Sore muscles, stiff joints, new blisters and a bruised baby toe on my left foot woke me up early this morning. The intermittent throbbing was dull, slightly uncomfortable, but tolerable. Ibuprofen only lasts for so many hours. After some careful shifting, I was able to get comfortable again and go back to sleep.
The elation of finishing one of the biggest goals of my life yesterday disappeared over night, leaving me a little deflated this morning. In fact, I am kind of sad that the whole experience is over. Weeks of training for my first half-marathon came and went in just a few hours, leaving me with a weird sense of grief and a nagging question of, “Now what?”
I liked having a goal to work towards, one that drew encouragement from family and friends, sometimes even complete strangers. It’s not often so many people are rooting for you all at once, urging you to succeed. Selfishly, I liked the attention. It made me feel important, and since it was something historically and completely out of character for me, it was fun to surprise people, surpass their expectations.
But then I called my mom this morning, and we recapped the whole event. The joy in her voice reminded me of how proud my dad was when I talked to him yesterday. He was the first person I wanted to call, the first person I wanted to shout out, “Look what I did!” as if I was a preschooler showing him that I could tie my shoes for the first time.
I replayed in my mind each of the 13.1 miles. The first three felt like a warm-up. The next three were similar to the first 10k I ran a couple of weeks ago, only this time a little bit easier, physically and mentally. Even my pace was about the same. Getting to mile nine was the next big goal, and it almost seemed effortless. But I knew I could do it, because I had run nine miles before, in fact, before Sunday, I had run 10 miles straight. There was no unknown factor until mile 10.
But then at mile 10, fear crept in, everything after that point was uncertain. My body had never been pushed past 10 miles. Doubt played mind games, especially since miles 10 – 12 were almost straight uphill. I stared at the sea of runners ahead of me, climbing and climbing to the top, wondering how in the world I was going to make it 3.1 more miles. Watching them so far away, they seemed unreachable, making me feel so far behind.
Suddenly, out of no where, a song popped in to my head, We are the Champions by Queen.
“We are the champions – my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting – till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
‘Cause we are the champions – of the world -“
Maybe I heard someone humming the tune, maybe it was being pumped out of speakers in the distance at the next water station, or maybe it was just my imagination, but either way, I heard it. I felt it to my core and I just kept running.
All the months, days, and hours of preparation came to fruition at the top of mile 12 as I looked at the downhill route taking me to the finish line. Even though this was all unfamiliar territory, unfamiliar aches and pains, I knew I could finish what I started. My stride got longer, pounding the pavement in confidence until the sound of gravel was replaced by the soft thud of turf. Ironically, we finished on the 50-yard line of Elbel Field, the home of the University of Michigan‘s marching band.
I felt right at home, thinking of all the years of my own marching band experience.
Smiling, I passed victoriously under the balloon arch, amazed that I actually ran all 13.1 miles, and took note of my time: two hours and 33 minutes. I had met and surpassed my goal of 12 minute miles.
But really, the best part of it all was making the two most important men in my life proud of me, my dad and my husband.
DW was there the whole time, cheering me on. In fact, he found me at miles 3 and almost 6, waving and shouting my name. He was front and center at the finish, smiling, and he didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around my tired, sweaty body, lifting me off the ground in excitement.
So, after 26-weeks of training, was it all worth it? Absolutely.
In fact, I can’t wait to do it all again.
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