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Monday, October 21, 2013

Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon.

I wanted to write about this last night, when it was fresher in my head, but in all seriousness I could barely keep my eyes open from about 3PM on and forming cohesive thought beyond "Um, yeah" was just beyond my grasp. So now I'm doing it first thing today but before I've had coffee so if this is kind of rambly and disjointed, that's why.

I ran a half marathon yesterday.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via

I did it on about four hours of sleep because nerves, and because hotel rooms are exciting for little kids so despite not going to bed until 10PM, at 3:30AM I spent about 45 minutes just staring at Kiedis, who was staring, AWAKE, at me. He would wave, I would wave back; he'd smile, I'd smile back, but neither of us moved until Tova piped up to say she had to go potty.

Kyle slept though this all, of course. He just snored away.

We'd met up with my brother, who lives in Columbus, for dinner the night before and ate pasta and made a quick trip to the grocery for breakfast stuffs because the hotel breakfast didn't start until 7AM and that's when the corrals closed at the race, so. PopTarts and mini milks for the win.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
He asked me why I started doing this, and I didn't really have an answer. I am easily the least athletic person in my family, and an epic quitter at that. No one was really more surprised than me that I made it as far as I did in my training, or that I was there the night before, seemingly blase about the whole thing.

But it gave me something to think about for 13.1 miles.

It was cold as hell at 6AM. Slightly unseasonably so. Brisk wind with the smell of winter on it cut through the streets downtown and through my clothes. On the advice of other runners, I dressed for it to be about 20 degrees warmer than it was supposed to be so that my clothes didn't make me overheat while actually running, but it made that first hour of being lined up an waiting for my corral to be sent through the start line pretty brutal.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
Family members weren't allowed past a certain point, so I had to say goodbye to my little brood by a bank of port-o-potties. Kiedis was already tried and a bit overstimulated, but Tova seemed to grasp what the hell we were doing up at such a dark hour in a strange place. She looked up at me, her little face peeking through the space between her new knit hat and last year's winter coat that barely still fit, and with big hopeful eyes just kept saying "Tova runnin? Mommy and Tova runnin? Kawheeze Tova runnin?"
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
It broke my heart to leave her there, sobbing, because I told her she was too little to run this race.

Because a reason I do do this kind of insanity is for her (and Kiedis). I want them to see that they can do anything they set their minds to. I want them to want to be active and in charge of their own health.

I would love nothing more than to have a daughter (and a son) that ran with me.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
I found a girl I've known since elementary school and hung out with her for a while (we were in the same corral) and I stayed paced with her for about half a mile into the race before I realized I could be going faster without it being too much of an early extertion. I felt bad about kind of leaving her behind, but I was trying to listen to my body and so I did.

Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
I ran on the left side as I passed through the start line, because Kyle texted me that's where they were, in the bleachers, to watch me start. I didn't see them, but he said Tova saw me and promptly lost her shit when I ran right by. After that, I moved back to the right side of the trail because I'm not by any means a fast runner. I watched as the first runners passed my group on their way back (the course doubled back on itself for part of it) to finish the marathon, I guess. That was humbling.

Most of the race felt unremarkable. I had my music and I only walked at the fluid stops, drinking the best Gatorade I've ever had in my life, picking the pace back up once I was finished with my little cup. The areas we ran through were gorgeous -- the kinds of houses I love to gawk at from slow moving cars -- and the spectators still out to cheer the last of us on from their (spacious, insanely nice) front yards were a welcome sight, even if I couldn't really hear them.

I made a point to give high fives to the Children's Champions -- a kid for every mile that the Children's Hospital in Columbus has helped in some way. In the least, it comes with being kind of crazy-haired and therefore intimidating to kids -- if you're super friendly, it makes their day, like you're a real life clown or something magical. But in my heart, it took every ounce of my mental strength to not cry at every marker because those kids, for whatever they've endured in their young lives, I've stood in the shoes of their parents and I know what it feels like to know that for the grace of God and medical professionals, you wouldn't have your child with you today.

So there was another reason. I picked this race because it supported a children's hospital -- one of the biggest in the state. And I know more than most that miracles happen there everyday. Because even the smallest victory is a miracle to a parent fighting for their child.

Between miles 8 and 9, I finally spotted my family. My kids squealed to see me, and I choked back tears of gratitute as I dove down to hug them. The runners around me smiled and said "aww" as my kids yelled "Mommy came back!" and "YAY MOMMY!" as we hugged on the side of the street. I handed Kyle my excess clothing as I told the kids I needed to keep going, but I was almost done.

Tova grabbed my hand and started to run with me, joyously yelling "TOVA RUNNIN MOMMY!" as I trotted next to her, Kyle and Kiedis jogging behind me. The rules of the marathon stated that you couldn't have people join you running or you'd be disqualified (not like I was trying to qualify for anything, but I did want to finish) which included children-in-arms, so after about twenty feet I stopped again and told Tova that she had to stay with Daddy so Mommy could finish her race.

Their crumpled faces and anguished (over-tired) wails as I ran away from them were heartbreaking. I could hear my fellow runners "aww" again and explain to people who only saw crying children that they wanted to run with their mommy, the pink-haired lady.

(It's supposed to be Ariel red with purple on top, but the bleed through of the purple has turned the red deep magenta. I don't hate it, but you know. Not the intention.)

I rounded a corner away from them and my phone died nearly perfectly at the 10 mile mark. No more music, no more RunKeeper. I had to push through the last 5K of the race on my own, something I've never had to do before.

I wasn't sure how I was going to deal.

Until I saw Tammy. And the giant sign she'd made, complete with glitter. She's not only come out in the cold, but she was screaming my name at the top of her lungs, cheering me on.

I ran over to her and gave her the biggest hug, barely managing to choke out one of the most heartfelt thank you's I've ever mustered as I fought back tears of gratitude. The whole of the race, I'd been scanning the crowd for the possibility of seeing people I knew -- family, friends, anyone -- and was just finding myself looking at a bunch of strangers with signs for their family members, knowing Kyle hadn't made a thing.

My heart nearly exploded. It was the one thing I wanted the most to see on the course -- a sign for me.

After I said goodbye to Tammy, I kept on around the corner into German Village, the place that my great-grandmother lived when I was young and the neighborhood was insanely different. A local radio station was blasting one of my all-time favorite stop everything and sing along to songs, which was just enough to get me pumped and send me faster down the road. More high fives and cheers I could now hear since I'd tucked my earphones away, people yelling "Go Pink Hair, you can do it!" and even a few people who read my bib and called me Tabulous, in public.

Then, then I got to mile 12, the Angel Mile. I can't even talk about it without choking up, but there's no kid for this mile. It's for all the kids who, as they put it, have already finished their race.

This is where I saw the signs saying run for XX, because she can't anymore and the breath of angels are the wind at your back and so. many. in loving memory ofs that seized my heart.

There was one, a tall man, holding a photo-poster of a baby with a ventilator in, tubes everywhere. I couldn't read the name at the top but I could see the bottom, with the dates being November (covered by a hand) - December (covered by the other hand).

I wanted nothing more than to run up to him and hug him, and thank him, and tell him how sorry I was. That I once stood helpless over my own baby as his little body failed him and that it's not fair that mine survived and his didn't and that I'm running this race for him and for his baby as much as I am for me and mine, but I knew that if I stopped, my race would end right there, with me sobbing onto a stranger's shoulder.

I wish I'd been strong enough to try.

The Angel mile was the hardest for me, emotionally. I had to stop to walk because all the holding in of my tears was making it hard to breathe, but I'd start running again shortly after because my body threatened to lock up if I didn't continue my pace.

I left the Angel Mile and high fived the high school or college age girl who is a cancer survivor and kept running to the sounds of a song I knew pretty well and enjoyed just fine. I saw two friends from high school -- one who just finished her race and the other who watched, and I ran onto the sidewalk to hug them both as they screamed with surprise and (I think) joy. About 20 feet later, I heard my name, and another childhood friend -- actually, my next-door neighbor for nearly 10 years as a kid -- cheered me on. She was supposed to run, but had foot surgery recently so couldn't, but was there to root for the friend I met in the corrals. I ran and hugged her, getting one of the most solid, strongest hugs I've ever had in my life. Maybe it's that we've known each other for 25 years, or that she knows more than most how something like this really is an accomplishment for me (even if I kind of don't get it myself) because she's known me almost my entire life, but that hug, that hug was everything.

Right after that, I went around the last bend, scanning the crowd for Kyle again and not seeing him again as I crossed the finish line. Later, he'd tell me that Kiedis desperately had to potty and that's why they missed me. They'd gotten to the finish line right after I crossed.

And since my phone was dead, there were no immediately post-race pictures.

We found each other and headed out to brunch with Tammy where she gifted us insane amounts of amazing ice cream and pumpkin spice coffee syrup(!) and we left earlier than planned because Kiedis literally laid down at brunch and fell asleep in the booth. We drove home and Kyle let me promptly crash while he wrangled children and got the dogs back from my dad's.

Today, I feel good. It's hard to go down stairs but ever since I broke my leg a few years back doing just that I've always been wary. I'm kind of waiting for the wave of emotions to hit me, but it still kind of hasn't.

I just have these glimmers of feel-good moments. Going to yoga class on Saturday and my friend and long-time teacher coming over and pressing down on my hips in a pose to help them open up and feeling like she was bestowing a grace or a blessing on me and my race. The girl from Ft. Laramie with the bleach-pen "in honor of" shirt and the stories she told me as we ran for a while together. The woman who stopped me right past the finish line and told me good run, and when I told her it was my first she said her too, and that she followed me most of the race because I set a great pace(!). The people who sat and watched in the freezing cold for those of us at the back, so we felt supported too. The kids' preschool teacher showing up Friday with balloons for me, to make me feel celebratory about this accomplishment.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
Sure, I was kind of bummed that I didn't see more people I knew along the race course cheering me on (I didn't even see Jenna, who talked me into this whole thing) but when I needed it, they were there. Providence provides, even for us heathens.

I finished with an official time of 2:45:12, an average pace of 12:38, which is right about on target with my training. It's slow, especially for someone with legs and a stride like mine, but it was maintainable.

Soon enough I'll have to start training for the Disney Princess Half in February, knowing more about what to expect and how my body responds to this kind of activity.

But for right now, I have to sit with this a little more.

I ran a half marathon yesterday.
Do The Thing You Think You Cannot: The Columbus Half Marathon. via
And no one is more surprised than me.