I have always hated running. I hated it as a kid; I would get side stitches and I was slow. I hated it as a teen; I would get side stitches and I was slow. I hated it as an adult; no side stitches, but my knee injuries always flared up and I would get shin splints, but I wasn’t that slow any more.
Then I had a friend tell me she was training for a half marathon. I told her she was crazy, that I hated running. She suggested I try this Zero to 5K app she used. It looked like a game, so I decided I would give it a try. And, probably most importantly, I would do it in my barefoot shoes. 8 weeks later I could run 5K, no knee problems, no shin splints, and…I was running at a decent pace. I still didn’t “enjoy” running, but it was an efficient way to get exercise when I was time crunched.
Then came my 49th birthday and the decision to start training for a marathon for my 50th birthday. I wasn’t convinced I would actually do it, but I would start out and see how far my body took me. I am registered for the Amsterdam Marathon in October. Thus, the half marathon in Chicago in the height of the summer. The race fell exactly when that would be the length of my long run for the week. What made it even better was hat my nephew Matt, who lives in Chicago, would run it with me.
I was nervous in the days before the race, it was the end of a ridiculously hot and humid week, my 11 mile run had not gone well, and I had never run with 20,000 people before.
Race day came, we left the house at 4:15am so we would have plenty of time to relax before the 6:30am start time. It was fun having Matt there with me before the race. We started separately, he a few corrals ahead of me, and did not see each other again for a few hours. Running, for each of us, is a solo activity, we did not want to feel we had to match strides or paces.
The race started off great, there was little humidity, but it was warmer than we had expected it to be. I was really relaxed and surprisingly enjoyed the first 7 miles. After mile 3 though, we were in the sun, which reflected off all the pavement and buildings…it was hot! But they had water stations and ice and people were out spraying us with hoses, so all was good. We even had shade from mile 6 to almost mile 8. And I was really enjoying the crowds cheering – what a difference from my solo runs along the farms at home.
After mile 8, we were back in the sun, the road narrowed and became more crowded. My mood started to darken (as I learned later, so did just about everyone’s around me). My arm started to chafe – not fun, but I found a medical tent and put on vaseline, so that problem was solved and my mood picked back up for about a quarter mile. By mile 9 the negotiations started in my head…”if I walked from here, how long would it take?” “How many cycles of my run 3 minutes/walk 1 minute will it take?” ”What if I walk through some cycles?” I kept running and re-calculating after each cycle and each mile. The good part was, I never told myself that I couldn’t do it, it was just an issue of whether I wanted to or not. My body felt fine, I was just really hot. So I kept running, kept stuffing ice into my bra (a definite benefit to being a woman) and took advantage of every hose, telling each person with one that I loved them. I also consciously drew energy from the cheerers, if they wanted to slap my hand, then I would slap their hand. I was actually having fun. I was miserable, but I was having fun! What an odd combination of feelings. Around mile 10 though, I decided that I really did not need to do twice this distance, that I did not have anything to prove. A half marathon is long enough.
So, I kept running. At mile 11 I was really pleased with myself and decided to let myself walk between 11.5 and the 12 mile marker to cool my body temperature down a bit, then I would run the last mile. I felt I earned the little break that would give me. It worked, not only did I run til the end, I even gave it all I had and pushed for the last 1/4 mile. I made it, and I made it really running at the end!
No knee pain, no shin splints. Was I fast, no, but I was not slow either – I ran a 2:24:32, respectable time for a first half marathon at 49, especially on a hot, sunny day.
They handed me all kinds of food and drink after I crossed the line, but all I wanted, and it made me very happy indeed, was the chocolate milk. The best thing ever created for after a run. I found my nephew while we were both still experiencing our runners highs, we were loopy, but we were happy.
I never imagined that I would run 13.1 miles, never. But I did. And will do it again, probably more than once. I will run the half marathon in Amsterdam, but October seems far away. Maybe there is another one locally before then? I think I am crazy, I still don’t “like” running, but I love how it feels when I am done!