Despite typical traditions for the holiday, my Cinco de Mayo was not filled with Coronas & pinatas, and followed by a hangover. I woke up at 4:45 am Sunday morning and headed to Orange County to run my very first half marathon. I know this sounds less than ideal for most, but if there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I'm a runner. I'm no crazy get up every single morning and run ten miles kind of gal, but running has definitely become part of who I am.
I signed up for the race with the assumption that I'd train a little longer and harder for the big day. Little did I know that I would not even be running my typical 3 days a week prior to the race, let alone the extra conditioning that I really needed. We ended up moving a few weeks before the race, and during the stress of all the packing and moving I wasn't running. Once we finally arrived at our new home and started unpacking the boxes I was sick-and not the kind of sick that lingers around for a few days. I'm talking about the kind of sick that lasts for 2 weeks. Up until the day before the race I had people telling me I probably shouldn't run. Not only had I not trained for it, but my ugly mucous cough was reason enough to not run 13 miles. The way I looked at the race was that I really had nothing to lose. It would be my first half marathon so I had no PR and no expectations. I would take my time and just concentrate on finishing, not by any time specifically. In hindsight, I am so glad I didn't back out.
I was literally shaking when Aaron drove to the runner drop off at 5:30 that morning. I was so worried that I would get a terrible cramp from being out of shape and somehow be unable to finish. Once I got out of the car I did a little warm up run and DID NOT STOP STRETCHING. I stretched every muscle I knew how to stretch in my body. I thought back to the 10k I ran 3 weeks prior, and remembered the side cramp I got in the last mile of the race which slowed me down. I was literally stretching until the last seconds before the race.
The closer I got to the starting line and the more runners I saw, the more excited I became. There is something so invigorating about seeing all these different people from all over the country-the world even-coming together for the same challenge. Over 2,250 runners from 45 states and 21 nations entered the marathon. This included 13 runners from the Boston Marathon. One of my friends said "I bet there won't be as many people running this year because of what happened in Boston." My husband said the opposite-that there would be more than ever before, and he was right. The marathon, half marathon and 5k were all sold out. It was emotional and inspiring seeing all those runners sporting Boston gear in support of all those affected by the tragedy. Red Sox caps and shirts, and "Boston Strong" attire stood out in the crowd. Everyone there was running for their own personal goals, but together we were all running for a greater cause. That's the beauty of running-it's such an individual sport, but you're never alone, especially during these races. There was a moment of silence before the race for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, and then the first wave of runners took off. I started running with the second wave, right behind the 2 hour pacers, a few minutes after the 6:15 start.
I love the beginning of every race. The moment you cross the starting line you realize all the anticipation, the mental and physical preparation, all comes down to this exact moment. All of us who were huddled together seconds prior to the horn, are now splitting up, running our own race at our own pace, yet all heading to the same destination.
The first mile was slow. Actually the first 3 miles were slow. In a 5k and 10k it takes a minute or two to get past the crowd, and break away from the other runners so you can run at your own pace. In a half marathon it takes miles (at least in this race for me). Mile 4 I finally had enough leg room for my stride, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good I felt. Aside from finishing, my goal for this race to pace myself. I knew I could do the distance-I had done it before. Aaron had told me before I got out of the car, "You're just going on a run-a really long run, but it's what you do. You're a runner."
The run was beautiful-I would recommend it to everyone. It doesn't get much better than running alongside the Pacific Ocean and homes worth over $10 million, while witnessing breathtaking views at the bluffs overlooking the estuary reserve. The weather was overcast all day-ideal running weather in my opinion. I felt strong.
There were a lot of emotional moments in the race. I don't know if it was because I was so happy to finally be running again and competing in my first half, but a lot of little things got to me. A woman fell during mile 4 but before she could even hit the ground a competitor and complete stranger pulled her up. No one even hesitated to help, because just as we continue to witness (Boston), it's human nature to help out, to be good. Aaron later told me that seconds before she was about to cross the finish line, a runner started swaying and was about to pass out. Two other runners nearby saw her and literally carried her across the finish line. Going up the bridge on PCH, there was a runner pushing a woman in a wheel chair. The woman in the wheelchair was pushing herself as hard as she could, using all the muscles in her arms to get herself up the hill, and as I ran pass her all I could her were words of encouragement. "You're doing amazing," and "you're awesome," a couple of people told her. Words of encouragement can literally help others go the extra mile.
There were a lot of times when I couldn't stop laughing. Not even halfway through the race, right before reaching a hill, a barefoot runner yelled out, "It's all downhill from here guys!" I found the obvious sarcasm amusing. Especially since everyone was anticipating the half mile uphill in mile 6. Once I did reach that hill, there were so many volunteers and spectators cheering us on, it was unbelievable. I absolutely LOVED the signs people held up- "runners have the best butts," "WTF (where's the finish)," and "worst parade ever," were a few of my favorites. The volunteers and spectators really were incredible. I can't tell you what a difference it made to look up and see Aaron and my little schnauzer Darcy waiting for me and cheering me on in the crowd. Even the people we didn't know were constantly giving us words of encouragement and high fives. It was simply fascinating and it made me feel unstoppable.
Can't wait for the next one . . . well maybe I can (still a little sore) :)