There are at least half a dozen things I should be doing right now, but instead I’d like to sit here and drink my fizzy water with lime and tell you about the half marathon.
First, it was nothing like what I expected. I expected it to be punishingly hard. I expected long periods of the sort of pain and exhaustion that I experienced in the last half mile of the 10 Miler. I expected that my knees would ache as they have after short runs, and that I’d have to walk at least the hills, if not part of the flats. I expected to break into tears if I made it to the finish line.
What I did not expect was pure joy. I did not expect that at all. I stayed with Tina for the first 1.5 miles, pacing at 11:30 per mile, much slower than my usual runs but consistent with advice that Stephen’s given me in the past. We wound around through downtown Dexter, past a marching band and a tiny cheerleader and many folks watching from folding chairs in their front lawns. Before we made it to the cider mill, we wished each other a good race and I eased into my pace: around 10:30 for the duration of the run, still slower than usual but maintainable for the distance.
There were hills – more than I expected. In the week after the 10 Miler, I meditated on my gratitude for my feet and legs: stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined, able to carry me for ten miles without faltering. As I ran up those hills, I meditated on my butt, feeling the muscles stretch and propel me forward, passing runners on the inside of the curve.
I chewed gum – the same piece for 3 hours – and I listened to Four Tet. I soaked up the sun, relishing the warmth on my skin. I took Gatorade at mile 6, and water at 8, 10, and 12. Between those miles, someone had a hose hooked up to their mailbox, and I splashed my face with the cold sulphuric water. I took my only gel at mile 11 – chocolate, warm from the sun and my body.
Our names were printed on our bibs. I didn’t really understand why – until I started passing bystanders who were cheering for runners by name. Every time I heard my name, I wanted to cry with happiness. These total strangers gave me small bursts of energy and joy, which I tried to pay forward along the course – complimenting tattoos or cute running jerseys, encouraging runners who stopped and started. I made a friend at around 11.5 – he asked how I was feeling, and I said that I felt amazing and that this was the furthest I’d ever run in my life. We stayed together around the curve from Huron River Drive up onto Main Street, when he broke out ahead. He found me at the finish line, shook my hand, and congratulated me on my first half.
The last hill – I didn’t know if I could make it. Half a mile uphill into downtown – so difficult during the 5K last year, almost impossible after 12.6 miles of running. And then I saw Karl and Cara on the sidelines, Karl with his medal already around his neck. I shouted out to them, and they cheered for me. Another burst of energy and happiness to carry me over the finish line, where Shane was waiting with the camera.
Water. My medal. Kissing my medal in front of the flag for the official photographer. Food. Hugs. Chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-cherry sourdough from Zingerman’s. More water. And then standing on the sidelines with Shane waiting for Tina to finish. Cheering for people struggling to the end. Enjoying the happiness on the faces of loved ones as their runners finished. Soaking up the moment. Spotting Tina heading up the hill, whipping off my bib, and running back to join her.
Crossing the finish line a second time, with energy I didn’t think I had.
And then spending the rest of the day in the sort of intense glow that I couldn’t have possibly imagined. Warm from happiness, exhaustion, and sunburn. Cocktails, biscuits with chocolate-bacon gravy, and a salad at the Roadhouse while wearing my medal. A nap while wearing my medal. Beers, fruit, guacamole, a cute drooly baby, an energetic big sister, and lots of conversation with friends while wearing my medal. Snacks and loud music at Ashley’s while wearing my medal. An early bedtime (sans medal).
Was it worth the pain and exhaustion I’ve experienced all day today? Definitely. Will I do it again? Yes – in Detroit in October. Have I done a good job of expressing the full-body elation I experienced in this post? Not even remotely.