So, I’m a runner. I have been for years. It started sometime in childhood and then in middle school I nervously joined the track team. From there I learned about running and building my body and training and training and succeeding. In high school, I was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. I have a handful of medals that I earned. Each one I put something towards and was rewarded. I didn’t win every medal I had a chance to, and that’s what made the medals more important to me. They weren’t a sure thing. Anyway, until recently, they meant something.
Then I got this medal:
This medal got me thinking about what brought me to the point where I was ecstatic to receive a medal that had no sign that I was better than other people but merely stated that I tried and succeeded. It’s the medal I got from running, and finishing, a half-marathon this past weekend. It was the hardest medal I ever earned.
I trained for a month to get ready for the half-marathon and during that time the longest I ran was 8 miles. I felt like a white rapper (for the record, I’ve used that joke every time I tell someone about that milestone). Then the day of the race came and I hadn’t ever known what it was like to run 13.1 miles consecutively. As I lined up with the 2:10 pace crowd, I assured myself that then was as good of a time as any to learn.
Blah blah blah. I can try to make it into something more than it was but when it gets boiled down, I finished a race that I was unprepared for. I stepped up to the line with the only thought of, “Dear lord, what have I gotten myself into? I hope I can at least finish sub-two hours.”
The beginning was deceptively easy as I pass all the people around me (once I made it out of the horde of tightly packed runners). Then came the first and tallest hill. I think it might even have been the steepest. It was a breeze. I flew through the first seven miles. Then I hit the proverbial wall. It was right about the time I got deep into the UW Arboretum where the course led us. It was at that point the only way to stop was to get out of the Arboretum because there was only one long road that wound its way through the place. I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop.
When I made it through, there was a group of cheering people not for anyone in particular. It felt good hearing the cheers, though. They had drinks and some sort of energy gel (which I avoided). I was refreshed only enough to get me to the last hill where all hopes in the race went to die. It was steep, tall and ten miles in. It was cruelty at it’s finest. I wasn’t the only one swearing as we inched our way up but I made it.
As I rounded the second to last corner of the race, I got a pleasant surprise. My good friend Joe had come out to cheer me on. The sight of him gave me a burst of energy I should have used to finish the race but instead I wasted it on cheering for him cheering for me and running over to give him a hug without breaking stride.
In the end, I finished the race in 1:49:01. That was about 25 minutes faster than my buddy who conned me into the race. I also later found out that I knew another guy running the race who was always training for races and running them. It made me feel better when I looked up his time and found out I beat him by just over a minute.