In case you didn’t know, I ran a freaking half marathon last Saturday. This is my story. (cue E! True Hollywood Story music). Heads up: I swear a lot in this one.
I had decided – after much back and forth in my own head – that I would stay in a hotel the night before. The race was the ING Hartford Marathon/Half Marathon, and we live just far enough away that I could have driven in that morning or stayed over. After thinking about what it would really be like to get up at 4:30, try to get myself ready, then wake the kids up really early, deal with their lovely “I should still be sleeping” attitudes and behavior, and be on the road before 6am, it was decided that I would stay in a hotel, and my husband/kids would drive in the next morning at a more reasonable time.
The day before the race I am giddy. I am pumped. I am walking around the house muttering “I can DO this!” and then following up my own comment with “FUCK YEAH you can do this!”
I pack my bags and double check all my gear. Small freak out about what to wear when waiting for the race to start/bib needs to be visible/don’t want to get cold, so I pack a throw away shirt, and another option as well. (I over pack when nervous.)
In general I am feeling good. There is only one thing that worries me.
Men- you may want to skip this part. Scroll down until you see this: **********
Alright ladies. Truth is the race is happening during a not awesome time of the month if you catch my drift. At this point, I am hoping against hope that it won’t be awful, but sure enough, morning of the race I wake up and I feel like crap. The worst day of the worst time of a whole stinking month and I have to get up and run 13.1 stupid miles. Great. I already feel nauseous from cramps, nerves are adding to it and are not helping…this was not how I was hoping to start the day. Anyway, enough about that – let’s go find the guys.
OK!! We’re all back together again! So, where was I…right – rainbows and sunshine.
It’s the night before the race, my husband comes home early, we all eat dinner and then I take off. I get to the hotel, check into my nice room, lay everything out, check in with family and friends, and get ready for bed. It’s not too late, and I am tired, so I snuggle in. I am drifting off when all of a sudden I hear:
I immediately wake up because it sounds exactly the way the door to my son and daughter’s room does when it is opened in the middle of the night. Confused, I realize where I am, then roll over and go back to sleep.
Again, I wake up, grumpy now, but am still half asleep, so again, I roll over and go back to sleep.
For the next two and a half hours I hear that sound every so often. It doesn’t happen at regular intervals, it isn’t coming from the hallway – I have no idea what it is and it’s getting later, and later. You know that point where you start to panic about how much sleep you will get but only if you go to sleep RIGHT NOW? Yeah, I hit that point very early on. Every time I would start to drift off, I would think:
“Oh, thank God I am falling asleep now…ahhh, sleep…wait, don’t think about falling asleep – just relax and let it happen, no thinking, just reeelaaax…no…stop thinking, you can’t THINK about falling asleep because then – SHIT. ARGHHH!!! Now I am AWAKE again!! At least you didn’t hear-“
I am wandering around the room at 12:30 am, when I finally realize that the sound is coming from the thermostat. Not the actual blower, but the tiny little control on the wall shutting on and off, on and off, on and off.
I adjust the controls to never, ever turn off and finally fall asleep around 1am.
6am comes around waaaayy too quickly, but then adrenaline kicks in, so I am up and getting ready. Worried about what the ladies and I discussed earlier, but determined to make it work.
I leave the hotel and make my way to the park. At this point I need to do three things. Use a port-a-potty before the race starts, check my gear bag, and find the starting line. I jumped in line for a toilet first thing and was so glad I had because by the time I waited in line and finished up, the lines had tripled in length. Next I scooted over to gear check where I could drop off my lovely clear race provided/approved plastic bag, and found even longer lines there. With only 15 minutes until start time, I checked my bag and slowly made my way to the start area. I would guess there might have been people still in line when the horn went off.
At this point I realize that this is a big race. I hear during the welcome pep-talk that there are about 17,000 people running the 5k, the marathon, and the half marathon.
That’s a lot of people.
The way the race is set up is that the 5k has it’s own start/finish area as well as a separate course. The Marathon and Half Marathon start together, and then split into 2 groups after about a mile, but finish at the same place. We were all jammed together, waiting for the starting horn. When it finally happened it was a bit anti-climatic as we all had to walk a ways to even get to the starting line, and then walk a bit before it opened up enough to start jogging.
When we got to the split there were a huge group of volunteers making sure we all went on the right course. I heard from behind me a woman say “Oh my god, could you imagine if you went the wrong way? If you got on the half course after working so hard for a full, and shit, if I went on the full marathon course I would die.” I think we all felt that way, so we were all very careful to follow the directions to the right one.
The first 4 miles were awesome. I ran without music for almost 3, then put in one ear bud. I was on pace, smiling, thanking volunteers and police officers as I passed them – I was so excited to be there, to be able to run this race.
After mile four I started to not feel very good. I stayed hydrated, slowed down a bit, but things were stacked against me, so when I thought I would vomit at mile 5, I decided that maybe walking for a bit would help. So, I did. I wasn’t pleased, but I really did not feel like throwing up on the side of the road. I went back at it after a little bit, made it through the halfway marker, and then had to walk again. This time I walked to a port-a-potty, waited in line, had some water, finished up and went back on the course. Felt better and was back on pace for 7-8.
At mile 8, two things occurred to me:
One was this: On my long training runs I took the advice I read somewhere and broke the distance up into 3rds. So, for say my 12 miler, after the first 4 miles, I said to myself “Part one is done”, then after 8 “Part two is done – lets finish part 3, home stretch” or something of the sort. Well, during the race I had been doing that again, but I realized that today, after 8 miles I still had 5 more to go…and at that moment 5 miles seemed so much farther than 4. My brain started saying things like “You have to run a whole other mile before you even get to say Part 2 is done” and “This isn’t even the home stretch, this is closer to halfway than the finish line”.
Apparently, my brain can be a lying jerk.
Now I’m not in the best mindset, I’m already feeling crappy, and I have what seems an eternity to run still. Then the second thing occurs to me:
When I thought about my ‘pie in the sky’ goal time, I didn’t think about the fact that when I run around town, I am always having to stop for traffic/lights/trains, etc. Little breaks here and there. The key part of this thought is that when I stop to wait for a walk signal, I stop my timer…but during the race it doesn’t. So not only do I need to keep up a quick pace the whole time, but I actually need to go faster now because of the walk breaks. Then I remember my mile 6 pit stop and the 5 minutes that took.
At this point I decide to throw out my goal time and just focus on finishing. I just wanted to finish. I was not having a good time. I was annoyed at having to constantly duck and weave around people. I was annoyed at the runners throwing cups and half empty GU packets at me (very slippery, FYI). I also decided that if I heard another fucking cowbell in my life it would be too soon. I just wanted to run, not think about a million other people around me, and get into the zone, but the million people weren’t going away, and neither were the cowbells, the people with snarky signs like “REMEMBER WHEN RUNNING WAS FUN?”, or the random musicians with amps along the road.
I actually called my husband at mile 9 or so to let him know that I was feeling like shit and not going to be arriving at the time I hoped for. I won’t lie – I started to cry on the phone. I was so disappointed to have worked so hard for so long, to have trained so much faster, and then to be in the middle of the race feeling the way I did. He told me he loved me, that I was still out there doing it, to take my time and he would see me when I got to the finish. He also said he could see the beer tent from where he was standing. He knows how to make me feel better.
I kept plugging along, walked through the water station at mile 11 and decided that I was not going to walk again. That whatever it took I was going to RUN those last 2 miles and if I threw up, so be it.
At mile 12 I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and was in a bit of a daze. I put Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ on repeat and kept moving. I saw the last curve before the finish line and just kept saying “In 2 minutes you will be done” “Before this song ends you will be done”.
I go around the last curve, see the giant stone arches and I say (out loud I think)
“I am going to fucking finish this race! I am DOING THIS!!”
I pick up the pace to what feels like a sprint at this point, run through the arches…and realize that the actual finish line is 100 feet further ahead.
Not cool. Not. Cool.
So, I keep up this deranged woman sprint thing I’ve got going on and run to the finish line. I see one of the race photographers and I’m like:
“I’m going to look triumphant and happy in this g-damned photo even if it kills me”
So, I start smiling, keep running until this woman from out of nowhere comes up behind me and jumps in front of me at the FINISH LINE. So, instead of my “I did it!” photo, I’m sure it will be more like this:
Oh well….it doesn’t matter, because I FINISHED!!! It felt great to stop running, and it felt great to accomplish this goal.
Mostly, it felt great to just stop running.
(and since you were probably singing it anyway…for you to enjoy – the inspiration for the title)