Think back to a time when you accomplished something you once before only believed was impossible. I never thought I would run 3 miles let alone 13.1. Yesterday I experienced my first half marathon. I’ve been preparing myself for this race since my first step on the treadmill back in June of 2011. I didn’t know it then, but that was my first step on this journey. Back then I got on that treadmill for merely the sake of getting back into shape and to maybe start feeling better about the person I saw in the mirror. That first step on the treadmill had a domino effect beginning with the C25K app, racing my first 5K, then more 5Ks, then a 10K, then two 10 mile races and lastly the Chicago Half Marathon.
By my standards it was fairly chilly the morning of the race, so I wore my brown sweat pants and hoodie over my running clothes. This outfit, if you can call it that, I wore repeatedly for the first year of my youngest daughter’s life. I lived in sweats and hoodies because I didn’t have it in me dress in presentable clothes. These sweats were oversized, grease and food stained from trying to eat with one hand while breastfeeding/holding my daughter with the other. This brown sweat suit was a symbol of where I came from. I shed those pants and hoodie left them at the base of some tree and made my way to the starting line. I left them behind and reveled in all that I have overcome. I was doing it.
I signed up for this race with my friend, Monika, so the two of us found the 2:00:00 hour pace group sign and squeezed our way into the starting corral at letter K. We were supposed to be back at letter N, but that was when we thought we’d be running at a 2:30:00 pace. This was a wise choice on our part because it was still hard to make our way through all the other runners. Once we passed the starting line we agreed that we would run our own races and meet after crossing the finish line.
I felt awesome for the first 7 miles. I ran with a smile, cheered on other runners and high-fived spectators. Then along the stretch of Lake Shore Drive I was enjoying the view of the lake and all the signs. A couple good ones I saw said, “Run Stranger Run!” and “Run Faster My Ex-Wife is a ½ mile ahead!” I especially loved the “More Cowbell Guy” who was cheering for us runners. I wonder how many hours he banged the hell out of that thing?
Once I hit mile 7 I was anxiously anticipating the turn around. It seemed like mile 7-8 was taking forever. After the turn around, I sank deep within myself and really listened to my music for the next 2 miles. It’s interesting how I can find personal meanings in the lyrics. For instance, “I feel so close to you right now. You’re like a force field” (Calvin Harris) made me think of the finish being so close, yet pulling me in that direction. When I ran past the 10 mile mark I told myself this was the longest I had ever run in a race and a smile was beaming across my face. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” couldn’t have come on at a better time than when I hit 11.5 miles. I needed that boost to help me finish. I was singing the words inside my head and lip-syncing. I’m sure people thought I was crazy, but I was pumped.
My crazy goal was to run a sub 2:00:00 race, but at the 12 mile mark I knew that was a lofty goal. I had seen my mileage splits on my Garmin read over 9:06 per mile one too many times. I shook that notion from my mind and gave it everything I had. I picked up the pace for the last mile and a half. I even busted out a sprint for the last quarter of a mile. This brought me across the finish line at 2:00:49! Not bad for my first half marathon, if I do say so myself.
Throughout the race I had an eye on my friend Monika. I was able to see her ahead of me for most of the race. At mile 10 or so I caught up to her and we shared a knowing smile the we were doing it and doing it well. We continued on our own, but I knew we were close so once I crossed the finish line I stopped to find her. We finished seconds apart. We were able to put our arms around each other, let a few tears escape and bask in our accomplishment. It really was a race to remember.