For the first time ever, I warmed up. If Missy Kane says warm-up, that's what you do. You warm-up.
As we were standing around waiting for the start, I heard some people talking about rolling hills. I love downhills. I walk up hills. It works for me. I knew whatever time I lost on the uphill I could regain on the downhill.
I looked around at the crowd and noticed this person who had on a Boston Marathon. It was Erin from WBIR and the Covenant Health Biggest Winner Team. So, maybe it was a media jacket, but I wouldn't tell any one if it was me. Boston is one of my dreams. I'll make it there one day. Now that I think about it. The Strawberry Plains 10k was my first race a few years ago. One of my friends, Julie Claxton, encouraged me and another teacher to run it. From that race on, my goal was to run Boston.
So, here we were right before the start. It was a little chilly, perfect for racing.
After the national anthem, I looked down at my watch only to realize that the GPS had logged out. Quickly, I hit the button to get it searching for satellites. Finally, seconds before the gun went off, the GPS found its signal.
I promised myself I wouldn't go out too fast. For the first quarter of a mile, I followed my plan. Little by little, I realized I had the energy and strength to do a little more. I picked up the pace. My plan was to keep my pace under 11:00 minute miles. That's all I wanted to do. At the end of the first mile, I realized I was under 10:00 minutes. I ran the second mile in 9:37. It probably had something to do with my Biggest Winner Teammate working the water stop near mile 2. I kept thinking to myself that I had to slow down, but my body said no.
I was in for the run of my life. I could feel it. As we got to mile 6, I started thinking about my 10k time. It was an incredible 1:02:00. My mind quickly multiplied my time by 2 and I realized that I would be just past mile 12 at 2:04:00 if I could keep up this pace. Why not? If I could, it would give me 11 minutes to finish the last 0.7 of a mile. Could I really get a 2:15:00?
That's when I started talking to myself. Those seeds of doubt started to enter my thoughts. I crushed them quickly. You are a hill climber. You are a downhill expert. You are a machine. You are iron man. (I have hemochromatosis which results in my blood have too much iron and too many red blood cells, but might help when it comes to long distance running.) I repeated those thoughts over and over again during the next 5 miles. During that time, I saw my teammate Scott. He wasn't that far behind. I had to make sure I beat him to the finish line or at least could finish with him. It's not like I'm competitive. I was really pulling for Scott to get a PR, too.
At mile 9, a person with a camera yelled "I caught that smile." Yes, I was having a good time.
At mile 11, I began looking for Heidi's water stop. Usually, I was so far back in the pack, they have already began packing up the water station. Not this time. Knowing that a teammate was around the corner, I picked up the pace. That drink motivated me to run most of the way up the next hill. Those few seconds might have been the difference between 2:15 and 2:16.
The coolest part of the race came as I was approaching mile 13. A young child was sitting in the edge of the road all bundled. "You can do it, mister. You're almost there." It was just what I needed. Thanks kid, whoever you are. I would have been happy with 2:16 or 2:24 or even 2:30. That little boost made me know that I had to make it. I watch my watch carefully. With 0.2 miles to go, I kicked it into high gear. I could see the school and teammates waiting. As I rounded the corner to the finish line, I could see the clock. It was right at 2:15:00.
With one last photo from Missy Kane, I picked up a little more to cross that finish line.
What a difference a year makes. At the Covenant Health Marathon, I ran a 3:00:00. My PR for any half marathon was 2:37 and that was 4 years ago before I became incredibly sick. My fastest training run was 2:30:00. My goal was 2:24:00. Somehow, I finished the Strawberry Plains Half Marathon in 2:15:00.
There was one disappointment at the race. Missy suggested I put on something a little warmer. I went to my car. I missed Scott finishing. Apparently, he had a great second half of the race and finished just a few minutes behind me. Way to go, Scott. I'm sure Missy has a picture or video of it.
As Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." NLT