As I’ve written ad nauseam, last December I set a goal to complete three half marathons and two sprint triathlons in 2010. I completed the goal on Saturday by running (well, jogging) the Upper Cumberland Haunted Half Marathon in Cookeville, Tennessee.
The course was hilly and there were only 306 participants. The small number served to shine a spotlight on my slowness. A couple of colleagues and I hung out together from mile 3 to the finish and we were THE LAST to cross the line. I’m used to having at least a few hundred people behind me, so being closely followed by the cycling course marshals was a new experience.
In short, I had a blast. Cookeville is a beautiful community. The race volunteers were friendly, the fall foliage was beginning to pop and the temperature was perfect. Plus, my team, the Alive Hospice Pavement Pounders, raised money for a great cause.
I usually run solo, so staying with colleagues throughout the race was a new experience. I turned off the Ipod and let lively conversation help keep my mind off of the eventual pain. Most folks who do half marathons hope to beat their previous best time. That was all I wanted out of Saturday. I shared that with my friends. We checked our watches throughout the race. Things looked iffy but not impossible.
We were feeling great until about Mile 9 or 10. Then we magically lost our collective sense of humor and were ready for it to be over with. One of my friends started weaving across the course, accidentally cutting us off. I knew she was tired, as was I. Then at last, there it was Mile 13. Only .10 of a mile to go. My friends remembered I wanted to beat a prior best time and they encouraged me to sprint ahead. I felt disloyal, but they insisted. I turned, thanked them and ran as fast as my stubby, exhausted legs would carry me. As I took off I heard one of them say, “She’s got it.” I ended up shaving 2 minutes 45 seconds off of my prior best. I’ll take it.
Last December three half marathons and two sprints felt like more than a stretch goal. It felt impossible. Things looked even more bleak this Spring when I had to bow out of a Memorial Day tri due to a family issue. (My mother-in-law died in March and my brother-in-law spent Memorial Day weekend helping us with repairs to the home we would soon put on the market. I didn’t feel it was fair to peel off and do the tri). Not racing on Memorial Day meant looking for a replacement triathlon and I ended up doing two sprints and two half marathons between August 14 and October 23.
I expected to finish the race feeling emotional about completing my 2010 event goal. I didn’t. I felt tired from training for four events that felt like they were scheduled back-to-back. I felt a sense of accomplishment for stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing something I really didn’t think I had the guts to do.
My Higher Power has put some great people in my path. For that I am grateful. Here’s an incomplete roll call:
- The Hubs. He understands that Saturday = long runs and he graciously ignores all the stuff that doesn’t get done around the house…or he picks up the slack.
- My friends who kept me going on Saturday. I hope I helped them as well.
- Steve, who was insistent that I run a 10-miler with him back in March. That was the first time I’d run with someone else since college. Thanks to him I was able to relax and enjoy running with others on Saturday.
- My friend, Lynn. She searched on line and found the replacement tri and traveled with me to do it. She stayed with me during the entire event, sacrificing her own time to help me keep going.
- Walt, a dear friend since forever. He’s a Cookeville resident who acted as my personal Chamber of Commerce. He drove the course with me twice, marking the hills on a map. Thanks to him, every step I ran felt familiar.
- JoAnn, another BFF. After every event I was greeted with the “good luck” text she’d sent.
- Chris and Dave H. have cheered me on throughout my fitness march toward 50. Chris did the half marathon on Saturday. He’s in uber-shape and the fact that he felt sore afterward made me feel better about my aches and pains!
- All of my buds at the Y, my colleagues at Alive Hospice and my Facebook friends and relatives who speak and write words of encouragement. You guys rock my world.
Achieving this goal has given me the confidence I need as I prep for 2011: the year I will train for my first full marathon. 26.2 miles feels daunting to me. I know there are going to be times I want to quit training and chuck the goal. I hope when my self confidence dips, I’ll look back on 2010 and what I accomplished with the help of some great friends and a Higher Power that wouldn’t let me give up.
I hope I’ll realize I’ve got what it takes.