The anticipation was high and the excitement was almost exploding.
Somehow, I managed to sleep, though.
4 a.m.: Sunday morning. I went through my morning rituals: a cup of coffee. A bagel with peanut butter. Water. And more water. I kept thinking "Is this really happening? I am about to run a half marathon!"
Butterflies consumed my stomach, but I was very excited and ready to go. Everyone loaded into the car, including my 2 sleepy eyed kids, as we drove off to the start line. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was ready. Looking back, one of my silliest fears was being afraid I'd get lost. I was afraid I'd be so slow that I wouldn't know where the miles were and where to turn. (Now I've done so many races that thought doesn't even cross my mind. ) There was drizzle rain in the air. Runners were everywhere. Music was loud. Port-a-potties took up blocks of Cincinnati streets. As I found a place to call my stretch and start area, my family found a place near the start line.
A Kanye West song blared as the start gun went off. I couldn't stop smiling. I was really doing this! I won't take you through every detail of the race, but it was an amazing experience for me. There is never another "first race". A few of the memorable moments for me through the race were these:
-By mile 2, I really had to go to the bathroom. I didn't want to stop, though. However, by mile 4 I really needed to. I wasn't a seasoned runner to use the side roads, as some of them did. (I'm still not one to do that in a race). Anyway, I found one and stopped. The blooper of the moment: no toilet paper. Oh well. It is what it is.... I define that moment as one of the few in becoming a true runner, when things like that don't totally stop you.
-Mile 5(ish). : My family was on the sidelines with signs and screaming my name! I was grinning like a child. I didn't expect to see them until the finish, and their cheering gave me a new push. Soon after that I met up with another runner who was walking, and I fell in stride with her. She was sick. And she was still out there. I was inspired. She walk/ran with me for about 4 miles (up the big hill of the race) and then she took off on her own. I don't remember her name, but I will never forget her encouragement to me in that race.
- The finish line: I wanted to find my family, but it was packed along the lines. Somehow, though, in the midst of all that, they'd found their place on a rooftop, and they were hollering my name. Somehow, I was able to zone out the crowd to hear them, and the emotions rolled in. I was about to cross the finish line. My first race. My first half marathon. My love growing deeper for running. I held up 3 fingers to my husband up there: I was finishing in just under 3 hours. I was completing my goal.
The story goes on, but it was a celebration moment, and a day I won't forget. I haven't stopped running since. The bad days happen, but the good ones do, too. I have run several half marathons (my favorite distance), I have done many 5K's, and I even got crazy enough to do a full marathon. And I keep going...
One of my memories of my mom is her avid interest and encouragement in all my races and my running. I clearly remember her saying, more than once, "Of all my children, I can't get over the fact that you are the one running races. You are my runner. I'm proud of you. " She'd shake her head, laugh, and hug me and tell me how proud she was of me. (Remember previous post, as to the fact that I was a drama nerd and a band geek, NOT a runner!)
Running has helped me through some of my worst moments in life, like when my mom was dying of cancer. There were days I ran through tears and anger and pain, but those runs were so cleansing. Those runs helped me to clear my head and keep going.
Running has bred in me new dreams. I have been able to take my passion for running and create a 5K in memory of mom to raise scholarship funds. I have developed new passions of hosting a racing event to spur on my mom's memory and bring glory to God through it.
Running has helped me build a sense of confidence I never had before. I do not have, nor will I ever have, the typical marathon runners body. A person wouldn't look at me and say "Oh, she's a runner." But a person can talk with me and know that I am. Because it's about the heart. Running starts in the heart. Running starts in the mind. And those 2 combinations pack a powerful punch.
And on that note....it's past my running start time, so I am off for a few miles.