So it’s official. #IAMABADASS.
At least, that’s what my finisher medal reads. I didn’t feel like much of a badass. I don’t feel much of anything really. Except for my legs. Those I FEEL.
* * * * *
Last year, I signed up and paid for a marathon I dropped out of two months before it started. It’s been a vicious monkey on my back ever since, continually screeching about failure, mediocrity, and giving up.
This year, I signed up for (and finished, thank you) a half-marathon tagged, “The hottest, hilliest half marathon in Texas.” The monkey was finally off my back. Sorta.
Early in the run, it was easy. I was swept up with all the other runners, grooving to a great playlist, actually having to hold back and pace myself. I ripped that cursed monkey off my back and was handily thrashing that monkey and everything it represented.
Then the third hill came. And the fourth. And, crap, I thought I knew the route, but we ran through neighborhoods with hills I didn’t know existed. Then came mile eight and nine and about mile ten things started to get ugly.
I would like to say I dug deep, got inspired, and persevered with an amazing made-for-Hollywood comeback. But no. Not only was I not shaking that monkey, I was getting pounded.
There were a lot of things motivating me to finish. Fear of failure, shame, not letting my kids down, and brute stubbornness all loomed large in my mind. But during my worst moments, the thing that motivated me the most and kept me pushing forward was the simple fact that the race route was the shortest distance back to my car.
I finished though and don’t care how ugly it was. I set a goal, trained for it, and accomplished it. Not only have I now done a half-marathon, but I’m pretty fired up about doing another.
So what did I learn from my first half-marathon?
- All it took was a drive home and trip up the stairs to my bedroom to realize the two worst decisions in my life were: 1. buying a car with a manual transmission and a stiff clutch, and 2. owning a house with stairs.
- Calories are important. Really, really important after about 90 minutes of running. No, seriously.
- I carried two bandanas to use as sweat rags. I needed at least two more.
- My running shoes have a really wide toe box and my feet swelled to take up every last millimeter of space. Thank goodness I wasn’t wearing regular shoes.
- Everyone involved, from the organizers and volunteers to the runners to the police officers directing traffic, was super friendly and encouraging. It makes a difference. Thank you.
- Why is it that those ahead of me flowed along with an effortless, almost fluid gait and ran through the Texas heat without a drop of sweat? Six miles in and I looked like a drowned rat.
- At mile eleven, when I was suffering the most, I was passed by several senior citizens whom I hadn’t seen since the start. Passed isn’t the right word. Compared to my living dead zombie stagger, their power walking was a full on sprint. Humbling and inspiring at the same time. Fit 25 year olds are a dime a dozen, but fit 75 year olds deserve serious respect.
- Speaking of those with a few years on me, I once heard or read the observation that there are no old, fat people. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this during the race. Especially as I seem to be in a multi-year trend of getting older and fatter.
- The advice I’d heard from an ultra-marathoner was to not get overwhelmed by the total distance and just think about the distance to the next water stop (and repeat until the end). Good advice, but even that perspective was hard to keep in mind when even the next few hundred yards seemed challenging.
- Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Truth. The de-evolution and shattering of my plan went from maintaining a certain pace to watching my heart rate to running/walking based on landmarks to just walking to running two orange road cones and walking one for the last mile.
- You’ve heard of delayed gratification? Running in the event was delayed suffering. Every time I chose to sleep in instead of go on a training run, it just made me a little worse than I could have been and deferred the pain payment until later. There were a whole lot of pain payments that came due all at once.
- This was fun. I need to do it again.