Monday, November 15, 2010

I came. I ran. I conquered?

When my alarm went off just after 5 a.m. Saturday morning, one question entered my mind: "What am I doing?"

The answer, of course, was a half marathon. You know, the 13.1-mile race with a training regimen that had consumed my Saturday mornings for the past three months.

When my boyfriend and I arrived at the National Infantry Museum for the Soldier Marathon and Half Marathon around 6 a.m., I still couldn't believe we were going through with it.

The photo above features Alan and me, as well as Mike and Jaycee, two of our friends from our Saturday running group.

Long story short, we completed the race. My time was somewhere around 2:25-2:26, blame my vagueness on the fact that the results website was down at the time of this post.

Anyway, in fear of becoming one of "those bloggers" who details every mile of every race, I'll leave you with my three biggest lessons from the experience.

Humor helps. One of my biggest fears -- other than walking or having to go the bathroom mid-race -- was getting lost on the course. And of course, at the first water stop, I started running the wrong way upon grabbing my cup of water. After a gentle, "ma'am, it's THIS way," I was back on track. The experience actually loosened me up a lot.

Pain is temporary, pride is forever. This mildly cheesy slogan decorated the locker room in a gym I attended in California. I use it during my most challenging moments.

My biggest challenge on Saturday came around mile 11. I was exhausted. I'd been warned about the 10-mile slump and friends told me to "just think of the remaining distance as a 5K."

That sounds really helpful in theory, but then you realize that you usually don't start a 5K after already running 10 miles. Anyway, I pushed through and ran the entire thing.

Is that it? Prior to the race, I had visions of excitedly jumping up and down at the finish line. Make no mistake: I was happy, but my first instinct was to critique my performance.

Before the sweat even disappeared from my face, I'd gone through every mile in my mind -- wondering if I could've/would've/should've done something differently.

My answer? Of course.

But my post-race reaction underscored one of the biggest things I've taken away from the half marathon process: a willingness to test my limits and run harder in the moments when I'm most intent on running away.

Added bonus: the half marathon was a really nice way to justify eating these pumpkin pancakes at IHOP Sunday morning. Mmm.