I woke up too excited that morning. The day of my first half marathon was finally upon me. No more talking about how one day I want to do something like that. I must have checked a dozen times to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I had spent a week already making sure I was completely prepared.
I’m drinking coffee ad sucking down oatmeal at the speed of light. The thought of what if this coffee goes through me too fast may wreak havoc once I get to running. But it’s time to nut up or shut up, and off I go! Off until we get stuck in traffic at six in the morning on a Sunday. And all the traffic was headed the same place we are. What does that say about me and other runners? Up to run a grueling test of personal endurance at seven just for a tshirt, a medal, and bragging rights.
Ok, it’s all for the bragging rights! If I start trying to think of everyone I know who can has an at least a half, it’s a very small list. I know some people really are not able to do it, but most people are just too damn lazy. I’ve never tried crack, but I can tell you a runners high is better. And that post run glow is a one of a kind thing. You either get it or you don’t and I feel sorry for you if you don’t understand.
So once we arrive, the coffee has caught up with me. I dash for the portapotties and there is already a long line. And it seemed everyone was in there for at feels like at least ten minutes but probably wasn’t more than five. I see people lining up and here the announcement of ten minutes and I’m still in line. I get in and out in three minutes tops and head for the massive crowd of crazies lined up already.
I locate my starting corral and due me underestimating my time by over twenty minutes I wind up in the last corral. You know those moments when you realize you have made a big mistake and it’s too late. This was one of those moments. No, it wasn’t a mistake running. The mistake was looking around and knowing that I actually didn’t belong at the tail end.
After fifteen minutes of walking I finally make it to the starting line. I’m trying to stay calm and pace myself, but let me be honest here, I had adrenaline pumping like mad. Things very quickly start to deteriorate ad I am frustrated. It’s not even a mile into it and there are already groups walking along taking up the whole course. I can’t seem to get a pace. It’s too much sprinting early on when I see an opening to get through and back to pace. What is the point of entering something as long and brutal as this can be and be walking that soon? You still have over twelve miles to go and you are already losing it.
I did see a few interesting people along the way as I went zipping past. If I knew weighing around 200 I was on the upper end of being able to do a decent job, I knew the people heavier than me were screwed. As we came to the first water station it was mob rule. It’s sad that so many people were already dieing for water. And there were a dozen portapotties with a line for each. I’m guessing a personal best wasn’t in the cards for those people that day. I tried to bypass the crowd at that water station and keep running.
By the five mile mark, things were looking up. The walkers were weeded out and it was just runners. It was great to be hanging with that crowd. No more stress and free to just go along at my own pace. With things finally looking up, I began to look around and notice the crowds. Some of it was funny. At the mile eight marker, was a sign “ puke and rally”. I didn’t see any vomit but I got the joke as this was the point where some people have pushed beyond their level and would be losing it. Just down the road was a woman with a sign “worst parade ever!!!” and I actually had to laugh at that one. After that was a local tejano station dj blasting “ whoop der it is” and quite a few people around me were singing along and that was a crazy throwback, but you just gotta run with it.
I was enjoying the crowds and cruising along happily putting no thought into what lay ahead. All I thought about was how this was my day. I had done the hard work and deserved to be there and it was absolutely splendid. I see the big hill coming up and felt like I could take on anything the world through at me. Another of those realizations I may have made a big mistake is right in the path. The course literally went up that hill so I mean it was right in my path. It wasn’t that steep but it just kept on going. I noticed a lot of people had to stop and walk at this point. I told myself just clear the hill because it’s all downhill from here. And like a lot of others around me, I had to stop and walk. Breaking laws of physics, the top of the hill somehow kept getting farther away.
After that Everest level climb to base camp we come to the last water station. I noticed there were no more portapotties. The number of portapotties dropped at every station and the lines grew longer. I was very happy I had trained to be able to handle this. At this last water station, I noticed more cups on the ground. Ever since around the “puke and rally” sign I had been noticing energy gel packs on the ground. The ground at the last water station was littered with them. We runners are normally an ocd people, but on race day, we are slobs. And I also had an energy gel during my run so I do say we with myself included. It seems like the entire next mile until the split from the marathon group, there were thousands of these things.
But we have now hit the split. All I see are determined faces. Everyone is beginning to look beat down and yet smiling cause they know after having come this far they will finish with a time to be proud of. As for beat down, the best I can describe is what I went through. My feet began to hurt. It felt like I was barefoot running on hard cement. Not walking, hard pounding steps. And getting a stitch in my side and telling myself it’s a ten mile warmup and then a 5k and I can knock out 5k’s any day of the week.
And what do we have but more hills. I grew up in Fort Worth and never realized how hilly it was. After the last hill it dawns on me. Where I am running is where I once ran a one miler when I was twelve. I realize it’s always been Fort Worth for me since my first Cowtown in 84’. I’m a believer in my city and I run that mile like I did then with everything I had. After that I saw what I needed. It was the twelve mile marker and I realized I had one mile to go.
One final mile and I will have finished! The true moment where I realize no matter how bad I may hurt, no matter how tired I am I will be crossing the finish line. Just run! It’s a personal taste of freedom only a runner knows when you have crossed the hump and will know that you finished strong. Grinning like an idiot and just loving every second of it and yet letting every second go by in a blur. All I knew at that point was just to keep running and have my time.
The crowds started getting larger and all the people cheering everyone on. Once that last street was in view, I really wanted to kick up the pace and let all Hell break loose. My legs disagreed and we kept a nice even pace. Around the corner and there it was. I was staring at the finish line maybe a hundred yards away and I never had such an urge in my life to just stop and walk. But no way in Hell was I going to give up now. At this point, I was just hoping I didn’t trip right there at the end.
I crossed the line and for the first time in my life I felt truly victorious. After all the ups and downs in life, this was my time. Whatever else happens in my life, I had one brief moment where I was living up to the person I was always meant to be. I was beaten down, hurting, wanted to laugh for no at all, and wanting to cry tears of joy. But it’s ok, cause I’m a runner and it’s the life I chose.