Well, I did it! I can say I’ve successfully completed a half marathon and lived to tell the tale. This might sound like a small feat—and in many ways it is—yet, in many ways it is so much more.
Granted, I did not walk across hot coals, or take a vow of silence or poverty like many spiritual folks, or accomplish superhuman feats with one arm broken or maimed. However, for me, this was a major accomplishment. I had not entered a race in over twenty years, and I was afraid that the “older I got the better I was,” as the saying goes.
Mainly to prove to myself that I could still do it, I entered my local half marathon which is known as a flat and fast race. Individuals come from all over the world to the event, since it is a Boston qualifier and a Canadian National qualifier. So yes, I signed up for the race to test myself athletically. However, the 21.1 kilometer race ended up being more than just an athletic race for me.
Although I entered the race four months before the event, I was determined not to make more of the run than it was, and I made a point of continuing my usual running pattern—the same distances at the usual frequency. Mentally, I put a bit more effort into my runs, but I wanted to remind myself that this was a personal best run, not a race against others.
I was able to hold that mentality until about a week before the race, when I started to think about how this would actually unfold. Of course, my immediate question was what do people wear for a race? Fashion was not my main concern, although I did want to look fresh and perky when crossing the finish line. I was more concerned with the amount of clothing that would allow me to run comfortably. Normally, I gear up fully for running with long pants, jackets, gloves, and a small toque if necessary. I shed layer upon layer as I warm up. This strategy was definitely not going to work as I would be running with far too many clothes. The other horrifying question was what if I have to go to the washroom during the race? Do they even have washrooms en route? Do I carbohydrate load like they used to advocate? When I ran and raced when I was twenty, I never worried about these items. It was as if I had never raced before!
Clearly, assistance was required. Help was on the way for me at my local running store. Owen, an experienced runner, assisted me in what to wear, washroom etiquette, and food preparation before the big event.
Finally, the morning arrived after a very sleepless night. Up at the crack of dawn, (literally) I headed down to the race with plenty of time for my 7:15 start. I had time to talk to fellow racers, who all impressed upon me the need to get to the front of the line of runners so I did not get caught behind groups and more leisurely runners. Always the diligent student, I made my way to the race start-chute when instructed. Over the next five to ten minutes, I was pushed to the very front of the line of racers as they tried to fill the chute with all 2,600 runners. Somehow, I found myself in row three of the runners as we all jockeyed for a position in the pouring rain. It was only as the commentator announced that if you are in the first three rows you should be an elite athlete that I realized my error! The problem was there were 1,600 people pushing me forward, and not many options to move back.
As I pondered what to do about this, the gun suddenly went off and we were off and running. Or more aptly, we were off and sprinting!
I can honestly say that I have never run so fast in my entire adult life. I kept thinking okay we will slow down, we will slow down. Yet, for the first three kilometers there seemed to be no letting up of the pace. Fortunately, I found a running group of three other women. With no words spoken, we formed our group and settled into this insanely fast pace. I realized I was okay for now, and decided I would continue at this pace as long as I could. As a group of four, we continued together for approximately fifteen kilometers when one runner pulled ahead and two dropped back. I knew then I was running faster than I had planned and decided I would just keep going as fast as I could. I ended up finishing the race in a time of one hour and thirty-five minutes—twenty-five minutes faster than I had planned, and third in my age group.
I was proud of my accomplishment. However, the real value to me was that I had stepped out of my comfort zone. I did something that scared me and I was stronger for it. I will definitely run a half marathon again, possibly as fast, but the time does not matter to me. It is the feeling of flying physically, emotionally, and spiritually. That is what was amazing. I felt totally in control of my destiny. Now when I have doubts, I try to recapture that feeling and remind myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.
So run, play, write, or do anything that pushes you to be the person always knew you could be, and already are!