I had been preparing for this day since the beginning of July--The Mighty Niagara Half Marathon (for hospice). Week after week I followed my training schedule, running something like 3 miles Monday, 5 miles Tuesdays, 4 miles Thursday, with a long run on Friday or Saturday. My long runs started at 6 miles (since that was my base prior to training) and built up one mile at a time each week. I achieved the 13 mile distance at the end of August and for the next few weeks began tapering--a 12 mile September 7th, an 8 mile the week after, and finally resting up with a 5 mile run 2 days before the race.
I was ready.
My mom and dad had been excited about my race and I invited them to join in on the fun. The world of runners is a microcosm that cannot be explained, only experienced, and my parents were looking forward to being a part of my big day. After an evening of games with mom, dad, Kevin, Randy, and Sheryl (and some competitive banter between myself and Randy), we all hit the sack early Friday night.
Saturday morning dawned cold, windy, rainy, and just plain depressing. I do not enjoy running in the rain. I have tried to be whimsical and go for a fun run in the rain, but it's never fun for me. Thus, the morning's weather was a source of major frustration and disappointment. I kept praying and praying that the Lord would clear the skies and calm the winds.
We carpooled to Lewiston, NY with the other half marathon trainees from our church's Run for God group and arrived with plenty of time to register, use the bathroom too many times, and take a pre-race group photo.
|Back Row: Brian, Jack, Matt, Mickey, Wayne, Tom|
Front Row: Tom, Melanie, Sheryl
It was finally race time. We took our places in the sea of 900+ runners, half of the guys near the front and Sheryl, me, Brian, Wayne, Mickey, and Jack at the back of the group. I wanted to start out with my friends to ease my nerves and keep me from gunning it out of the start gate. My strategy worked! Not only was I more relaxed and even laughing, but the rain suddenly stopped my goose-bumped arms were warm again! Praise the Lord.
I spent the first 2 miles with my friends, keeping my mood light, but soon I felt the urge to push ahead and increase my speed. I gradually began the process of working my way through the mass of runners, enjoying the sounds of their conversations and the sights of the lovely towns through which we were running.
Mile after mile there was always something to keep my mind entertained. Bands played with enthusiasm every couple miles, there were water/Gatorade stations (where I nearly always choked--it's hard to run and drink simultaneously), guys who would take off for the nearest patch of trees for a bathroom break--rendering the nearest ladies full of laughter (and maybe some jealously!), and supporters filling the sidewalks. The air was ringing with their cheers and enthusiastic encouragement.
I kept looking for our crew of cheerleaders--Kevin, Randy, dad, and mom--but by mile 6 hadn't seen them yet. Just then, I passed through the quaint town of Youngstown and it was just the boost I needed. The people were flooding the streets, cheering loudly, and even offering high fives as we passed. I was feeling good as I approached mile 7 and there, off in the distance, was my cheering section! Dad and Mom high fived me, Randy was videotaping, and Kevin was taking pictures and loudly yelling, "GOOD JOB EVERYBODY! BUT GO, MELANIE! I MARRIED HER!"
As I passed them by, my emotions nearly got the best of me and I had to choke back tears. Their presence was overwhelmingly encouraging and I knew I could do this--keep on keeping on (as my husband always says.)
For the next many miles, a girl with the name "Hillarie" stamped on her back and I kept a silent camaraderie and competition going. She would pass me, I would pass her. We would be side by side. She'd pass, I'd pass. We had nearly the same tempo run and whenever one of us would slow down the other would speed by, thus pushing the other to up the ante. At one point, I heard her talking to a friend of hers and say, "Right now we're running an 8:30 and we're on target to finish in 2 hours." Oh man! I was going to stick with Hillarie. I couldn't let her out of my sight. I fell pretty far behind her at one point, but I gradually worked my way back and kept the lead for the final few miles. So thanks, Hillarie, whoever you are, for keeping me going.
As we turned into the campground where the finish line awaited our grand entrance, a guy was cheering us on and shouting, "Only half a mile to go!" AWESOME! I can totally handle 1/2 a mile. Unfortunately, that guy was way off and it was closer to a mile left to the finish--which is excruciating when you're SO ready to be done. My stomach was churning from the water and Gatorade that was sloshing around, and heck, I'd been running for almost 2 hours--I was pretty beat. Just as I was praying, "Lord, please don't let me throw up. Please, Lord." (yes it was that desperate), my phone beeped with a text message notification. Elizabeth--my best friend from infancy--wrote, "You just came to mind at this moment and I wanted you to know I'm praying for you."
OH SWEET JESUS that was JUST what I needed most. Thank you, friend, for listening to the Lord's prompting.
After nearly slipping and falling in the muddy woods just prior to the finish, I rounded the corner to hear my name being shouted by church friends, Karen & Denise. I waved and smiled and then caught my husband's eye. He was beaming with pride and I blew him a kiss as I cross the finish line. My mom and dad were there to catch me, and Kevin ran over to hold me up as my knees were nearly collasping under me. My emotions were welling up in my tear ducts but I managed to keep them at bay once again.
I had FINISHED. and finished well.
My final chip time was 2:00:47--a time I am completely thrilled with and find hard to believe. I was figuring I'd finish around 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I'll take the just-over-2 hours-finish! My average pace per mile was 9:13 and I honestly think I could run it even faster than that--I didn't want to risk burn out. I finished 4th in our group of 9 (7 of whom are men), 165th out of 627 women, and 45th out of 127 women ages 25-29. I think it's ok to be proud of my finish. I am!
I loved my first half marathon. I loved having my husband and my parents there. I loved finishing. And I love the sweet medal. :)
|Sheryl and Mel--best friends, training partners, half marathoners!|