[Note: I promised myself I’d write a blog post at the very end of May 21st–the day that I ran my first half-marathon. Nothing can really capture all the feels than writing them out at the very moment you’re feeling them. So here goes…midnight…many celebratory drinks later…and one early flight back out west in the morning.]
I don’t know how to describe today other than with one simple word: special. I laughed, I cried, I cursed everything in sight, I whined like a baby, I breathed deep, I smiled a ton, and my heart beamed like a Care Bear as each one of you cheered me on. It was just “special.”
This past January, my friend, “L,” who is also my ex-boyfriend (circa 2004), told me he was going to run one half-marathon a month in 2016. I let him know that was insane, but yeah, sure, awesome. Good for him. Go L! Then the celebration parade screeched to a halt when he asked, “Do you want to run one with me?”
As quickly as I wanted to say “no,” I knew the answer had to be “yes.” Why? Well, for one..Fi says yes. I did this to myself. For two, running is probably one of my absolute least favorite things to do. I made a pact with myself at the ripe age of six–when my kickball team nicknamed me “Turtle”–that I would never, ever, EVER run a race. Fast forward to now, in my time of change and exploration and finding myself, I’m ticking off my fears one by one. Ugh. Further, how crazy would it be to run my first half-marathon with my ex-boyfriend? Yep, gotta do it for the story. Then I asked, “Want to run the Brooklyn Half?”
Since January, I’ve run about 250 miles, gone on 60 runs, and maintained an average pace of 9:26 min/mile. I’ve run through Brooklyn, Manhattan, Paris, Amsterdam, LA, San Francisco, Indio and probably some other places I can’t remember. I’ve switched out Nike shoes a couple of times, gone to physical therapy for shin splints, bought all sorts of running gear from my fanny pack to my special electrolyte salt to my new favorite pink hat. And almost every day since the day I started training, I would text L.
- “L, if my hip hurts really bad, should I stop?”
- “How often should I be running because the Nike app wants me to run 1 million miles this week?”
- “I’m over this running mess. Now what?”
- “What should I be eating?”
And every single time, I’d get a helpful, thoughtful, patient response. He was the ultimate coach. The ultimate guide.
To get in team mode, while he was running races 1, 2, 3, 4 of the year, I ran on those days, too. And as the race approached, I began to get excited about the big day. I felt ready-ish. I was stoked to see him and tackle this thing together. Go team.
Let me back up a bit. L and I didn’t end well in 2004. We were young and totally not ready for what we were getting into. Mistakes were made and we parted ways. We went a couple of years without any contact and then he would reach out maybe once a year after that. I wasn’t always the warmest. But each year, I began to let it all go. By last year, we were friends again.
Ok, so back to now. Two days before the half, I got very sick. I was devastated. I’ve put in so much work and I couldn’t even leave my bed to do my final training runs. In fact, I could hardly walk. “L! What do I do?!” He told me to hydrate, rest, go to the doctor and…DO NOT RUN. (He knew I was trying to figure out how to get a run in before the race. I’m sneaky like that.) I went to the doctor where it was confirmed: I had a sinus infection. I slept for almost 48 hours–pretty much right up until this morning.
L flew in from Chicago last night and we met for a pasta dinner. He let me know I looked like hell. He also told me that this race was going to be his last until September. My heart dropped. What about one race a month? This means that this one is your last one for a while. This means that…gasp…I’ll have to perform. “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Queen started playing in my head.
This morning, the day of the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, I didn’t feel so hot. But, I felt ready. We got to the corral and he walked me through it. “Don’t run yet.” “Easy here.” “Let’s pick up the pace.” All that was good until the dreaded Prospect Park hill at mile 5. I had been practicing this terrible hill for months, but today, it seemed more intense than ever. Enter the mental and physical breakdown.
I tried so hard to get out of my head. I was sick. Dizzy at times. Angry. Experiencing pains and discomfort I had never felt before. My legs felt like boulders. I wanted to leave it all behind and give up. But L never left my side. He encouraged me to drink Gatorade when I didn’t want to. He slowed down when I needed to. He helped me focus when I wanted to pass out. He pushed me to do this run for me.
Near the end of the race, he backed up and ran just a little behind me. It was my turn to lead the way. That was the moment I felt like I could feel my legs again and feel my power. It was the moment I remembered this really was for me. Not anyone else. No need to perform any certain way. And then, there it was: the finish line. That beautiful sweet banner of a finish line. We sped up a bit and crossed it together. Side by side. 13.1 miles. Done.
No one tells you about the post-marathon feels. The excitement of doing something so extraordinary. The thrill of working that hard on something and having your friends and family cheer you on the whole time. No one tells you about the sadness that comes when it’s all over. The desire to do it again…but better next time. I have all those feels just sitting here…right here.
Whatever the case, I’m beyond thankful I said “yes” to doing something that will forever hold a special place in my heart. I learned so much about life through these runs. I learned about the importance of pacing, consistency, being honest about how you feel and forgiving yourself for feeling that way. I faced my challenges, frustrations, confusions during my runs. Me and the road would duke out my exhaustion, embarrassments, my sadness. We’d celebrate my successes, that long-awaited raise, my happiness. I learned what it means to keep on going despite the pain. Because you’ll get there. You’ll totally get there. Just gotta keep moving forward. One foot in front of the other.
And L, I have no words. I’m not sure I know anyone who would do what you did for me today. Your commitment to me these past six months has shown me how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown. I feel so grateful to know someone as genuine and thoughtful as you–and to have you back in my life. I mean it when I say it, M is incredibly blessed to have you to look up to each day. And…congrats on another half-marathon finish; I’ll be cheering for you before, during and after all the other runs you do. You’ve got this.
Now what? Well, yes, I’m sad it’s all over. I’m still tearing up as I read all of your messages on Facebook. I’m going to miss having that ultimate coach guiding me all the way up to the big day. And I really don’t know what’s next. Another race? Eh, I don’t know…
Whether I keep running or not, I can go to sleep tonight knowing I truly accomplished something great. I set out to do this six months ago and I did it. If I never run again, I can still check that box and lovingly gaze at my medal. If I keep running, I promise to let myself “be” and enjoy the ride. Forget the times and what the Nike app says I should do. Forget how fast I think I should be and how many miles that guy ran yesterday. It’s just me and the road. That’s all that matters. Like L said, “DO enjoy every mile and DO smile. The finish line is always a stride closer.”
Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart for all the love and cheers. With every like, heart, comment, text, call, and “yes” my heart grew tenfold. I’m feeling so good.
Guys, I did it!!!