The Grand Rapids Marathon is coming again… did I mention that? I know I’ve told you that the kids are running the Kid’s marathon but I never mentioned that I’ll be doing the half again. Strange, huh? I started to wonder why I haven’t talked about it. On a blog that is so forthright of my daily affairs, how have I been remiss to share this? I’m not exactly sure of the answer but allow me to ruminate for a minute. Maybe I’ll find the answer…
The last race that I trained for was the 5/3 Riverbank Run. As you might remember, I struggled with the fact that my running partner/friend was not able to do this race with me because of her battle with cancer (obviously a much bigger and admirable goal). I set to training alone and at rare times, with the occasional running partner. Most times, they were ill fitted for me and I spent a lot of hours running alone. My excitement of the race became tainted by the unhappiness I felt. In a world full of runners, how could it be possible that I run for 2 hours alone? It reminded me that things were very different and while the runs felt good themselves, they often left me with a sadness in my heart. My love of running was being shaken. If running left me sad inside, could I still be a runner? I questioned my running future and if my love was in fact a flash in the pan instead of a slow burn. All of that quickly became a moot point when I became too sick to complete the training and the race. The 5/3 happened without me.
Running is such a mental battle and coming back from a bad memory is a tough one. Whether that’s an injury or a bad experience, it’s an uphill battle. I think it’s safe to say that runners as whole are a superstitious group and combined with your last training experience being less than pleasant, it’s hard to gear up for that next race.
If a runner is what I was, then the half marathon is what I do. D-day (decision day) was coming and I needed to figure it out. A very large part of me was content to just let it pass. What did I have to prove? I’d already proven I could do it. Then I’d shaved a significant chunk off my time last year than the year before. So if not for those reasons, what else was the point? On the other side of the coin, I had no good reason why I would not be doing it. I battled inwardly. Then, 2 of my good friends decided they wanted to do it. This would be Megan’s 2nd time and Traci’s first… how could I say no? The obvious answer is I could not.
We started our training. Our long runs together. It seemed as though their faster paces would make me a faster runner indeed. My goal has always been under 2 hours for the half and it’s always eluded me. I began to get hopeful that this might be the race. This might be the time I do it. I let myself get a little optimistic. Could I really do it this time?
Then the longer runs started… 10, 11, 12. Our bodies began protesting the speed in which we were doing these long distances and so we slowed it down a notch. Back to a about a 10min/mile pace. Decent but not goal ready. Even at that pace, my legs felt heavy. My body felt sluggish and I felt incompetent. If I couldn’t even feel good at this slowed pace, how could I ever finish by my goal time? Traci & I had our last long run on Thursday and we tried to stay at race pace. Traci was fine, I was not. Our time was decent but it wasn’t what I wanted. I felt even more dejected and frustrated. How am I going to reach my goal time if I can’t even run a 8 miler that pace?
Yesterday was the Bee Brave race. 5K’s aren’t really my thing but this is my exception and this year was particularly exceptional. My dear friend, Cheri was finally done with all her treatments. A mastectomy, 2 rounds of chemo and radiation. She was done! A year ago, she’d ran it in honor of her best friend and 2 weeks later found out that she had breast cancer. This year, Cheri was the featured survivor and even with my bad running attitude, nothing could keep me from going and doing.
My calf has been giving me some serious problems and while Megan was picking up her packet, she coughed and her back seized up. We both considered walking instead of running. Seriously… we really thought about it. Was it worth it? Hurting ourselves more for a 5k when our main race was 8 days away? Well, maybe it wasn’t the sensible thing to do but when the buzzer sounded, we started running. And by running, I mean RUN!
I don’t think I’ve ever ran that fast in my life. No, let me be clear… I know that I’ve never ran that fast. The course is a hilly one, often on dirt roads and the finish is about a 1/2 mile on a polo field. But dirt and grass couldn’t keep me down. For the first time in a long time, I felt free. My Garmin was at home along with my water bottle that I always run with. I ran without music and with no confirmation of my pace. I felt naked! I was running as hard as I could and it felt good. My legs pounded out my own pace, my lungs took in the cool morning air. The sun shone and I was running alone. This time, no sadness in my heart. I felt good. I felt happy. I felt the runner in me that’d been hiding for so long.
It was a good race. A new PR has a way of making you feel bulletproof and it was just what I needed. A change in attitude. A change in perspective. A new bounce in my step and a tiny sliver of hope in my heart. I don’t know what the half has in store for me this year but I know I’m ready. A runner once more.