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?)
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.