the finish line
it’s incredibly motivating and satisfying to set your eyes on the completion of any project, big or small, and reach the finish line successfully. jon acuff is encouraging a “finish year” with his online community, and so in january i set my own list of commitments for the year. my list mostly focuses on my one word for 2012, but also includes personal achievements i think will better me.
today i’d like to share and celebrate the realization of one item on my list. i want to remember the details, because even if i repeat the experience, i don’t think it will be as thrilling as my first time.
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one of my goals for 2012 was to run a half-marathon sometime before the end of the year. i gave myself a long window of time, because it seemed like a monumental task to tackle. (my marathoner friends, bear with me. you amaze me.) i had never run more than ten tired miles in my life, and was only comfortable with about six when i set the goal. i figured doubling my regular distance would take some time.
but when scheduling conflicts* developed and my fall race was no longer an option, i realized that i’d have to run much sooner than planned if i wanted to achieve half-marathoner status in 2012. so when i discovered a race two weeks out on my mom‘s birthday weekend, i decided to run it in memory of her and hope she and her angel friends would whisk me forward if i pooped out.
the problem was, i was already scheduled to work an all-day event the day before the race. on my feet. for fourteen hours. until 12:30 am. oh, and the other problem was i hadn’t really been training that consistently, because, you know, i wasn’t planning to race for many months yet. but ill-prepared, worn-out legs, and inadequate sleep be darned, i was going to try.
the morning of the race was chilly but not cold, overcast but not raining yet, and incredibly windy. i felt good, but confirmed my backup plan just in case: dad and lee stationed themselves at the halfway point offering two choices: sugar calories if i needed more energy, and the car if i needed a ride home. so with the 33mph gusts defying us to move forward, the crowd started running at the horn.
it always takes me a while to settle into a groove, but by the third mile i was just enjoying the scenery around the lake. i didn’t carry a timepiece, instead allowing my music to set my pace. when i have a time goal, i will obsessively calculate my pace throughout a run. i wanted to enjoy the experience, and i knew if i pushed too hard i might not finish, especially under the circumstances.
previous runs indicated that i could finish in 2:15 if i maintained my average pace throughout the race. i decided i would be happy with anything under 2:30. the fastest time i thought was possible for my conditioning was 2:10.
when i hit the halfway point feeling fresh at just 63 minutes, i knew i was having a good day. i waved happily to my small cheering section, grabbed a fistful of honey packets out of lee’s outstretched hand, and turned back toward the finish line.
as i ran the second half, periodically sucking down mouthfuls of refreshing sweetness, i was grateful for the wind now at my back, the motivating tunes in my ears, and the cheerful volunteers at the water stations. i was also thankful for the little fortunes (or lack of common annoyances): earphones not straying, ponytail not drooping, clothes not chafing, knees not aching, side not stitching.
and i tried not to think about the 11th mile.
everyone told me, “if you can run ten miles, you can run thirteen.” but i couldn’t help thinking that the extra 31% seemed significant. so every step after the ten-mile mark was a milestone for me. “this is the farthest i’ve ever run. now, this is the farthest i’ve ever run.”
at twelve miles i knew i was going to make it, so i put an imaginary bulls-eye on the back of a girl in a purple shirt who’d been about 100 yards in front of me for the last five miles. i was determined to pass her by the time we reached the finish line. with the help of a downhill grade for the last half mile, i flew past her and practically sprinted to the end.
i was shocked to see 2:04:36 on the clock as i crossed the finish line. obviously i’m thrilled with my time, but i’m honestly just as happy that that i wasn’t miserable for the last several miles that and i didn’t have to quit. it feels awesome to have one of my big 2012 goals crossed off the list. thanks for letting me re-live it here.
*UPDATE: when this post was first published, it was not public knowledge that the conflicting event on the fall calendar was my first baby’s due date.