I feel like there are no words that I can type that will accurately portray my experience at the Women’s Half Marathon this past weekend in Nashville, Tennessee. The night before the race, I had so much fun with friends, most of which I have really only known for a year or less. It is hard for me to grasp all of the past life events that have happened which resulted in all of us being at the same place, on the same day, at exactly the same time.
As a high school student, I decided to take up running. It was by what I was able to let go of stress with and stay in shape by. It was also the catalysis by which a sisterhood was built between girls of all graduating classes and walks of life. Those women are on my facebook friends list even now, eleven and a half years later and not just because of social media code of etiquette which apparently says you friend anyone who asks. I experienced so much of my high school years with those girls. Now as an adult, I turned back to running to find my inner self again, to once again let go of stress and lose the baby weight. I found empowerment in the fact that I could still do it…that I could still meet goals that I set for myself.
Just like high school, I have made friends through my running journey. Last winter, I shared with a few friends that I needed to drop weight but felt alone in my journey because I had nobody to run with. See, women have the unique challenge of raising the babies, taking care of the home and keeping the family on schedule. Most times it’s hard for two women with families to find times they can get together on a regular basis so it’s nobody’s fault per se, it’s just how it is. I had several women text, call and facebook me during my January-April training for my first half marathon and I’m positive their support and encouragement is what kept me going. God created people to need each other. We are a creation that thrives and survives on having others around us. Not just emotionally, but physically, too. My friend, Kristy, told me last year that there are studies that show if each of us have 7 positive touches each day (hugs, pat on the back etc) we will be much healthier. Interesting. It’s hard to pat one’s own back, isn’t it? We need each other.
After the Rock N Roll Half Marathon, a woman I go to church with named Joyce decided to start a team for the Women’s Half Marathon in September. Since the race bug bit me hard after my Rock N Roll race I was all for it. I had struggles along my training this time, but you know what, I still had friends calling/texting/facebooking me to check on my progress and to encourage me. I feel like I could have been more prepared, training and diet wise for this race, but by the end of the day, God made it VERY clear that my being at the race had NOTHING to do with me running at all. 23 women signed up to be on Joyce’s team which she named “Sole Sisters.” If you’ve been following my post for very long you know that I have written several posts on this team. Together we descended on downtown Nashville on Friday, September 27th in preparation for the race the next day.
That night Liz, Jennifer and I stayed the night at my very good friend Michelle’s mother-in-law’s place.
We woke up at 4:30 Saturday morning and stumbled around to get ready to leave by 5. After we had coffee in our mugs, belongings picked back up and Ibuprofen down the hatch, we shuffled to our cars to make the 10 minute trip to LP Field to park. I am happy to report we had no near-death-experiences this time. As a matter of fact we didn’t have any issues at all until we learned they were charging $10 for parking there. One would think that with $120 registration, one would get to park somewhere without having to pay $10 but it’s ok. We paid it and walked the mile to the Renaissance Hotel to meet the rest of our team as planned for a picture and quick prayer.
Many of the women picture above I don’t know. I am pretty sure they are all local runners in our local community though. That’s the thing about runners: you don’t have to know a person personally to encourage and root for them. Several of these women I know by face but not by name. Others I don’t even know in that way but when we passed each other during the race, you better believe we were waving and encouraging each other. There is just an unspoken sense of…belonging, encouragement and understanding in the running community. It’s very hard to put into words.
After Joyce said a quick prayer, we all headed out the door and made our way to the starting line.
Most went to the restroom, some stretched and warmed up on their own. Jennifer, Liz and I made contact with Teresa by phone and met up by the starting line so they could meet each other. While we were trying to figure out exactly where she was located, we stopped and had a fellow runner take our picture. I’m pretty sure we have about 15 pictures like this with each of us in a different position, clothes and facial expressions. 🙂
It hadn’t occurred to me until Teresa and I were eating lunch together the day before after having picked her up from the airport that even they were somewhat connected. See I met Teresa in a fitness/weightloss group on facebook. I joined after I saw a picture of myself holding my son last Thanksgiving. It brought me to tears because I was bigger than I had ever been, outside of being pregnant. I had “liked” Sunshine’s Journey to 199 on Facebook a year before that but decided then to try to get on to one of her accountability/support groups made of up others who were trying to lose weight. I was placed on Team Onyx (HOLLA!!) and spent the first month blowing up the wall of that group. I was determined to get the weight down. My goal was to lost 22 pounds which would put me back down to my pre-baby weight when I got married and got pregnant with our first son. I had posted something about the fact that I had planned to do so by running. A few people commented on that post and one friendly person added me as a friend on MapMyRun (an app to track your running workouts). In walks Teresa into my life and she has played a very influential role in my life since that day. 🙂 Then, a couple of weeks later Sunshine posted before and after pictures of people who were either on her accountability teams or who like her page. Up pops a picture and I am pretty sure I said outloud, “I KNOW HER!!” It was Jennifer! She is on Team Aqua. Anyway, the moral of this long story is, I felt the need to connect the two of them because they had a common thread and I felt like it would be nice to do so.
Our team was sprinkled throughout the six starting chutes as can be expected with 22 women on the team who were present and accounted for. We all headed in our own direction with well wishes for the race because the race was scheduled to start at 7:00am and it was 6:55 at the time. I found chute 2 and got settled in. I found Becca and a couple other Sole Sisters. Becca by far looked the most nervous as this was her first ever half marathon. I gave her a hug and told her how she was going to do great. She has smoked me since the first day we ran together. I had no doubt she was going to do it again during the race…I couldn’t WAIT to see how she finished. The first heat left at 7:00.15. I took this picture and uploaded it to my personal facebook page with the caption “Here we go!” at that time.
I know now because “unofficial, official times” I started the race at 7:00.44. No turning back now. I had 13.1 miles to go. Commence self pep talks…for the next couple of hours. 🙂
The day before, Teresa and I had been given a map of our course at the Expo. I was less than thrilled to find out that we would be looping back to some of the exact same places on the course during the race. I really don’t like doing this. I need fresh things to look at or I get bored. I have to say, doubling back was the least of my worries. The hills…Oh…MY…word…. I felt like I was out in Colorado at Cross Country Camp again. I’m not one to back down from a hill, usually, but man there were many a time I thought about it this time. One after another, I’m not sure there were many completely flat areas. You were either going slightly up or slightly down, the entire way.
At the 5k mark, I had to stop and walk for a bit. Not only was my endurance not enduring…I could already feel that my inner thighs were being blessed with what we affectionately (or not so affectionately) call runners rash. I thought to myself…wow, 3 miles in. I wish I had some chaffing cream or compression shorts right about now.
Somewhere on mile six I believe is when we started having runners coming back toward us on the other side of the street as they looped back to come the way we had already been. As much as I grumbled about it, I actually really enjoyed that leg of the race. As I was going along, I got to see my teammates that were much faster than I (Becca, Joyce and a few others I didn’t know by face or name…I could only tell they were part of us because of our tanks)! We got to share in waves, smiles, encouragement for/with each other that we normally wouldn’t have gotten to experience. It was not only refreshing but really added to the experience. Then, as I turned the hairpin to come back the way I had already come, I got to see the teammates that were behind me. I would have to say this was my favorite part of the entire race! I didn’t feel as alone, nor did I even realize that I had just knocked out 2 miles of the course during that time. My mind and focus was redirected which I really needed. I didn’t have my earbuds with me so I didn’t have music which I will NOT forget in two weeks when I do the Middle Half Marathon in Murfreesboro!
Somewhere around mile 9 my mind was completely over the race. I thought of all of those who sacrificed to sponsor me to be able to do the race. I thought of how even though my body was really hurting, God had given me the ability and the body to make it to the finish line. I looked around at the other runners and wondered what was going through their minds at that point in the race. I wondered what had brought them to the race and how they were feeling. I tried anything to get my mind off of what I was feeling. Up came mile 10. In efforts to encourage those around me who might be struggling, I announced as loud as I could…”It’s only a 5k from here girls! We can do this!” Ok you’re right, I was trying to encourage myself. “It’s only a 5K, it’s only a 5K…just 3.1 miles left. That’s it…just a 5k left!”
A little past mile 11, there was a time clock set up for the participants to see. I was, at that time 1 hour 44 minutes into the race. I did the math, redid the math, and calculated again. I was 22 minutes away from matching my Rock N Roll time. I got a burst of energy and gave my best efforts to keep my pace up. We were headed back into the downtown area though and those hills just kept kicking my butt. I regret not doing more hill training this go around. Rest assured that won’t happen again. At the 12 mile marker, I got my last paper cup of water and shuffled toward the finish line. Wowza was my body tired. All I wanted to do was finish the last little bit without walking but alas, I did take another walking break for about 30 seconds. I kept telling myself, “If you just jog you will get to the end quicker…” but my legs and my piriformis really didn’t care what my pep talk had to say. Finally, someone along the way announced that we only had to go down the hill and around the corner and we’d be done! The chute was no more than 4 blocks away. Those were…THE LONGEST 4 blocks of my life this time. I had nothing left to kick with. I had no more umph left.
Down the hill I go and I see a woman by the side of the road next to the corner where we turned to go the last 1/4 mile at best to the finish. She’s sobbing. I told her that she was almost there, that she could make it. Just a little further. I told her to look up and see the yellow banner that was just over the slight hill. She just grunted and started walking. For a second I thought, well it’s not that far, she will make it. I will congratulate her at the finish line when she comes across. Instead, something told me to turn back around to her. She gasped that she felt like her hip was out of place or something. I told her that I had a messed up muscle in my butt and that I knew what she felt like as that’s what I thought I had when my pain first started. I told her we’d take it into the finish line together. I put the last of my energy into encouraging her to keep going and she told me to go on that she’d be ok. Again I turned around to her and told her I wasn’t going to leave her. I told her I’d stick with her even if she had to walk it in. With that, she found strength to pick it up to a jog and we made our way down the slight hill into the finish line. Music, cheering and celebration surrounded us. As we were steps away from the last time registry point and finish line, the announcer told us to raise our and and scream if we were glad it was over.
I have no idea what her name is or where she came from, but we shared a quick hug and shed a few tears after we let our hands down. I hope and pray that woman is able to find out exactly what was wrong with her hip. I know from experience it’s not a good feeling.
Praise God! I finished another half marathon! I reached out for my finisher’s metal and proudly placed it around my neck! This thing is HUGE and super heavy! I had seen pictures online of it before the race and I though, oh that’s neat, but when you get it in your hands and around your neck rest assured it’s more than “neat.”
My emotions were all over the place and I thought about what had just taken place. Even though I hadn’t been able to train as I’d wanted to, even though my body was hurting and my time probably wasn’t anywhere close to where I had hoped it would be six months ago, I had finished. And The nameless friend above and I had done it together. I made my way, sort of stunned to the large bins of ice cold bottles of water and picked one up. As I stood there a bit dazed, Becca walks up and congratulates me on my finish. As we talked I pulled out my phone and stopped my Nike+ app. I learned from there that my time was 2 hours 26 flat. I did the math and decided for the lack of training, I was only 15 minutes slower this time than I had been at the Rock N Roll. I was actually quite impressed with that. I turned and asked Becca how she did and she humbly said,”1 hour 50 minutes.” I about came out of my skin! ARE YOU SERIOUS!! That’s amazing! Another wave of emotion came over me! I asked her if she realized that for her first half marathon that was unbelievably amazing?! I told her she blew my first time of 2:11 out of the water! She smiled a bit but I don’t think it had really sank in exactly how well she had done. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
I wanted as close to the finish line as they would allow us to for each Sole Sister that crossed. Teresa, whom I think is wonderful no doubt, is so different from me. She told me when we met that morning to text her when I finished. I looked at her puzzled and told her,”Really?? I turn my ringer off and tell people not to call me and you want me to text you?!” So I did as I was turning off my Nike+ app a few minutes earlier. From that point to the time she cross the line, she and I were texting. I tried my best to encourage her, give her time updates and she sent back updates as to where she was. At one time she met up with a teammate of ours, Bridget. Bridget was running with her husband I guess. She came in slightly before Teresa. When Teresa came across the finish line, my emotions got all out of control again! Being a woman is hard when it comes to keeping emotions under control. I was a crying basket case, to say the least!
Most of the team members parted ways at this point. Some went to their rooms to shower, some went to the courtyard where there was a band playing and cookies were provided by Publix, others were headed home. Jennifer mentioned she had mixed emotions at this time because it was over. It all happens so quickly…so much preparation and then…it’s just done. Just like that.
Quick injury report: Soon after I finished I couldn’t straighten my leg due to the muscle giving me issues in my rear. I could also tell, and later confirmed, that I will be losing four or five toenails this time. I am perplexed on this one. I wore running socks, I bought my shoes a 1/2 size too big and I clipped my toenails the night before. If anyone has any suggestions or ideas on what I did wrong, please let me know. As if that weren’t enough, I have several blister on the tips of my toes and on the sides of my feet. This is all so new to me. I also later confirmed that I did indeed have runners rash. Six and a half inches of it to be exact… not pretty. I will spare you the horrific pictures. Just know it’s not pretty. Joyce told me today at church that diaper medicine is fantastic to help it heal though. I came right home, changed into shorts and slathered it on! Here’s to hoping! I also have a sore throat and this morning (Sunday) I had actually lost it for a bit. I’m sure it’s due to the after party though, not the running. I am sore as well. Probably because I didn’t do an ice bath last night. I may try to do that tonight but I have to confess, I am REALLY looking forward to my massage therapy and adjustment tomorrow morning. I’m sure it’s going to hurt so good.
If this were all I had to report, it would be a fantastic ending. Great women. Great race. Great experiences. Great time. However, as most time, God had much more in mind for us at this race. Click here to read about the “after party.”