This past Sunday I ran in my very first half marathon! It was an incredibly, gorgeous sunny morning in Vancouver. My family and I pulled up in our car to crowds of runners who looked very élite, running around in circles and stretching. I must say that seeing all the élite runners, running around and stretching was quite intimidating. Was I supposed to run, before the run? Should I have been there an hour early to jog around in circles to warm up my muscles? I had no idea, and seeing these very ready runners were giving my already nervous stomach, the throw up feeling.
My husband and my girls were in the car with me. As I sat in the passenger seat my husband kept telling me to drink my water, and he forced me to eat a hard-boiled egg. I’m not usually a big breakfast person, and because my stomach was turning so much, it made it hard for me to eat. I forced the stinky, hard-boiled egg down my throat, and washed down the dry taste of the egg yolk with my bottled water. My husband kept patting my leg, reassuring me I was going to do awesome and my middle daughter kept telling me I was crazy for running so far. My youngest asked me if I was going to win the race, and in that moment I almost spit out my water. Win? My god… I had no idea if I was even going to make it. I told her it wasn’t a winning race. I explained that mommy was running in a fun race, at my speed, and maybe one day, she could do one with me.
We drove around trying to find a spot to park, then we saw my friend and her family waving us down. We found a parking spot directly behind their car. We got out of the car, and said our hello. The butterflies in my stomach started to subside when I was in my friends presence. I knew she would guide me along, and push me to do my best. After all, that’s what she was doing for me the last few weeks of our training. My husband pulled out our big Canon camera (which we haven’t used in years) and asked if my girlfriend and I wanted a picture before the run. My friend chuckled at my husband and replied, “Look at you bringing the big, fancy camera to snap photos of your wife.” I smiled, as I thought about how cute it was that he was so excited for me. My girlfriend and I said our goodbyes to our families and we jogged (lightly) to the bathroom line-up( which was extremely long).
While we waited in the line-up, I nervously did the pee-pee dance. Behind us, were two women wearing garbage bags over their clothes. I asked, if they were running with them on, and they laughed and said, they were advertising for Glad garbage bags. I assumed they were joking and chuckled along. As I waited in line, I began to regret chugging a Vega protein energy smoothie, two bottles of water, and a full coffee. I was told to stay hydrated and energized! On the positive side, I knew I wouldn’t feel de-hydrated.
After our quick pee, my girlfriend and I walked towards the thousands of runners waiting at the start line. We found relief in seeing so many ages running in the race. There were young, old and every age in between. We took a quick selfie, tried to stretch one last time (without kicking the people behind us) and then… we were off!!!!
To my right and my left, were cheerful, by standers, yelling and wishing everyone the best of luck. I looked ahead of me at the crowd of runners, and then behind me. This was it. This was the race. And I was running in it. There was no turning back now.
The first 5 km my muscles felt a bit tight, and then once we hit 6 or 7 km my body stopped feeling them cramp. Perhaps it was mind, which began to merely focus on beauty, that took away from the mild muscle tension my body was feeling. For the next 10 km my mind was focused on all the different types of people I was running along. There was so much beauty in their determination, and endurance. There was beauty in the morning fog, as I looked out at the ocean. Beauty in the sound of my breath as I took deep breaths in and then out. There was the beauty of my friend, who looked back at me now and then making sure I was o.k. Beauty of the volunteers standing on the sidelines ringing bells and cheering us on. Beauty in the sunshine, reflecting off the ocean. Beauty all over the city that I was feeling so unbelievably blessed to call home. In fact, my endorphins felt like they were running faster than my legs, until… I felt like I had to pee (again).
With this in mind ( trying to hold my pee) I found it difficult to focus on the beauty that surrounded me. All I could think about was not peeing my pants! That being said, I told my friend that unfortunately, I was going to have to stop and go to the bathroom, but only if we saw one along the route. I told her there was no way I was going to go off route, I would rather pee in pants. Fortunately, as we passed second beach, I remembered they had bathrooms. I ran in as quick as I could, did my thing, and ran back out. My girlfriend told me we were at our home stretch with 6 Km to go! She encouraged me to give it my all, and that’s what I did. With an empty bladder, I felt like I was five pounds lighter, ready to conquer the race.
I’m not going to lie, the last 6 km was tough! As I pushed through, I thought of my family waiting at the finish line, cheering me on. I thought about the distance I already ran, looking back at how far I had come. I thought about what type of yummy meal I was going to eat after I immersed my aching body in a hot bath. I thought about my friend in front of me, and how grateful I was to have her running the race with me. I held back tears as I pictured my proud husband, with the big Canon camera, waiting for me. I held back tears, thinking about my daughters, and how although they may not be able to understand why I would even want to run so far, I knew that I was leading by example to them, that you can truly do the things you set your mind to.
My girlfriend and I grabbed one another’s sweaty, shaky hands, immediately upon seeing the finish line. We lifted our hands up and sprinted with one another across that line. After we crossed, my heart was racing, I was a sweaty mess, and my body felt shaky and heavy. But my heart… my heart felt full.
In essence, not one part of running and training for the half marathon, had anything to do with my exterior. It wasn’t a mission to lose weight, tone my body, or get sculpted abs. It was about setting a goal, and accomplishing it. It was about doing something I thought I could never do. It was about fighting the inner critic in my mind, that would tell me to give up. Although, I’m certain physically there were many benefits. Nevertheless, the biggest benefit of all, was the it way it made me feel on the inside.