Friday, December 23, 2016

The Stats of 2016


So my amazing husband and partner in this crazy year of half marathon running has made this amazing Christmas present for me. I've got to take a minute to brag... because I'm just blown away by the fact that he came up with this design on his own and then executed it. Amazing, beautiful, fun, and impressive. Kind of like I view him. How did I land such a man? But I digress...

As I approach 2017, I wonder what it will hold. It looks like I may start the year with a big fat injury. Yep. Major bummer. I remained silent about it through most of the year because what was the point in mentioning it? Now, however, it has reared its ugly, knobby head to say, "HEY! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ME NOW!" And I've said okay, fine. I'm going on two weeks of no running... oh me. That's been hard, and I've felt like I'm waving goodbye to all my gains this past training season. I'm doing PiYo and weight workouts, and I'm visiting the most amazing massage therapist, Kim Susor of Meridian Acupuncture and Massage Therapy. And I'm trying to be patient.

The injury is another knee knob (see Knee Knobs and Foam Sticks from years ago). I fell hard while pregnant with Matthew in 2014, and a calcium deposit formed where I hit my left knee. It was no big deal until I started training harder and running more this year. The deposit (or knob, as I call it) sits right where all kinds of tendons and ligaments intersect, and the repetitive motion has caused quite a ruckus. About the middle of the year, it started to complain, but only for the first two minutes of a run. I used the Stick and foam roller, and kept trucking. Toward the end of the year it got to where it hurt for the first 2 miles of a run. I took a lot of time off before the final half marathon, and was able to do that one mostly pain free, but I paid for that afterward.

Since then, I've been doing the best I can while trying to recover and heal. I think the Lord is teaching me something here, but that's for another blog post.

The stats of 2016! That's what this post is supposed to be about! And how fun it is to look back and remember. What a wonderful year. It makes my heart swell as I allow my mind to run through all the experiences again. All the fun. All the early mornings. The hours in the car. Google maps. The triumphs, the flops, the laughs and special moments with Jason. Being sick as a dog in February. The brutal headwind in March. Jason running 4 extra miles off course in June. The crazy trail run through the Appalachian Mountains in July. Realizing I forgot my running shoes an hour before running through the night in August. A surprise PR in September. A first place over all win. Another PR in November. A sweet hometown run in December. The thrill or relief of seeing Jason around mile 12 of every single race.

I learned so much about myself as a runner throughout this journey. I thought my PR days were probably behind me, but that wasn't true. I discovered I prefer to race without music. I found a little competitive edge which spurs me onward even when I'm spent. I like pacers. A tough course doesn't necessarily mean a slower race. I'm stronger than I thought.

And now for the stats! I'm including the date, the race, the location, my time and any wins.

January 16 - Elkmont Half Marathon, Elkmont, AL - 1:56:39 (3rd AG)
February 28 - Seaside Half Marathon, Seaside, FL - 2:05:05
March 19 - Bowling Green Half Marathon, Bowling Green, KY - 1:55:34
April 2 - Oak Barrel Half Marathon, Lynchburg, TN - 1:55:11
May 21 - Viola Valley Half Marathon, Viola, TN - 1:48:47 (3rd AG)
June 4 - Hillbilly Half Marathon, Franklin, TN - 1:54:35
July 2 - White Lightning Half Marathon, Pikeville, KY - 2:00:54 (trails) (1st AG)
August 13 - Area 13.1 Half Marathon, Roswell, GA - 1:54:00
September 24 - Kentucky History Half Marathon, Frankfort, KY - 1:43:52 (PR and 1st OA win!)
October 3 - Little River Canyon Half Marathon, Fort Payne, AL - 1:52:07 (3rd OA female)
November 6 - BG26.2 Half Marathon, Bowling Green, KY - 1:42:02 (PR, 3rd OA female, 2nd AG)
December 3 - Panama City Beach Half Marathon, PCB, FL - 1:45:15 (3rd AG)

I cannot thank my family enough for all the babysitting. This would not have been possible without our moms and my sister watching our kiddos while we traveled and raced. What a blessing they have been to us. I cannot thank my husband enough for being willing (I think it was his idea in the first place) to go on this journey with me. I have loved every moment with him, every race date just the two of us, even if they started at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. And most importantly, I thank my God for this amazing, blessed year and all the joy and fun it has brought. From the gorgeous places He created for our pleasure, to the bodies that stayed strong throughout, the safety as we traveled miles upon miles, watching over our families and kiddos while we were away, the blessings He poured out over our marriage as we shared this experience... ALL good things come from Him and this year has been FULL of GOOD THINGS.

So that's a wrap. And while I have no idea what 2017 will bring, and while my heart aches a little over this silly injury, I remain full of gratefulness for what God has given me in 2016, and I have faith and hope that 2017 will be what He wants it to be. That is my prayer as I look forward to the New Year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Last Half


Last weekend Jason and I completed the last half of our 2016 year of half marathons. While the race itself was not overly great for either of us, I think what overshadowed it was the wonderful weekend we had in Panama City, and the fact that we had finally reached our goal of one half marathon a month for the year of 2016. That felt pretty amazing.

The weekend began with a 7 hour drive south. Upon arriving, we went to pick up our packets. My parents arrived right before we did (my mom couldn't pass up a chance to run a marathon in her old stomping grounds either - it was #86 for her), and my sister, Jessi and two of her girls were there too. That was a fun surprise. Jessi was running the 5k - her first in 3 years! 

After that, we headed to my dear friend Emily's house. This amazing friend and mother of 5 had agreed to keep Eloise and Matthew while Jason and I ran the half. Not only that, but she fed us our traditional pre-race meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips. After playing with her 5 precious children on Friday night, our two didn't give us a backward glance when we dropped them off at 6:00 Saturday morning.


Jason and I arrived at Pier Park in time to see the marathoners off, and I got to run a few steps with my mom and wish her luck. Then it was our turn. I was excited and hopeful and a little emotional. Part of me knew my body was done, and part of me was ready to lay it all out there anyway. It was our final half marathon. The end of an amazing year-long adventure with my one true love. It was a race in my home town. I even saw an old high school friend at the start of the race. I let all the significance, hope, love, joy, gratefulness, and strength fill me as I stood at the start line.

I had planned to start with the 1:40 pacer and just hang in as long as I could, but he started WAY too fast. Not the usual 10 seconds under goal pace, but over 30 seconds under pace. When I looked at my watch and realized I was running my 5k pace, I slowed immediately. I tucked in behind a tall, shirtless fellow I named "Snot Rocket" because he kept blowing them and there was a headwind. But because he was blocking me from that headwind, I more kindly referred to him as "Shirtless" in my mind. He was running a steady 7:45 and that was where I wanted to be.

But it felt hard. Harder than it should, and by mile 7 I was beginning to lag behind. I argued with myself. "Go! You aren't hurting, so go!" But my body wouldn't listen. I felt a deep fatigue from my shoulders down. I recognized it, and I fought it as best I could. I reminded myself that this was it! I could rest after this... but not yet. Not yet.

Jason was waiting for me at mile 12, and I was so glad to see him. My legs felt numb, but seeing him gave me a little boost, and I pushed on to the finish with him by my side. As I began to hear the loud music of the finish line, I told him I had loved this year with him, and I congratulated him on the completion of our goal. Then I ran on to do the same.

My sketchy mid-race calculations told me I'd finish in 1:48, and that was disappointing... but when I rounded the final corner, I saw the clock at 1:44, and I ran for it. I caught a guy in an orange tank top who had passed me earlier and he raced me in. That was fun. I finished in 1:45:15, and I was satisfied with that - especially given how I'd felt those last miles. It felt like a victory even though it wasn't a PR or a major win.


Jason finished third overall in 1:21, winning 1st Masters, and I placed 3rd in my age group. Jessi had also won 3rd in her age group in the 5k, and she was so excited! Jason and I drove back to Emily's to get Eloise and Matthew, chat with Emily and her fam a bit more, and then headed back to the race to see my mom finish her marathon and let Eloise play in the ocean. (Yes, in December...does that make us snow birds?)

We closed out our weekend Sunday morning at my old church, Jenks Avenue Church of Christ. Simply driving into the parking lot filled me with joy and nostalgia. It was upon attending this church in middle school that my faith really took root, grew, and became real and meaningful to me. The people I saw Sunday morning were my mentors in the faith, in the Word - real examples of the One we follow - Jesus Christ. Their love and example back then still remains strong in my heart today, and seeing them all this past Sunday was wonderful. I hugged so many necks and saw so many dear faces... it was definitely a wonderful conclusion to a fantastic weekend.

The weekend was a blessing to me, and that had little to do with the actual half marathon we ran, although that was special too. I can speak for both of us when I say Jason and I were relieved to be finished. It has been an amazingly fun year, but racing a half-marathon every month takes a toll. Even though my body is tired and sore, my heart is full, and I am grateful for the adventure it has been. I am grateful for every race experience, grateful for this beautiful country in which to run, grateful for those who helped us make it happen by keeping our kids, grateful for my partner in life who ran it all with me...

I have no idea what 2017 will hold for us, but I will enter it filled with gratitude for what 2016 has been, and that is what matters most.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Running Home

The last time I ran a half marathon in my home town of Panama City, FL, I was 15 years old. It was my first half marathon, and while I was probably strong enough to have done well, I had not done the training required to do well. I'd run one 10 miler in my life and that was after a boy I had a crush on called me on the phone. And that wasn't close enough to the half marathon to count as any sort of training.

This was NOT the finish of the half-marathon, but it is around the same time.
My mom was a relatively new distance runner herself, and she told me what I needed to do to train, but then she left me to it. I was a very independent, I'll-do-it-on-my-own kind of runner. It was my time, and I was very possessive of it. I used to run after cross country practice if I didn't like the workout we'd been given. I used to run right when I got home from school so my mom wouldn't ask to go with me. I think it was the only way I ever rebelled as a teenager. (Well... that and listening to Guns N Roses on the sly.)

So I took my training (or lack there of) in my own hands and showed up for that half marathon with no idea what I was in for. And it was bad. Really bad. I was dead dog last. And by that I mean the cop car had moved on, and the aid stations had closed. There was no water or Gatorade or people... just me running alone along the bay, wanting to sit down on the side of the road and cry.

I did cry when I saw my mom and her friend, Maggie, running towards me. Maggie had a water bottle in her hand, and she filled it at some random building so I could have a drink. I have no idea what mile that was or what my finish time was. I do remember the finish clock was still up, and a few kids from my high school were there because they heard someone from Mosley was running.  It was kind of a big deal. This was before running was a big thing.

All I cared about was getting to sit down, but my legs ached so badly, not even sitting helped. I think Maggie or my sister - someone took me home and I got into a hot bath, finally finding some relief. Later, my mom brought me my medal - I had won first place in my age group. Ha! 

A lot of running has taken place since then. A lot of mistakes, races, training, learning, growing, and changing has taken place since that first half marathon. I'm now 36, and I've run faster and farther than my 15 year old self ever imagined. It has been a fantastic journey.

So this year, Jason and I decided to run a half marathon every month. That has been another fantastic journey and experience all on its own. I have absolutely loved traveling to and running these races every month with him. Being parents of two young children, all of these moments together have been treasured, looked forward to, savored and enjoyed to the fullest.

Our 2016 journey comes to a close as we approach December and our last half-marathon, which happens to be in Panama City. I will once again run a half marathon in my home town.

I have looked forward to this race ever since we planned it early this year. I don't go home very often since my parents retired and moved closer to me and my sister, but it holds a special place in my heart, and I have some very dear friends and sweet memories there. My hope for this final half marathon was to make it my strongest, fastest one of the year... but as it draws closer I'm beginning to wonder if the best hasn't already been for me this racing season. The truth of the matter is I'm pretty worn out. My last half marathon was wonderful, and it was a PR... and it took a lot out of me. Since that race I've had a hard time rallying, and I'm easily tired.

Even so, I'm still looking forward to it. Despite how I feel right now, I have 10 days before the race, and I can spend that time resting and recovering. I still plan to show up at the start line ready to give all I have. I'm not sure what I have left, but I'll put it all out there.

One thing I do know, I probably won't be last. I can think back to that 15 year old girl running her first half marathon and smile. That 15 year old has come a long, long way on her running journey, and no matter the result of the next half-marathon, I believe there is still much more she can do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Half Marathon #11 and Another Surprise PR


This past weekend, Jason and I headed back up to his parents' house to stay with them and run the Bowling Green Half Marathon on Sunday while they kept the kids. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this one. I'd run a PR half in September, but in October my half had been 9 minutes slower with my legs giving out around mile 8. I wasn't really sure what I could do, but I had a cool, crisp fall morning and a beautiful race course on which to do it, so I was hopeful.

This race was a marathon and half marathon combined, with the marathoners doing the 13.1 mile loop twice. There was a 3:30 marathon pacer named Kevin who also doubled as the 1:45 half marathon pacer. I figured I'd just start with him as I did with Mani back in September and see what happened. I once again made the decision to stick with him until I physically couldn't.

Kevin was a tad faster than the 8:00 pace required for a 1:45 finish time, but I think most pacers are a little fast, especially if they know the course well and understand the elevation. Which Kevin did. It felt a little hard at first, so I focused on staying with Kevin and on the gorgeous fall colors around me. I stuck with him and a runner named Sarah until around mile 5 when I started to pull ahead a little on the downhill sections. He came up to me around mile 6 and asked if I was from there. I said no, so he explained that there were a few more small hills, but the course was about to flatten out "as flat as a pancake."

I thanked him and slowly began to pull away again. I was feeling good, not like I was going to burn out or that the pace was overly hard. Around mile 8 I had a little conversation with myself. "Why don't you leave it all out here? Run so you don't have anything left at the end." So I went for it. I could barely see two females in front of me, and I aimed to catch them. One I named "Wears to Much" because she was wearing tights and long sleeves. The other was "Pink Shorts."

Around mile 10 I caught the first girl as we turned out of a neighborhood and onto a long, flat stretch of road that would take us back to downtown. I liked this section. There were many volunteers, great water and aid stations, and a guy playing "Eye of the Tiger" as I ran by. I gave him a smile. I love that song. I could see Pink Shorts way up ahead, and it took me until mile 12 to catch her. Jason had joined me by this point, and it was as I closed in on Pink Shorts that I noticed ANOTHER female ahead of her. I was giving all I thought I could give, and when I saw her I thought, "Not another one!"

But I went after her anyway. I was so tired, I couldn't think about the time or add up what I had left to figure out what my finish time would be. I thought maybe a few seconds off my PR, but I really had no idea. It was almost too much to focus on Jason beside me as I tried to catch Blue Shirt. He said, "You see that girl in the blue shirt?" to which I responded, "Shh, I've got it." I didn't really know if I had it, but I was running as hard as I could.

I finally caught her. I had no idea if it would stick because she didn't look like she was slowing down or struggling. Neither did Pink Shorts for that matter. They both looked strong, and I knew if I passed them, I'd have to really mean it. I knew I couldn't slow down at all. My watch beeped at mile 13, and I glanced - 7:07. That wowed me a little. A volunteer told me to sprint, the finish line was just around the corner. As I rounded that corner, I saw the clock at 1:41:53, the seconds ticking by as I raced to the finish.

I crossed in 1:42:02, totally spent and so happy with the day and the race. What a pleasant surprise! What a perfect day! Jason hugged me and congratulated me. It didn't take long for me to get chilly as I was only wearing a tank top, so we walked to the car to change clothes while we waited for awards. I was third overall female (that's why Jason wanted me to pass Blue Shirt), and won 2nd in my age group. Jason finished 2nd overall, finishing in 1:20:06 and winning 1st Masters.

There was a Starbucks right next to the finish line so we got coffees, and I munched a few salty potato chips as we waited for awards.

I love races like this one. Achieving a PR is always a wonderful feeling, but I also love that feeling of having enough to push my limits all the way to the end. That doesn't happen every race. Some races - like the previous one in Fort Payne - for whatever reason, I don't have it. My legs quit on me and it takes all I had to simply hold my pace under 9:00. But this day, this race had been perfect. It had felt perfect. It brought me such joy.

Sometimes I feel silly and trivial asking God to bless my race. I feel like He has much bigger things to deal with like starving people in Haiti or the free world divided over politics, hate, anger, violence, loss, grief... so many bigger things. And yet I know I can come to Him with my trivial hopes along with the big ones, and He will hear them all. I asked Him for a good race, and not only was it a good race, it was filled with the beauty of this world He created. The fall colors were so brilliant - I remember one particular yard that was completely carpeted with red leaves. Bright, brilliant red leaves.

Jason and I have almost completed our goal of a half marathon every month for the year of 2016. It has been such a fun goal and I have loved every one of our adventures together, although I am ready for it to come to a close and to give my body some much needed rest and TLC.

But for now, I continue to train. One last push. A few short weeks and then we will head to my home town for what I hope will be the grand finale of our 2016 half marathon goal.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Half Marathon #10 and a 5k PR

Well, I figured I'd better write about the Little River Canyon Half Marathon we ran in October before the next one this weekend.  If you read the previous post, you may have deduced I didn't do as well as I'd hoped, and those races are simply not as fun to write about. I tried not to be disappointed by it, and I really did have a good time out there, but for whatever reason it simply wasn't my day.

The beginning of the course was extremely hilly. I ran hard, powering up each hill, trying to hold a good pace. I believed I should be able to tackle them and still keep trucking based on my previous half marathon experience. I may have taken them too hard, though, because after mile 6, when the hilly, forest turned into flat fields, I had a hard time maintaining. I was running with a guy named Tony. He was a cyclist, and this was his first race ever. He had a very smooth, quick cadence, and because he wasn't very tall, it was easy for me to match him. Once we hit the open fields, however, he sped ahead and I couldn't keep him.

We were hit by an insane headwind at this point. I found myself missing the wooded hills, because the wind was so strong, and the open fields seemed lonely for some reason. I was trying to catch Tony and a tall guy he was running near, but the gap kept growing, and the winding road kept them out of my sight much of the time.

I started letting my mind drift away from my tired legs and slowing pace, to the beauty around me. I prayed for Haiti, which had been on my mind quite a bit after hurricane Matthew. I focused on the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, and on the mile I was currently running. The course eventually took us back into the woods, and it was such a welcome break from the wind, even if there were hills involved.

Around mile 11 a guy caught me and it was nice to see someone. I ran near him the remainder of the way, seeing Jason around mile 12. My legs were tired, but the rest of me felt fine, so I chatted with him about his race until we neared the finish. He had done really well, having a very similar time to his previous half marathon, which I found baffeling because mine was 9 minutes slower!  Nine minutes!


I still won first in my age group and was the third overall female, despite my slower time. Jason, of course, won first over all. The course had been challenging and beautiful, and I'd had a wonderful time with Jason, as usual. We closed out our trip with a visit to Cracker Barrel, enjoying some eggs, bacon and coffee before heading home to hug our urchins. I was a little disappointed, but glad for the experience anyway. It was a good training run, after all.


And that brings me to a much more pleasant story to tell - that of a 5k PR last weekend! Such a pleasant, unexpected surprise!  Jason and I decided at the last minute to run the CASA No Place Like Home 5k, and my sister agreed to watch the kids. It was a chilly, beautiful morning and I had a few friends running the race as well. I was expecting a finish time around 23 minutes - just a nice little speed workout to close out my training week. I'd done a 14 miler the day before, so I was hoping my legs would simply cooperate.

I warmed up a little with my friend Alice, and then lined up to run with our friends, Katie and Megan. The race began and I just ran by feel. I didn't look at my watch, I just followed Katie and Megan, holding on to them as best I could. When my watch beeped at 1 mile, I looked down and was shocked to see 6:57 on the screen. I'd never run a sub 7 before. Never. So I was pretty excited. I didn't look at my watch again until mile 2 and it said 6:54. That was even more exciting. I told myself to HOLD ON. I still had Katie and Megan in my sights, and I was closing in on Megan, although not quickly enough to pass her before the finish. My last mile was a 7:03 as my feet flew around a curve to the finish line, eyes searching the clock to see the time. I was starting to feel a tad nauseous, but I was too excited about the PR to care. I finished in 21:43 - almost a minute faster than my previous 5k PR... 7 years ago!!!


The month of October didn't result in the half marathon time I'd hoped for, but that 5k time made up for it. I'm not really sure what to expect out of this weekend's half marathon, but I'm feeling good about it. I have a whole month's worth of good training under my belt, and the promise of some cooler temps - FINALLY. We will be heading back up to Kentucky to spend time with Jason's parents on their beautiful farm, and run in Bowling Green. I'll let you know how it goes.

Happy Fall!


Friday, October 7, 2016

Racing Two Weeks After Racing


I love this race photo. Not because it's lovely or a particularly great picture, but because of what it represents. It is that "ahhh" moment. The "I did it" moment. The PR moment when I had no idea a PR was possible. I've been living off that moment for two weeks.

Which brings me to tomorrow. Jason and I will head to Fort Payne for #10 in our half-marathon racing streak, and it is only two weeks after the big moment in that picture above. So I have questions. We could call them doubts even.

Can I do that again? Maybe it was a fluke. Can I beat that time a mere 2 weeks later? I have no idea how I did that in the first place. I probably can't beat that time. I'll just use it as a training run. Because the real goal is Dec 3 anyway. Yeah. A training run. Let's go ahead and call it that. No expectations. No pressure.

That's the self talk of late. But I see that picture, and I remember how unlikely a day it was... and I'm still that girl. I'm still that runner. So I guess we'll see. I'll probably get to that start line and give it all I have. Because that's more fun than some ole training run anyway.  It makes me vulnerable to disappointment.  It makes me vulnerable to the doubts and negative talk in my head. But I know I can handle both of those things just fine.

And I do have December. That IS the goal. But I shouldn't be giving myself that reminder until after tomorrow's race.

Okay. Y'all talked me in to it. Tomorrow I'm going for it. Again. If I miss, I miss. And we can all agree it was a good training run.

Running with Mani and the pack that started with him too.

Still in the pack with Mani and some others. Focused.

I call this one "work face."

Going for it! I have no idea what the guy behind me is doing...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Running After "Money" - #9

                                         
 
                                            

You should never run after "money"...unless he is your 1:45 half marathon pacer and leading you to a PR! 

Actually, his name was Mani (he pronounced it "money" so that's what I kept saying in my head) and he was the best pacer ever. Okay, so he's the only pacer I've ever run with, but he was really great and just what I needed in the Kentucky History Half Marathon in Frankfort, KY this weekend. 

I didn't start out planning to follow a pacer. I didn't even know they had them in this race. It all started with my iPod shuffle being dead when I went to clip it on. As Jason and I walked toward the start line, I felt oddly light, not weighed down by anything. I prefer to run with as little gear as possible - no water bottles, calf or arm sleeves, fuel belts, head lamps, reflective vests, phone, etc. Nada. But in longer races, I usually like my shuffle available. When we saw pacer signs, I thought I'd try it, and I looked for a 1:50 pacer. There wasn't one, but Jason spotted a 1:45 pacer, and in that instant I decided to go for it. 

I made up my mind to stay with him no matter what until I physically couldn't anymore. I wasn't counting on this being a great race, but I thought I could turn it into a good training run. First of all, the lovely fall temps hadn't arrived yet, even in Kentucky. Second, my week leading up to the race had been rough with soreness, fatigue, sleepless nights with a fussy boy, and bad eating. And third, Jason and I had gotten up at 3:00 a.m. to get to the race. I was yawning and already giving myself that post race peptalk, telling myself I'd do better, and I could race again in two weeks. But then I saw the pacer...

The race began and the pace felt ok, but our first mile was a 7:40. That was much faster than I'd ever started a half marathon, but I was still game to stick with my plan to stay with Mani. The course was beautiful. We ran around the Capitol building and through the cemetery where Daniel Boone and his wife were buried. The views were gorgeous, and worth the long climb at miles 4 and 5 to get to them. Mani coached us up those hills, telling us when they'd end and that we could make up our time on the downhill. And, oh my word, did he! I felt like I was sprinting to catch him, from mile 5 until mile 11, but every time he got ahead of me, I made myself catch him again. And again. And again. 

Around mile 8 I chased him into first overall female as we passed the last two girls ahead of me. I still wasn't sure I could hold it, but if Mani was going, so was I. I checked in with myself from time to time to see how I felt, and I always told myself, "You're fine! Keep going!" And I really was! Sure, I was working hard, but I wasn't hurting and I felt good. I rarely looked at my watch unless I heard the mile split, and most of the time I missed that. I was focused in a way I'd never been before. I had one simple goal, and that was to hold on to Mani. 

Around mile 8.5 we entered the last loop before we would head back to the finish line, and I saw Jason heading out, leading the way. As we got close to each other he said, "You're it." Meaning "You're first female. You are where you've been wanting to be." And he was right. I did want to be there. Since the last half marathon in Georgia when I'd watched those front runners, wanting to be where they were, and wondering if I had what it took to get there. And here I was. Once Jason called it, I knew I had to keep it. Mile 9 came and went, and I thought, "You aren't burning out. You have to hold this!" I chased Mani with wild abandon. He was a good bit ahead of me, but I was intent on closing that gap. 

Runners heading out of the loop cheered me on, and when I turned around, those behind me cheered for me too. Some told me I was first female, some said, "you've got this," some said, "way to go!" And it spurred me on. I couldn't do more than half smile, but it encouraged me to keep pushing. I knew I couldn't let up because the girls I'd passed weren't that far behind me, and I really wanted to keep my spot! 

Once out of the loop and approaching mile 11, I finally caught Mani. He said, "I was taking advantage of all that shade, but you need to pass me now. I'm on pace to run 44:30." Pass him? I'd just caught him! But he was slowing down to meet his pacing goal, and I knew I couldn't. So I passed him. It was exciting, but my legs were getting tired, and I had to concentrate on keeping the pace. I glanced at my watch a few times at this point, but it seemed too complicated to figure out what my finish time would be, so I just ran, willing my legs to cooperate. 

Shortly after mile 12 I saw Jason and was surprised to see him so far back. We didn't say a word as he joined me. I ran as if runners were breathing down my neck, hot on my heals, about to pass me at any moment. We rounded a curve and there was a guy in front of me. Jason told me to catch him. I shushed him and was going to ignore his suggestion, but thought it might be a message that someone was closing in, so I went for it. I passed him, and then I saw the clock! It had a 43 on it! I ran with every ounce that was left as the announcer said, "And here is our first female, Jane Reneau from Madison, Alabama!" I finished in 1:43:52, not only winning first overall female, but getting a personal record as well. Jason was immediately by my side and he grabbed me in a tight hug saying, "You did it!" 

          

I had done it, and I couldn't believe it! My previous PR was six years and 2 kids ago, and while I was certainly aiming for this result, I wasn't expecting it yet, and certainly not on this day. I thanked Mani after he ran in (at 44:33, mind you), and told him I'd gotten a PR. He congratulated me before heading back to run in the other pacers. 

Jason and I changed into dry shirts and then waited for awards. They were mugs, which we love! 


It was a great, surprising day. I still grin every time I think about it, and then get excited as I start thinking about what's next. I feel grateful for such a great run after what I considered to be a rough week that I hadn't handled very gracefully. I'm grateful to my Creator for giving me what I needed on this unpromising day, and for experiences like this that bring me such joy. He's given me so much more than I deserve, but I know it all comes from Him, and I will always give Him the credit and my gratitude for not only the great races, but the not so great races that make days like today so amazing.