Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why I Run

This was the forecast on Friday night - for Saturday morning.  The morning of my very first half marathon.  The half marathon for which I had trained for 4 months...
But, I soldiered on with my pre-race preparations. I have run a number of 5ks, a 10k and a 12k, but this was almost double my longest race yet. I was nervous but really not too bad. I set all my stuff out. My husband made spinach pasta with light Alfredo sauce and I drank a gallon of water (well, not all at once...but still).

My BRF (best running friend) Molly, who conveniently lives in my neighborhood, picked me up at exactly 6:45am after my pre-race coffee, bagel and banana. It was raining. I was ready with my visor and my trash bag...

Then, it was almost time. 

And off we went! The first 5 miles were kind of a blur. I apparently took the above photo on the stretch road out to mountain campus... Where we passed Swan Lake.  (Warning - some photos that follow are blurry. It was rainy-ish, yes - but they are mostly blurry because of my very technical method of carrying my phone when I run. I shove it under the strap of my sports bra. So it gets humid and sweaty and the lens fogs up. Sorry...)

(Yes that is a real swan and I was probably 25 yards away...)

This is just after mile 6 at the old mill...

Then we ran up past Winshape and at the Normandy Inn (?) - at this point, it was 9:30. Still no real rain to speak of! It cleared when the gun went off. 

The volunteers were my favorite part of the race. And they liked having their photos made:

This girl (who is bound to be my real life friend soon) was super into encouraging all the runners. Thank you!!!

And then, gloriously, Mercifully, I was at mile 12. Phew!!!

(See? I was really happy about mile 12...)
And then I saw the finish line! And my friend Molly was at my last turn. She ran the 5k and then waited in the windy weather for me for like an hour and a half. True running friends are hard to beat!!!

And as I approached the finish line I saw my husband. He had been waiting patiently for an hour and a half, too! His jeans and jacket were soaked.... I saw him before he saw me and I busted into tears. 12 seconds later I realized there was a photographer at the finish line and an ugly cry finisher photo was not what I wanted so I sucked it up!!!  
I had to use the facilities (my running buddies know I used the port-a-johns THREE TIMES between 7 & 8 am. But I refused to stop during the race. ;)

Here I am post-potty with my medal!

So. Here are my thoughts. 1) I did it. I really did it! 2) it was worth it. All that hard training was totally worth that busting about-in-tears moment. 3) the race was beautiful and an awesome run. My time was not super fast but I wasn't last and I felt great. 4) post first half-marathon if you sit or lay down, don't plan to get up for a while. Not worth the effort. 

I had a lot of people encouraging me in my journey to this achievement. Yes, I am the one who actually laced up and sweated out all those miles. But, I have had a lot of outside inspiration from all of my running friends, my non-running friends, my family, and sometimes even strangers - like the little 6 or 7 year old boy at mile 5-6 that handed me water and told me I was looking good and he was proud of me because I was almost halfway!

In this journey, I have also had people tell me that because they saw what I was doing with running, they were also inspired to get up and move. My heart is full of gratitude for those of you who have decided to make your own journey. I want to be very careful about this next part.... I have also had a billion questions about running. I am not an expert, nor am I a very experienced or fast runner.  I don't know the answers to nutrition and fueling questions, or about plantar fasciitis, or whether static stretching is good or bad. So, I usually just refer those people to the interwebs. 

The number one question I do get though, as a runner that started running at 36 years old is - WHY? Some want to know why because their motto is "I don't run unless I am being chased..." (For the record, that was also my motto before last summer/fall...) Others want to know because they want to start running, but need to know how to start; or, they have tried to run, but have not enjoyed it. As a technical matter, I didn't really love running for the first 2 months, but I did love that I found myself pushing for further and faster each time I went out...and, if you never love running, it's ok. I think you have to find your own reason to run. 

Maybe my story will help you find your reason. I know exactly why I run. I don't tell everyone often, because it seems sappy and overly emotional and ... Well, too deep. But, deep down I know why I take every step, even when it hurts, even when I don't want to, I don't feel like it and any other chore would be preferable to lacing up and hitting the pavement. 

I run because I can. I run because when I do, I feel more alive than I have ever felt before. And "alive" is the one thing I want to always *remember* to count as the most profound gift I have ever been given. 

It's not complicated. I can run. So many people can't run and will never even be ABLE to think about running. So, when I run, I remember to be grateful for my legs that carry my body. My heart pumps blood to my brain and my muscles and my brain tells everyone - keep going, guys. My lungs draw in the oxygen that keeps everything fed and healthy. My skin sweats and cools my body temperature. What amazing machines we are. 

This next bit is probably the most profound part, for me; this is also the part I am not so great at spouting off when people ask me why I run. I run because it helps me remember I am ALIVE. My legs hurt. Bad!!! It's hard to breathe (but I keep doing it...) I have to use my brain to get un-lost on an 8 mile unmarked trail (and yes, I use my smartphone, too...) The pain of running, the physical sensations and difficulty - they make me FEEL ALIVE. And yes, I feel alive most of the time, but when I am running, there is not a lot else to feel... I become very focused on the physical capabilities of my body - my amazing aliveness. 2 years ago this month, I started radiation treatment for a really weird type of cancer called Anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After like, a bazillion tests, it was determined that my prognosis was really good and I was going to be fine. I was lucky to never have been particularly ill, and that I had the best care ever. But it changed me. It changed how I feel about my body. Instead of being irritated about how my hips don't fit into the size I want, I embrace that these very hips carried two other lives into this world. 

So, when I run, I remember that I am so very very very lucky to be able to feel the blood pumping and the muscles straining and the lungs squeezing. This makes me alive. Alive is what I strive to stay...

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