There. I said it. I am a runner. I really have a hard time getting that sentence out. I was the high school girl who spent more time nursing her shin splints in an ice bath than circling the track on spiked shoes. I was the college girl who stood up my workout buddy morning after morning because the thought of hitting snooze one more time was simply too delicious to resist. I was the twenty-something girl who had a hard time running a mile without elevating curse words to a unique form of poetry. But I’ll say it now. I am a thirty-year-old girl, and I am a runner.
It’s taken me five years of running and the completion of my first half marathon to believe that I may indeed be a runner. Here I am, 13.1 miles later, and I have to say, I enjoyed the race. I felt prepared, energized, sustained, and yes, just enough exhausted to feel it had been a worthy challenge. The pumpkin pie pancakes afterward sure tasted good.
Running the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon was a top item on my bucket list, not just because it’s a worthy life accomplishment for anyone wanting to gain some running cred. My greatest sense of accomplishment came from the fact that I had pledged to run a half marathon three years ago. I failed to meet that goal. Little Friend came along with pregnancy complications that swept me off my feet. Literally. All of my training went soft along with my muscles as I languished on bed rest for four weeks before and eight weeks after Little Friend’s birth. Then, adding insult to injury, I turned thirty.
But who says thirty has to be old?
Hence, the resolution to run a half marathon and prove to myself that good times and great things can come, even after turning thirty, enduring a difficult pregnancy and adding a child to my life. (Yeah. Having a kid is like getting hit in the face with a dodgeball.) Crossing the half marathon finish line? It was my “So there!” to the universe. And now, on the other side of that white line, I find it a little easier to announce: I am a runner.
While Wallace Stevens will be immortalized for his ability to consider a blackbird in 13 different ways, I’ll just lounge in his shadow with 13(.1) thoughts on preparing for and actually completing a half-marathon.
(But first, a picture interlude, because your eyes need a rest from all these words and because who couldn’t resist running 13.1 miles with this little one waiting at the finish?)
1. The mile at which my old high school friends, the dreaded shin splints, announced their presence. Thankfully, they couldn’t keep up and dropped out of the race around mile 2.
2. The number of Ryan Hall sightings during the Philly Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon. This most famous of elite runners (Olympian marathoner to boot) jogged past me (waiting in a 32-minute porta-potty line) and the hordes of lesser runners on his way to the start line. He and the other elite runners being escorted to the front of the pack looked like a caravan of gazelles threading through a forest of lumbering pandas. There he was again when my pace group was finally ushered to the start line. Only this time, 22 minutes into the race, he was passing the start going the opposite direction, 5.5 miles into the course.
3. The number of running plans I seriously considered before finally settling on this one.
4. Arizona. North Carolina. South Carolina. Pennsylvania. The number of states covered in runs during my training for the half marathon. (Watching The Matrix on a treadmill TV at a Tempe YMCA. Reconnoitering the 18th hole putting green at a golf resort community in Sanford, NC. “Borrowing” figs from a fertile bush in a yard of an unoccupied beach home on Edisto Beach, SC. Racing my shadow past Kolb’s Dairy Farm in Parker Ford, PA.)
5. The number of pounds I gained while running 20-30 miles a week. If that’s not a testament to my love of food, I don’t know what is!
6. The number of slow songs my iPod selected for me on Shuffle mode. Also the number of times I decided my iPod hates me. Honestly, who could ever muster the umph to run a race while listening to Sigur Ros?!
7. The Team Beth cheering squad included Big Friend and Little Friend, my mom, dad, and youngest sister, and my mother- and father-in-law. This group was a sight for sore eyes as I crossed the finish line. (Make that sore feet.)
8. The percentage increase (times 100) in nerves as race day approached. Yes, I was nervous. Didn’t sleep much the night before the race. I had dry mouth, sweaty palms, increased heart rate. I guess not much changed after the race, except that nerves were no longer the cause.
9. The number of weeks I spent training to run the Philadelphia Rock n Roll Half Marathon.
10. The mile at which I decided, firmly and decisively, I would have to be crazy to ever run a full marathon.
11. The mile at which I seconded my decision of mile 10.
12. The finish line was in sight when I hit mile 12. Well, figuratively at least. Come to think of it, one more mile is a loooong way to run when you’ve already put 12 behind you.
13. The number of cups of water and Cytomax consumed during my race. (I still feel guilty about tossing the empties on the pavement, even though that appears to be de rigoeur at races. About 6/13 of my cups landed in the waste bins. Number of necessary pit stops thanks to my running libations? One. Could’ve knocked three minutes off my finish time with fewer cups.)
.1 In the final tenth of a mile at the very end of the half marathon, I saw it: the Finish Line. And I couldn’t help myself. I broke into a grin. With the applause of hundreds of generous spectators urging me on and a dozen runners in front of me to overtake, I could taste it: the end of the race, the attainment of a three-year goal, the bottle of water waiting just on the other side of the line. Yes. I grinned. Sped up a bit. And crossed the Finish. 2:32:29.