This past Sunday I ran my third half-marathon in the past 365 days, my fourth 10+ mile race. I am excited, proud, and exhausted. I didn’t share much, or anything, beforehand because I simply wasn’t looking forward to it. I signed up in May before I ran Broad Street. I’ve spent the summer job-hunting, and it’s been daunting to say the least. Battling my own sense of self-worth in a bad job market, running was not really at the top of my priority list. Looking back, I wish that I’d thrown myself into running as an outlet for the emotional distress I suffered while not being able to work, to put my graduate education to use to help others. I did not train as hard as I have in the past and when Saturday night rolled around and we went to dinner to carb-load with friends I was feeling nervous.
(Approaching the starting line)
I ran the Philly Rock n’ Roll half-marathon alone—amidst 18,000 other runners, but without a companion. Last year I ran my first race ever, the same half-marathon, alongside my loyal friend and superstar runner Eric. I ran the Caesar Rodney half in March with my true love Slip. And I ran the Broad Street 10-Miler with a group of friends and with the support of my Team in Training coaches. Since Eric is training for a full-marathon (woo!) and running a super fast pace these days, I found myself waving goodbye to Slip (my biggest fan) and toeing the starting line all by my lonesome.
I’d known for weeks that I’d be running alone, but it didn’t really hit me until the night before. The longest distance I’d done by myself previously had been 7 miles. My friends who don’t run often tell me they could never do long distances because they’d simply get bored. Luckily I don’t get bored, but running 13.1 miles, especially alone, is a test of mental endurance. Physically I knew I had it in me—despite the sinus infection I was trying to fight off and the calf muscle I conveniently pulled 4 days before the race. But it takes mental strength to power through a pain in your leg, to listen to your body, and to push yourself that last .1 mile uphill.
(A joggler— he juggled the entire half-marathon!)
Things started off well; it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of a huge and really well put together race. I knew I could do it and was ready to challenge myself. I circled through the city and around mile 4.5 got to see Slip again as we rounded past the Art Museum. He ran alongside the fence for about ¼ mile, giving me smiles and words of encouragement. I got phone calls from him and my parents who were tracking my race, calling me at the 10K mark with continued support. Then around mile 7 my calf muscle really started to hurt. And at mile 8 my music cut out. And my mental strength and endurance really had to kick into high gear.
(There’s me in the grey and pink shirt)
I knew that I wasn’t going to PR, given my physical ailments. Once I got to mile 9 the end was in sight; I somehow focused on simply getting to the next mile. I thought about all the people who love and support me in my life. And when I got to mile 12 I just thought about how lucky I am. I thought about the fact that it didn’t matter if I got a PR, that last year this time I was running my very first half-marathon, that I’ve only been running for 16 months and I was about to finish my 4th long distance race. That chip times and negative people don’t matter, but seeking inner strength, purpose, and creating love is what matters the most in the world. I saw a man running in a pink tutu and all the coaches cheering on charity teams and I began to smile. When I saw Slip as I neared the finish line a big smile came to my face and with every ounce of energy I had left I sprinted across that line, with a course PR of about 30 seconds. I took the (sparkly!) race medal and wore it proudly around my neck for the rest of the day. I know that no matter what comes my way I am strong and I am brave, and though this race was not a personal best I surely passed this personal test.