Just out of reach...
I woke up Saturday morning at 5:45 – fifteen minutes before
my alarm clock was set to being its annoying beep regimen. Here’s how it
usually goes: The sound starts slowly. “Beep…Beep…Beep…Beep.” After about 8
beeps, it suddenly doubles in speed. “Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep” If I’m not up
within a few seconds, it goes into time-bomb mode. BeepBeepBeepBeep,” until I
violently smack “snooze” and roll over, burying my head in the pillow once
more. Saturday was different. I was too excited to sleep, and I
didn’t need the alarm to remind me that it was a big day. I had trained for
three months to run the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon, and the starting rifle
volley was fast approaching.
In a rare instance of forethought, I had laid out my
clothes, pedometer and energy snacks the night before, so that I could minimize
my prep time and maximize my relaxation before the race. I dove into my
clothes, leapt into my shoes and threw my contacts in like tiny Frisbees. I
slurped a coffee-flavored Gu packet, chugged down some water and started
hopping around in anticipation like a rabbit on speed. My roommate Kevin was
also running, but he was decidedly less hyper about it. By the time we met
Amanda at the starting line, I was punching the air like Rocky Balboa and
attempting that crazy Capoeira dance style they do in
My energy level was so high, I couldn’t help but run like a
felon who just broke out of jail. I was practically sprinting, passing people
in much better shape than myself. In the back of my mind, I was thinking, “I
shouldn’t be going this fast. I shouldn’t be passing the guy with calf muscles
like tree trunks.” I just figured I would take advantage of the endorphins
while they lasted and deal with the slump when it came. That was a mistake.
My first four miles passed in the blink of an eye. As I hit
the fourth mile marker, my pedometer told me I had just blasted my old 5K time
out of the water, running almost as fast in four miles as my record for three. That
was pretty encouraging, of course – until I realized I hadn’t even completed a
quarter of the course and my legs were already getting tired. That was at the first
South Grand Avenue entrance to
I spent the next few miles calculating whether I could still
finish within two hours and reminding myself of how much better I was doing than
last year. Just getting to that point was a triumph, I decided. (That’s true,
considering that I’ve lost sixty pounds since my freshman year of college, and
I used to be totally pooped after just two miles.)
At the water stop near the IDOT depot on North Lincoln
Avenue, I stopped to down some Jelly Belly Sport Beans and rehydrate. (The
Jelly Bellies take too much time to chew, by the way, and require too much
water to swallow. I wouldn’t recommend them for events in which time is an
issue.) As I refueled, Kevin and Amanda arrived, checked on me and continued on
without complaint. I, on the other hand, had a complaint. I was tired and sore,
but I had to go on.
The hills at
As I caught up to the soldier running in military fatigues
and body armor, I realized I had made two mistakes: I hadn't taken my usual two aspirin to keep my legs from swelling, and I hadn't stretched out properly before starting. I made another realization then, as well: I had lost my focus. I knew I could go faster if I
could just push myself mentally and ignore the leg pain, but it wasn’t
happening. I stopped two more times before I hit the home stretch. There’s something about seeing the finish line ahead that
gives me a burst of mental energy. Even though my legs had been entirely
uncooperative for the past three miles, as I approached the finish, they
suddenly sprang to life in a furious sprint. For the last fifty meters of the
race, it was as if I had traded in my legs for a fresh pair. Why can’t I feel
like that all the time?
I finished the race in 2:13:35, about five minutes ahead of
last year, but 13 minutes behind my target of two hours. My sister and my dad
greeted me in the cool down tent as I greedily stuffed my face with a donut and
a plain biscuit, washed down with purple Gatorade. I was just happy to be done,
but I couldn’t help thinking already that I would train harder and longer for
next year’s race. I will break two hours. It’s only a matter of time.
Care to share your story from the half? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if it’s interesting, I’ll feature it here.
Thanks, and have a great week!