Marathon

My first marathon

Y’all, I am a marathoner. Straight up, after months of training, self-doubt and eating more than someone probably should, I ran 26.2 miles a month ago, and I have the shiny medal to prove it.

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When I signed up for the marathon, I was apparently optimistic and slightly delusional about my projected finish time because I was assigned Corral C. I’m not a Corral C runner, more like a D or E. I probably annoyed the other Steel City Road Runners about my Corral place.  “Maybe I should be in Corral D? Or E? But if I’m in Corral C, is that okay?”

After patient reassurances, I went into Corral C. I moseyed on down to the back of Corral C, and I ended up starting with the beginning of Corral D.

At the beginning of the race, they had fireworks. Fireworks! I felt like a little kid. I may have even squealed.

Since this was the Nationwide Columbus Children’s Hospital Marathon, every mile had a patient child champion wearing oversized foam hands, like you would find at a football game. Despite not being someone who gives high gives, I high fived these kids whenever I could BECAUSE I AM NOT DEAD INSIDE.

One of the miles was a Memorial Mile, and another one was an Encore Mile, which featured children who were past patient child champions. I honestly thought I was going to lose it during the Memorial Mile when I saw all the families holding up posters of their deceased children but still cheering me on. We all had our names on our bibs, so these families were honestly going, “You are doing great, Lara!” “Way to go!”

During the encore mile, I high fived a bunch of these former child patient navigators, who were also cheering and telling me I was doing a great job. I fought the urge to cry like I do at videos of dogs reuniting with their owners after a long period of time. Ugly. Crying.

I know I have been through some shit with my own cancer. I am an adult, though, and these are children. These were children. They are innocent. When I got sick, it wasn’t pretty but it made sense. My mom got cancer young, and now so did I. When a young child is going through cancer, it’s just heartbreaking and shouldn’t be how the world works.  How do you explain when a child comes down with a life-threatening illness or injury? You can’t.

The first half of the marathon, I felt strong. Hell, I even had a mile where I averaged 8:45, like how is that even possible. Oh wait, adrenaline. When the half marathon and marathon split and most of the runners went left instead of straight, boy I felt a weird sense of dread, like shit just got real.

Around mile 21 or 22, that’s when the mind games with myself started showing up.

What happened? You were so strong in the half.

You are a sham of a runner.

Why are you doing this to yourself?

I was my own worst enemy and my greatest cheerleader.

It’s okay if you’re not as strong as you were in the first half. Give yourself a break.

No, Lara, you are awesome!

You’re doing this because not everyone can do this, but YOU can do this.

The last two miles were the worst. I had to stop and walk a handful of times. Every time I started running again, the words “mother fucker” escaped my lips. I had to psyche myself up before I could run again. I swear, I probably went through the five stages of grief during the marathon. Bargaining and denial did play a big part of the last couple of miles.

With less than a mile away, the 5 hour pacer ran by me as I was walking. I thought to myself, “I need to run harder and beat her!” (Denial.)

Ten seconds later as I huffed and puffed, I thought, “Don’t be stupid. Just finish.” (Acceptance.)

For some reason, I stopped about ten or so feet from the finish line. I didn’t cross the finish line all strong and yay, woman power.  It was more like I crossed the finish line all crying and hyperventilating. With my hand on my chest and my emotions boiling out of me, I walked over the finish line with two medics waiting for me.

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“Are you okay?”

Instead of responding, “Of course not, I just ran a marathon,” I replied, “I think I might puke.”

I didn’t puke, though. I just hyperventilated and cried, and let this young man escort me about 20 or so 30 feet as I walked to the best of my ability.

So, I did it. My official time was 5:00:58. Seriously. I was one minute away from seeing four at the beginning of my time. One freaking minute. Maybe if I didn’t stop short of the finish line to have a mini-panic attack or outpouring of emotion, then I could have been under 5 hours. I could have trained harder. I could have had a better diet and been stronger.

Who knows?

When I began training for this marathon, I was going through a breakup of my 7.5-year relationship. It set me back, of course. I bounced back in so many ways. At the beginning of my training, I was in a horribly dysfunctional relationship that had been dead in the water for two to three years.

Even during a short period of time, things can always change for the better. How do I know? At the end of the marathon and outside the athlete area, an amazing man who has made me so happy and treats me like I am the cat’s meow waited for me . . . with a big smile on his face and a congratulatory hug.

I was never an athlete as a kid. I stunk at soccer, basketball or softball. I would rather be reading a book or watching television. I never had a competitive streak as a kid. If me and someone else were going for the ball, my first instinct would be to go, “eh.”

Running just has me competing against myself, and right now, I will probably do another marathon . . . just so that I break sub-5 hours. I will do it, too.

Huffman rules.

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Pittsburgh Dick’s Half Marathon 2015: my fourth half marathon

When I began my training season for the Pittsburgh Half 2015, I had lofty goals and ambitions.  “I’m going to run the 15 mile race for Spring Thaw.”  “I’m going to run the Pittsburgh half under two hours.”  Boy, I thought highly of myself and greatly underestimated how much free time I actually had.  Neither of my goals happened and yet, I’m okay with it.

Given the sub-zero weather in February and its affect on my training, I only felt prepared to run the 10-mile race for the Spring Thaw.  If I had attempted to run 15 when my weekly mileage was as low as it was, then I would have injured myself.  When I crossed the finish line for the Spring Thaw and receive my 10-miler finisher’s medal, I vowed, “Next year, I’ll run the 15 mile race.”

For the half marathon for Just a Short Run in March, I treated it like a training run and not something I should attempt to PR (i.e., achieving a personal record).  The weather that morning was 15 degrees, and like everyone else, I was shivering and shaking.

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If it wasn’t for the fact I was running with a friend, I probably would have bowed out after the 8.1 mile mark.  My total time for Just a Short Run was 2:28, a minute longer than my first half marathon time, aka my worst time.  Even though I know the freezing weather played a huge part, I still felt disappointed at my time.

In the days leading up to the Pittsburgh Half, I was convinced that I was going to be lucky if I even beat my 2:27 time from last year.  I never made it to any speed workouts, and if you want to get faster, then a runner has to make it to the track.  I didn’t.  Life kept getting in the way.  I was beating myself up – figuratively, of course.

I ended up heading to the half marathon by my lonesome self since I hadn’t been in contact with my fellow West View Fleet Feet’er.  By the time I got downtown and my bag checked, I had missed my charity team’s group picture (boo).  I also didn’t make it to the Steel City Road Runners’ hospitality tent prior to the race.  Nothing really went as planned.

Before the race began, I only ran into one other person I know in my assigned corral.  Thanks to her, I had a before picture of me.  I was there!  (I have looked through many photographers’ marathon pictures and alas, I didn’t find me anywhere.)

Who wears short shorts?  I wear short shorts.

Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts.

It was around mile 9 when I realized, “Holy shit, I’m going to beat my time.”  I couldn’t believe it!  I was maintaining a pace of around 10:10 comfortably.  I made sure I took water at every fluid station and even took two water cups at a later station.  I took my Guu (aka Gewwww) every four miles.  The hotter temperature wore me down around mile 11, and I had to walk for about 15 seconds to get my hear rate back down.

I crossed the finish line at 2:14:02, beating my previous time by 13 minutes!

b03944a802a40aedce01c6dab24f7a6fNow I’ll definitely be making it to track workouts in the near future.  I’m signed up for three more half marathons, and come hell or high water, I will run a half marathon under two hours.  Just you wait.