Monday, May 31, 2010
Best high of my life.
<-- (me before the race began)
All the runners stand in the corral, their numbers pinned to their shirts, their shoelaces tied up tightly. Some have music playing in their ears - in just a few minutes the bell will sound and they will all begin to run.
Me? I'm dancing in my shoes, unable to contain the excitement, the nervousness I feel, knowing that in the next few moments I will begin something I've been waiting in anticipation for since the beginning of the year: a half-marathon.
9:00 a.m. hits the clock and everyone runs. I say to Ben, "I can't believe we're actually doing this," and then we smile at each other.
Off I go, music playing. The first song pumps me up as I run up the hill, along with 10,900 other athletes, and past the Parliament buildings. Everyone is amped, the first few kilometers are the fastest, adrenaline pumping and a burst of energy that you never expected you'd have, knowing you still have 21 kilometres to go.
We run over the Portage Bridge into Gatineau, Quebec, and already people are stopping along the side of the road, on the pathways and sidewalks, to cheer everyone on. The first part of the course is a bit hilly - weaving in a tiny neighbourhood in Gatineau, I notice an old lady standing outside her house in her apron watching all of the runners race by. She must be wondering, "Why are these people doing this?" And I'm sure many people wonder that - I did when I first contemplated doing the run.
I make my way through Quebec, and the crowd gets bigger - a lady is holding a sign that reads, Toenails are for sissies! and I know exactly what she means. I dropped a plate on my big toe a few days before the race... it's certain to either fall off or continue to cause a lot of pain after the race yesterday.
It was so amazing, to turn around and look at all the people behind me, in front of me, running as hard as I am, if not harder, all heading to the same destination for - as I'm assuming - the same reason. To finish something, to complete a goal that is not easily attained. And they were of all sizes and shapes: tall and lean, short and round, big and small, black and white... but it didn't matter.
Heading back into Ottawa on another bridge, the runners were all in tandem, one after the other, supporting one another. A man behind me tripped on my foot while running. He was a big man. He fell onto the pavement. And I turned around to watch him get right back up and keep running. It wasn't his or my fault, it just happened. But he got up. And that was amazing to see.
Onto Wellington St. (a main street downtown) there were people lining the race pathway and cheering, holding out their hands for high-fives from the runners. It gave me such a boost in energy that I kept going. Signs reading, Runners, you're heros today and The miracle isn't that you finished, the miracle is that you had the courage to start. The support was incredible.
When I made it to the 12 km mark, I nearly died. Not out of exhaustion. Out of pride - that was the furthest I had ever run in training, and I had never gone any further. I had never succeeded in running 12 km without stopping to rest at least a few times. But on the run, I didn't stop. And then I reached 13 km, and 15 km, and I couldn't believe my body was still moving, still running and my heart still pumping.
The last 3 km was the hardest. I had stopped running and walked for a moment to drink water/gatorade at a drinking station, and my legs began to hurt immediately. My knees, my feet, my hips, my joints, everything I hadn't felt because I was running I could suddenly feel. I knew that if I stopped again, I wouldn't be able to start. So I didn't stop again. I kept a steady pace and even though I wanted to give up and lie on the grass, I didn't.
And I crossed the finish at 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 57 seconds. I competed against myself, against my head saying I couldn't do it, against my body telling me to stop, and I finished. It was truly amazing.
(Finished! We each got a medal and the satisfaction of running 21 km!) --->
This half-marathon was... unbelievable. I am not sure that my trying to explain will even do justice to what it is that I felt during the run. Excitement, pride, nervousness, fatigue, adrenaline, happiness, exhaustion... all of it. I had goosebumps throughout the race, because I actually committed to it, for myself. You should try it.
"I have met my hero, and she is me."