I found myself with my toes on the starting line feeling free. Almost too free. I lowered my head and caught a glimpse of my shoes. Ah, the Puma ballet shoe, in pink; beautiful choice. WAIT A MINUTE! Where were my running shoes? And my bib number – I was holding three pins with no number to affix to my shirt. And what’s this, no sport bra? Hmmm, this spells trouble. I quickly woke in the Hershey Lodge’s king sized bed with a headache to accompany the darkness of the early morning. Crap. I left my ibuprofen behind. Hrumph.
Since I showered the night before I had plenty of time to change and feed Allison while getting myself race ready. Today was the day of the Hershey Half Marathon – a race I spontaneously signed up for while I was nine months pregnant. Allison cooperated and went back to sleep after her bottle. Within thirty minutes I was almost ready to roll – contacts in, mascara check (never leave home without it), running clothes, sleeves, watch, sneakers…yup, yup, yup and yup. I found an uncomfortable spot to sit at the end of the tub and balanced a bottle of blue nail polish in my right hand. I focused on painting my left finger nails like it was my religion. For some reason, I have made it a ritual to paint my nails a funky color for every half marathon. Weird, yes, I know.
I kissed the hubbs goodbye and headed to the lobby to catch the shuttle. I sat alone on a bench inhaling the cocoa in the air. I really wanted coffee, but didn’t want to risk it. Maybe one day I’ll tell you the story about a training run post-Mocha Latte. Hmm, maybe not. Moving on. I hopped on the shuttle and sat next to a petite blonde wearing a trash bag. I never figured out the deal with the bag; I didn’t have the balls to ask. We chatted about past and future races and questioned the course. “Do you know if there are hills?” I had no idea and no person within ear shot jumped in on the conversation. How bad could it really be?
We chugged off the shuttle and marched into the arena like a herd of cattle. The wind picked up which sent a chill through my body. I needed to keep moving, so I walked up and down the football field. Up and down; up and down. Four guys, maybe in their mid-thirties, collaborated at the fifty yard line. They were a slender bunch wearing black, some sporting Mohawks. They appeared to be the hashing type (yes, I think I’m judging here) – not that there’s anything wrong with that. As I approached them on my third lap (remember, I’m pacing), I heard one of them ask, “is it an issue that we’re not making a big deal about this?” The super cool one with the better Mohawk answered, “dude, it’s just another Sunday run.” Interesting perspective.
I moseyed to the starting line and found a home with the 1:50 pace group. I can do this, yes? After the second mile, I saw the 1:50 page group trudge ahead and into the distance. Fine. No worries. I can still obtain my personal best. By mile four, I felt as if I got punched in the face with my own legs. They didn’t want to work, but I pushed through to make it to the next water stop. And stop I did. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and walked to the last trash can before I forced my legs into a jog. I figured that the rolling hills would eventually even out, but there seemed to be no relief. At the split, I was consumed by a cacophony of indecipherable sounds. I glanced over my left shoulder and exclaimed, ‘Oh, Shit.’ There it was, like a kick in the gut, the 2:00 pace group. I broke two hours in my last half marathon…at my leanest…on a course that wasn’t peppered with hills. As the 2:00 marker bobbed away from me I let everything go. I thought about Mohawk and his now insightful comment. It’s just another Sunday run. That’s it. It wasn’t about a race, it was about letting go. I struggled through the rest of the course, but kicked it up at the last mile. Once I entered the stadium I practically sprinted to the finish. I tracked down Marcus and the girls to get a much needed hug. I learned a lot on that Sunday. I finally realized that it’s not about the amount of time it takes, but it’s about the quality of time that I spend on the road. It’s a purifying experience and I need to enjoy it. Maybe I should get a Mohawk.