So, Saturday came and went and I survived! After weeks and weeks of training I can now say that I’ve run a half marathon. Run for the Redfish at Pier Park in Panama City Beach was actually 13.35 miles, oh boy. So many things I learned in just a day, things I would want to do differently next time, etc. but it was definitely an enjoyable experience. It was a slow shuffle across the start when we took off. I had a wave of anxiety as I jogged to the first turn where there were tons of spectators taking photos and videos on the side. Then I tried to remind myself that it was just a run, something I do every weekend and to chill out and enjoy it because it was finally here! The first few miles were smooth and enjoyable, and yeah I alternated the amount of success I had at the hydration stations. A few times they were some perfect sips, no mess but others there was a splash I felt water drip down my leg and was thankful it wasn’t sticky Gatorade, later I accidently splashed myself in the face water droplets covering my eyelashes. The scenery was great though, it was really nice to be able to just turn my head and see the waves rolling in on the beach – teal blue water that looked like it was chemically enhanced to be so pretty, straight out of a cruise catalog of the Caribbean. That’s a long time to be running so my brain goes about a million places. I usually pray a little bit, mindful and thankful that I even have the ability to be participating in such an activity. Then as I was listening to Jack’s Mannequin on Pandora, mentally drafted a little thank you note to Andrew McMahon. I thought about the track meets I used to hang out at during high school. My running friends from over the years who stamina and ability I’d always admired. That’s all going on inside my head you know but then there was plenty to notice around me, too. There was this one person cheering on the side of the road with a “Find Your Happy Pace” sign that made me smile every time I passed it. There were kids with crayon drawings, high-fiving their moms as they passed. A whole family all in matching shirts that kept relocating to different miles to cheer on someone’s significant other. They were so supportive of all of the other runners that passed too, though! Runners of all ages, male and female, different sizes were surrounding me. I felt overwhelmed when I thought about how cool it was that here was this huge group of people all with this one thing in common, though we might have had different goals (some with certain times in mind, others just wanting to complete the race,) it gave me goosebumps to think about how we were all part of one big tribe united in this bond. I was so excited for the people leading the pack who I saw as they’d already reached the halfway point and were on their way to the finish. So excited for the one female that was up there with that group. The kid who was under 14, a speedy one! The guy in the Gumby costume who was carrying the head at that point, (and still trucking along.) The guy with team of cheerleaders who glanced over and told me good job around mile four, and when he sped up after a water station, I saw him fist bump the man in front of me. Around mile 5.5 an older gentleman in an Iron Man Finisher November 2012 shirt passed me, and I just thought “wow! How incredible!” The friendly police officer at the turn-around point who made jokes with the guy running behind me. The second half the sun was higher and brighter and felt like it was shining directly one me. The next long race I’ll definitely need to wear a cap. The wind picked up and there wasn’t much shade, and I was feeling it around mile 9, not like tired yet persay just knowing that I was nearing the end. The temperatures were definitely warmer than they’d had been on my runs in months! Nearing the 80s by the end, and I’d grown used to running in the dark, cool temps of early morning and evenings since the sun has been hiding for so long! There were two men running together by me, near the end and it kind of helped that there was someone up ahead so I knew what path to follow to the end. Eventually I reached the point where you cross the street to the median, nearing the finish line! Normally during a race at that point it seems like it’s so close, that time I wondered to myself, why does it feel so far away?! But I’d conserved some energy walking through some of the last hydration stations to give myself little pick me-ups so I pushed myself at the end. It was kind of weird because the runners were all so spaced out so there wasn’t anyone near me when I was coming in to the finish. I distinctly remember a couple sitting on the sidewalk shouting and cheering. A woman in a lime green jacket screaming “You go girl, come on you can do it!” It was just so encouraging in that last bit, ya know? When you crossed over the finish a DJ was playing pumping music, cheerleaders were cheering! It was all pretty encouraging though as I took the water and the medals being handed out, and sought out a shady spot, I don’t think it’d really hit me yet. Afterwards they had an after-party where awards were given and they served free gumbo and Landshark at Margaritaville. We were able to cheer on the last two participants from the front deck, and it was awesome to hear all the clapping and motivating words from the crowd. It was such a positive environment full of encouraging, inspiring people. All of the organizers and volunteers were so nice and helpful! Everything was incredibly organized and made the whole thing so stress-free. I’m so glad I picked this race to be my first half-marathon. I never would have thought that at twenty-five I would have set and accomplished this goal. I’m not normally proud of myself for things, but this one I am. It’s an incredibly feeling to be self-motivated to achieve something, and something that you have to do through discipline, and work hard for. Like my Dad said, “who’d have thought at twenty-five that the same girl from years ago who cried in the backyard when volleyball wasn’t going to work out, would run a half-marathon?” Yeah, I think the same thing…This is coming from the girl who the hardest I ran in my whole life was the time I was walking in Bay Meadows in seventh grade with my best friend Beth, and some dogs got out and started chasing us. She was on the track team, and I definitely was in front of her – I did not want to get bit by one of these dogs! I remember when we got back to her driveway, both pretty breathless, she was like “whoa! You ran faster than me!” That was because something was chasing me, I was trying to get away but now it’s for the fun of it, I run because I enjoy running. So yeah! This has been pretty exciting. And I’m thankful for the friends and family who encouraged and supported me along the way, for not making me feel crazy for wanting to do this. I’m thankful that my parents woke up way too early on a Saturday, drove me to Panama City Beach, cheered for me, helped me feel better after I was exhausted – just such an awesome support system. My friend Lizzi (the one who is a super speedy awesome runner, who made me so inspired watching her become a runner along the way) sent me a card in the mail I got last Thursday, and it was so sweet and I teared up and it welcomed me to the 13.1 club. I am so excited to be a member. Mandy mailed me a tie-dye 13.1 sticker! I need to get my car washed so I can stick it on a clean windshield… In case you’re wondering, the rest of the day involved plenty of Gatorade, Powerade, water, an epson salt bath soak, napping, pretzels and other assorted salty snacks, chicken, and bananas. Later after a stop by my grandma’s house we went and watched some football at Mango Marley’s, and indulged in an Oreo Brownie Sundae. It felt like a pretty long day, and in the middle of it I was pretty exhausted, but by the end of it I was thinking that my body didn’t feel like I imagined it would – completely worn out, (though definitely somewhat sore!) So! Now that this one is under my belt, I’m looking forward to doing another one in the spring. My cousin thinks I should train for a full, but I’d like to get my time down on the half first. I’m thinking about one in Albany, Georgia in March. In the mean time, the holidays are upon us and I’ll be going to Orlando in two weekends for JD and Tony’s Tacky Sweater Christmas party! AND I was browsing yesterday and found a 3-mile fun run through Sea World that Saturday! Yeah, it’s at 715 in the morning, but hello! So worth it! I’m psyched!
In case you’re curious, here are a few photos from Saturday:
Gorgeous sunrise on the way to Pier Park.
Waiting to start the race!
Oh you know, just tying my shoes…
Rounding the first turn…(note – I don’t keep my arms like that I try to hold them lower, more relaxed…)
Gumby crossing the finish line!
Me getting to the finish.