Got your attention right? Well ease up turbo….it’s not that kind of running naked. Oh no – it’s MUCH WORSE! If you are a runner, you will understand that we are a different breed of people. We have very set routines that can even be classified at OCD. Some of us (I am so raising my hand here) have a set schedule and checklist that must be completed prior to a race. We have our gear that we rely on and if even one small item is missing, it can (in our minds) destroy our entire run. Our run feels “wrong” and without our “things” it’s almost like we are running naked. Before I get into my experience…here’s a little back story.
3 months to the day of me running Grandma’s Half Marathon, I broke my left foot. At the time, there was a huge question of whether or not I would even be running the race. But, I was bound and determined to be back in running shape and with the help of my awesome docs, at week 6 I was given the ok to start easing my way back into running. That left me with about 5 weeks to get my gimpy butt into half marathon shape. No pressure there. Thank God, my return to running was pretty seamless (except for the nasty pimp limp that I developed in das boot). I had very little pain, the miles came easy and it was like I had never stopped. But that was the physical part. Mentally, I was a disaster. I couldn’t find my joy in running. Something that I once loved and looked forward to, became something I dreaded. I kept putting on a happy face and logging the miles because I was lucky to be running again and it was what I yearned to do for the 4 weeks I was in a boot. I should have been happy, right? Nope, I was miserable, tired from all of the training and I couldn’t get that negative monkey off my back. And knowing how much I prayed that God would heal me and get me back to running just a few short weeks ago and now I hated it, left me feeling guilty. And the week of the race I tried so many times to back out. But, I knew I would only be angry and disappointed in myself if I “quit”, so I headed off to Duluth with my Negative Nancy Pants on and one very annoyed hubby in the driver seat (sorry Luke for everything I said and did the past 2 weeks).
Fast forward to race day….
3:55 am the alarm went off and I really questioned what the hell I was doing. I’m not sure what happened between 3:55 and 4:30am, but somehow I ended up on a bus headed out to the middle of nowhere. I had like 4 hours to fill (if you have ever rode the half marathon bus you will understand) so I started my prerace check list
Ipod – check
Earbuds – check
Gum – check
Hammer Gel – check
Running Pouch – check
Put all of these items in the cool new pouch I purchased at the expo – check
Phone – check
Drop bag – check
Extra Hammer gel and gum- how did that get in there? Ok, check.
Put it all back in my bag – check
I got off the bus and took in the view. At that moment I forgot just how much I didn’t want to do the race and I actually got a little excited. The view from the drop off point is so incredible
I got in the LONG porta potty line and started digging through my bag to get my the pouch with all of my essentials and I couldn’t find the the little bugger. I started to get annoyed, so I dumped my bag out on the road and IT. WASN’T. IN. THERE. IT WAS GONE. I LEFT IT ON THE BUS!!!!! SHIIIIIIIIITTTTT!!!!! I actually stared to have a panic attack. I had not run a race without music since 2008 when it was “illegal” to run wearing headphones (man I feel old). I, like most runners, rely on music to get me through a race. Music determines my pace, pushes me through the tough times and keeps my head clear and not focused on the challenge. The next thing I knew, a little voice in my head (that sounded a lot like a dear friend of mine) said “oh girl, there is a reason this happened – what are you supposed to learn from this?” At first I thought I was going coo-coo for cocoa puffs but then I took a deep breath and accepted that there was nothing I could do. I had no choice but to run the race without my music. What was I going to do? Walk home? Thank God, I had the extra gum and hammer gel in my bag – so there was a bright side to all of that. I decided that I had a choice on how I would react to my situation and my choice was to listen to the voice, run the race without being a huge Sally and punch said friend in the nose the next time I saw her.
I put my big girl pants on and when the gun went off, I did what I had to do. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving. I was so nervous. How was I going to push myself? What would I do to keep myself focused? How would I maintain a positive attitude without someone in my ear telling me not to quit (the theme of my playlist)? At mile 2, I got my answer in the form of Elvis. Some guy, dressed as Elvis, was standing on the side of the road blasting all of Elvis’s hits and shaking his hips. A few steps later a family had set up their own private water station for the runners and a few steps after that a group of people were standing on the side of the road cheering on the runners with signs. And this happened for the next 11.1 miles. And that was it! That was what I was supposed to learn – to experience a race. A running is just putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your end point, but a race is something different. It’s the beauty of unfamiliar territory. It’s the strangers encouraging you to do your best. It’s the people who care for you along your journey. It’s the runners who are a part of your “tribe” for the day. It’s the experience – and it’s one that only YOU can have. And on Saturday, God decided it was what I needed. Of all of the races that I have done, I hadn’t really been in the experience of the race. I came, I saw, I ran and that was it. Yes, I was thankful for the volunteers and the people who came out to cheer on the racers, but I never HAD TO rely on them to carry me through a race. I now have a GREATER appreciation and gratitude for anyone who comes out to cheer on the racers. And had I had my music, I would have missed all of that.
The other lesson that I was about to learn was that I found my joy in running again. And I found it in “the suck” of the race.
The Suck: ie the hardest part of the race where you want to quit, you think you are going to die, your whole body feels like you are running in mud and you contemplate sawing your own legs off with your ear bud chord just to make the pain stop
At mile 11, I hit the downtown Duluth area and I was so over it. I felt like I wasn’t even moving, but I was propelling forward so I knew my legs had to be doing something. I looked down at my watch and I saw that I was on track to beating my previous Grandmas time if I picked up the pace a bit. I won’t go into the details, but those last 2.1 miles were awful. It was beyond suckage. I was cold despite the heat, I was shaking and I had to do everything in my power to not stop and puke. And with all of the damn turns, I was convinced that the finish was “just around that corner”. And when I crossed the finish line, my first thought after I realized I wasn’t dead was “I just fucking killed that”. And I was so proud of the effort I was able to put into a race when I was completely out of my comfort zone. Everything in me didn’t want to do the race, everything in me wanted to quit when I hit a road bum and everything in me wanted to quit when it got really hard. But I didn’t. And when they placed the medal on my neck I had a huge wave of pride knowing I earned it. I gave it my all, left every ounce of my energy on that course and I walked away loving every minute of it.
Each race creates memories. Whether the memories are with you for a life time or simply flitter away a few days later, they are a moments that only you experienced. And with that experience, you have the opportunity to learn. You learn about yourself, what you are capable of and how you can grow from those moments. The memories are ones that you can keep to yourself or ones that you can share with the world. I remember when I posted a blog about how I decided to not let life pass me by while I had a broken foot so one day I could look back and say “Remember when I broke my foot and I still did…” Well, this will be one of the many that I will be able to add to that list. I would be proud to share my story of “The Day I Ran Grandma’s Half In Silence And Had To Actually Be In My Own Head For 2 Hours” to anyone who is up for a great horror story.
Some things can only be experienced to be fully learned
UPDATE: I am officially THE BIGGEST fan of Voyager Bus Company in Duluth. They found the pouch with my ipod and earbuds and are shipping it back to me. OH! My faith in humanity has been restored.