I've always had a hate/love relationship with running. My girlfriends recently reminded me of our militant refusal to run the mile in high school gym class. As a direct consequence of my athletic slacking I still couldn't run a mile without stopping when I started training for my first 5k in 2002. I finished that race..barely.
I'm not sure what combination of stubbornness and forgetfulness kept me coming back to running in fits and starts over the next decade, but I found myself signing on for longer and longer races until somehow I was eyeing a half marathon thinking yeah...I could do that.
I bribed myself by signing up in a fun city (NOLA!) at a time of year I knew I'd be itching to get out of Chicago. This time around something just clicked. I loved training for this race- the discipline, the routine, the way it kept me from sliding down the slope of seasonal depression.
Things started to get a little dicey the week leading up to the race. A persistent sinus infection, days of insomnia and a long day of travel lead to a bit of a meltdown when I arrived at the race expo to pick up my packet. For the first time I considered that I might not be able to do it, and I found myself in tears in the middle of a sea of runners. It was not my finest moment.
Still, I got up the next morning before the sun, put on my big girl pants and laced my shoes. The walk from our hotel to the start line was straight up Bourbon, and it was more than a little surreal to pick our way through last night's drinkers and the puddles of discarded beer (oh god I hope it was beer. It totally wasn't beer.)
I am not fast, so the folks in my corral weren't the most, shall we say...dedicated athletes. But they were fun.
I probably could have used a jello shot myself because I felt like this:
Once we got going I felt great, though. The first five miles were bliss- I had good legs and our path through the garden district was amazing. In retrospect I was probably going a little too fast. I also did not stop at any water stations for the first three miles which was a mistake. I did almost all of my long training runs inside and I rarely stopped to drink. I didn't really account for the punishing sun and how it would impact my later miles.
In mile six things started to hurt. This was annoying but ok, I've become adept at accepting a reasonable amount of pain on a long run. Mile 7 the wheels started to come off. I made the mistake of timing my miles...I really wish I hadn't. Watching my pace slow really got into my head and I had trouble shaking it off. Around this time I also started to become fairly dehydrated and I never really got on top of that again.
Miles 10 - 13 were really really really hard.
I don't quit (firstborn), and I would have walked to that finish line if I had to but I really wanted to finish strong. I don't remember much from those miles except the certainty that my legs must have been weighted with sandbags because I simply could not make them go any faster than they were going, and it felt like I was barely moving.
I also vividly remember the people cheering us on and I sincerely think I might not have finished were it not for them. Somehow, some way I shuffled my way to the finish line in 2:35:35. I'm not proud of this time, but it's mine...and dammit so is this stupid medal.
Probably one of the fondest memories I will ever have is the slow walk from city park towards our hotel, 40oz beer in hand, sun on my face and the race firmly behind me. It was perfect, down to the cab that rolled up just when I'd had my fill of walking.
If you've cheered me on in this race - in person, online- or if you've ever held a sign on behalf of a complete stranger I thank you truly and sincerely. I honestly never could have done this without your love and encouragement.
I promise to stop flooding my facebook feed with running updates now. At least for a while.
As for the rest of my time in New Orleans..it was awesome. You should go there, 1/2 marathon optional.
P.S. that dude in black ran the full so...yeah. I'm not as cool as I think I am.
p.p.s. thanks to kevin for the race day photos.