesome guy that he is – met me at the finish line and hugged me hard. He’d already eaten the snacks and drinks they handed out, changed into a clean shirt, and had his heavy sweatshirt back on. We sat for a few minutes while I tried to drink some fluids. I had a chocolate milk – best chocolate milk I’d ever tasted! – a coconut water – yuck, but it must be good for me, and it’s hydration, so okay – and a water. Got the milk and half the coconut water down before my stomach quietly warned me to stop trying to help.
We walked a little and I stretched a little, and John took me over to a Girl Scout with a wagon full of cookies and bought me Thin Mints to celebrate. (Awesome, isn’t he?) Then he drove home. (I was so glad I drove there and it wasn’t my turn!) When we were driving 70 mph down the 5 freeway to our exit, all I could think about was – I ran this. We’re driving 70 miles an hour and I ran this.
I fell onto the living room floor while John showered, sent a few texts and a Facebook post, and hoped that John would take a loooong shower. I did not want to get up. But I did. And by the time I got out of a hot shower, having soaked my feet in cold water at the end, John had made us our traditional post-race brunch of steak and eggs. And, after living in Sydney and running so many races there, we also had a beer with our steak. (Cider for me.) Best. Meal. Ever.
Then there was a lot of TV watching and groaning when we got up off the couch. I couldn’t stay awake any longer and we were in bed by 7:58pm. We both slept long and well. (Thank you, God!) And this morning I checked our official times:
John – 2:03:58
Kitty – 2:52:45
John ran just over his best time of 1:59:53, and I ran nearly 8 minutes faster than my best time of 3:00:47! I am so excited!!
And that’s our story. I hope part of it made you laugh, and I really hope something about it encouraged you in whatever you’re doing. Maybe you even liked the pictures. But I have to tell you, I am feeling so good about my achievement, I would still be happy if I’m the only one who ever reads this!
Happy Monday, everyone! I hope you’re having as good a week as I am, but without the sore muscles.