I thought about giving up the minute I started. I saw the turn for the 5K racers and I almost took it. I was convinced at the second mile marker there was no way I was going to make it to 13.1. By mile 2.5 I was in the back of the pack and already feeling like I had nothing left, my legs were already screaming, my lower back was already aching, my lungs were already about to explode and I was wondering what in the world I was thinking when I decided to run a half marathon. The mind is a powerful thing, and for the fist 4 miles, mine was in control of my run.
At mile 4 I knew I had single digit miles left to run, I was nearing the halfway point, and my pace, while I felt awful, was fairly spot on for where it usually is. I just kept telling myself to keep moving and kept saying out loud to myself, the only one you’re racing is yourself. You just have to finish.
My husband, my kids, my mother in law and my sister in law were parked right around the 1 mile/12 mile marker (it was an out and back race). At mile 4.5-5 I was praying I could see there faces to encourage me to keep moving. That was when runners who had already made it to the turn around started passing me. While generally during a race I get discouraged to be passed by returning runners so early on, it was amazing. It was the encouragement I needed. There were some runners who smiled, some who offered a wave, others words of encouragement, some high fives; whenever I passed another person, I ran a little faster. While the turning point was still over a mile away, this was the turning point for me. I fought back tears with each person that passed, not because I was in last place, but because I knew then I was going to finish.
The volunteers working this event were amazing as well offering applause and encouragement. I didn’t feel like they were put out by me slowly bringing up the rear. Even as they passed me to go from station to station to pack up (they’d pack up after I passed), they would applaud out the window.
From mile 10 on I was struggling. I had trained to 10 miles. I planned to train further but then I had sick kids followed by a sinus infection and it just didn’t happen for me. It was obvious looking at my splits I hadn’t gotten past 10 in training. I was fairly consistent with times until that point. I dropped off 1 minute from 10-11 another from 11-12, and another from 12-13. I wanted to walk, I wanted to cry, I wanted to be done. Every inch of my body hurt. And then across the way I saw my boys. There were 2 minute long stretches I walked and when I saw them I pushed through tears and the pain so they would not see me walk or see me cry. I yelled to my husband to come with me for a few minutes and he did. He walked next to me while I ran (that’s how slow I was moving at this point). I knew I was only a mile away, but that mile seemed impossible.
When he left me to go back to the car so he could drive ahead to the finish line, I cried again, knowing I was going to make it. No matter what, I had come 12 miles and I was going to get to 13.1. I smiled at them as they drove past me yelling encouragement out the window.
After they drove off is when I met my angel in a kilt. He had passed me on his way back probably somewhere around the 5 mile marker. This man with paint on his face and a feather in his beard ran towards me and asked if he could accompany me to the finish. I told him that was fine and spent the last half mile chatting a little and moving faster than I had in the last 3 miles. He distracted me from the pain I was feeling and I might have even smiled a little.
My angel, Kip!
When we rounded the corner and saw the finish, Kip assured me I was going to make it in under 3 hours and that’s when I gave it the last bit of gas I had in me and I finished strong.
I was so glad to be done and at the same time, in aw of the fact that I had finished. I cried, I laughed, I cramped… It was amazing.
I posted on the half marathon group Facebook page about my experience and thanked everyone for their support and this was my favorite response: “Congratulations!!! As has been said already, you did not finish last. You finished ahead of everyone who didn’t put the effort in to accomplishing what you just accomplished. I actually mentioned you to my friend on the ride home. I said, “When I passed the woman at the back of the pack she looked so happy and she gave me an encouraging smile.” It was honestly the highlight of my run. Good for you and thank you!”
Later that night when I checked the official race results expecting to see my name listed last (which was OK with me as I was racing with myself) I teared up with I saw Kip, my angel in a kilt listed last. He finished 4 seconds behind me. He could have been done long before that but he waited at it meant so much to me.
I am more than proud of what I accomplished and more than a little amazed at what my body has done over these last 2 years. 2 years ago I was that person who didn’t put in the effort. I was sad, morbidly obese and I couldn’t walk around the grocery store let alone run a half marathon. I did this! All on my own. I had to push myself far outside of my comfort level, push through the pain and the mental and physical exhaustion and get it done and I did.
My ultimate goal of a marathon is still out there and I will get there, maybe next year or even the year after but for now it’s time for some much needed rest and a break and some time to be proud of what I have accomplished. I look forward to my next half marathon and finishing in less than the 2:55 it took me yesterday.