Another Saturday, another half marathon race! And yet, over the past seven years, I’ve learned it’s never just “another race”. Each race is unique, each has it’s teachable moments, each leaves it’s own mark, both in my memory and in some sort of body ache. This day was no different.
It started in the dark, as most do. Three girls met in my driveway, we shared our sleepless nights stories, pre-race Advil was shared, tunes were ready and cued up on our devices of choice, and off we drove. We arrived, parked, and walked up the incline that was soon to become the finish of our race. Yes, we walked up. Oh little did we know…
Having some moments to spare we decided to pause for a photo op because, let’s face it, the “before pictures” are so much more cheerful than the after :). It was a great scene, lots of ladies, and the music was already blaring! Next to me is my early-morning, go-getter of a dear friend. Next to her is a friend who’s a newbie – first half-marathon today! And next to her is my long-time, speedy, and humble-spirited friend. They each have a great story about today. Friend #1 celebrated her 13 week pregnancy with #4 while running 13 miles, I know, hero. Friend #2 is a working Mom of 3, reaching her goals and celebrating her health – hero. And friend #3 earned an amazing PR (personal record) time on this very challenging course – hero. You see, this road of life is never lived alone. Though our “training” runs may have happened separately, and even these race miles were experienced with distance in-between, we ran this together.
My take-aways from this race:
1. No matter how many training runs I’ve experienced, when it comes to race day, it’s always best just to “roll” with it. As with life, one is never for certain what may come, no matter how much effort is put into the preparation. Today brought some humidity, as evidence in light-headedness, frizzy hair that sticks to sweaty skin, and sweat that literally flies. Nothing you can do about it, but I could choose to be smart. I needed water. At every opportunity. And that meant taking time to do it.
2. Let gravity be your friend on the downhill, because you know an uphill is coming. Here enters the “roll” with it part, literally. Hills are not fun. You don’t let it stop you, but you do notice a difference – certain muscle groups absorb the extra work, breathing finds a different rhythm, and the mental looks for the top strain to carry you through. This course had them, in other words, very few parts were totally flat. Aesthetically, it was beautiful – some urban, wide streets, some wooded scenes on a trail, bridges that took you across the river, a turn-around at the Santa Maria boat. It wasn’t dull by any means, yet as the miles ticked away, you knew fatigue would set it.
3. Voices and faces of encouragement can literally lift and carry. Around mile 4, I saw the family of friend #1 – lift. Around mile 5, I saw a familiar face, gave a high-5, and heard the words “lookin strong girl!” – lift. Around mile 6, you could see the ladies in front as they turned, headed for the second half of the race, lots of “good job”s were uttered, and I hollered at my friends as they passed – lifted. Around mile 9, I saw them, the ones I love, and my arms reached forward – lift. And I needed it. Energy was lagging, legs were heavy, it was a time of questioning my sanity, and yet, I only had 5 to go.
4. Sometimes your best isn’t something that can be measured. Though I had a hunger to continue the pace I was able to keep up until this point, the reality of my body’s limitations begged to be accepted. I could choose to be disappointed, but I’ve learned to choose to delight. Delighting in the truth tells me the time I receive at the finish line is a gift. The sheer fact that I am ABLE to start and finish a 13.1 mile course is a blessing. I’m not entitled to it, I’m gifted with the ability, today. Today, my best included a mental challenge to finish well, and to finish with a smile.
5. Running is just a part of life. For a part of a day, I get to run. Running helps me to balance all my zones – mental, physical, and spiritual – because when one ain’t happy, they’re all unhappy. I’ve learned to get-er-done, and then embrace the rest of the day. After the race, we came home, grabbed packed bags, and headed to our daughter’s first swim meet. My son and I stood as timer’s on lane 5 where 3 of her 5 events occurred. And we cheered, and we sweated, and we pressed our timing buttons. And then we went to dinner to celebrate our son’s 13th birthday. And then we baked a cake for his friend party the next day. And life is lived. And life is celebrated.
And for all these, my heart is full. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.