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.

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