There are few words and ways to describe how I feel today. I ran my first half-marathon today! The one that is at the forefront of my mind is : sick. I am still feeling rather nauseous from the race – my stomach is wreaking havoc, telling me it doesn’t like what happened today, and to it, I say, “screw you”. For someone like me, someone who spent the majority of their life sitting in complacency, running a half-marathon is truly a step away from who I ever thought I could be in this life.
Growing up, I had a lot of goals, but around mile 11, I started thinking about the goals that I have had in my life (as well as how sore my legs were), and although I feel like I have been able to accomplish a great deal, many of my goals in life have been reactive or designed out of escapism. As a child, I focused on academics for the sole purpose of getting out of my hometown – I knew it was the only way to get out of there, which was a reaction to feeling like a pariah in both my school and family. I went to Upward Bound, undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life, that helped me learn who I was on such a deep and foundational level, primarily, to get out of my home town for the summer.
Even the last year of my life has been a journey of weight loss, a reactive journey to the fear of losing what little health I did have and realizing my life was spinning in the wrong direction.
But today, I achieved something that was based solely out of the spirit of doing something to prove to myself that I could do it. 5 months ago, I ran my first 5k, which was the start of this line of goals to become a runner. Running is always something that I have hated doing, and running that 5k was a push to see if I could do something completely outside of my comfort zone. I feel like the last 5 months has been a mini-series on my life as a runner, and today was the grand premier of the biggest piece of the film.
Just after mile 10, I started feeling a bit above myself. The most that I had ever run in total was 10 miles, so passing this was a benchmark for me. I started thinking about the last year of my life, and how far I have come, that fitness is something that is so important to me. If you are reading this, the one thing I can say to you, which I have said before is to give yourself a chance. Don’t deny yourself an opportunity because you have never done something before or because you think that it will be difficult. I spent far too much of my life pouring cynicism on everything that came my way, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities, I am sure. In this moment, as I passed the mile-marker, I thought to myself, “this is my religion” – as someone who has never been religious, I started thinking about where my mind was in relation to my body – it felt somewhere else completely, as if I were watching myself from above. Now, I don’t think I had an out of body experience, but it was a deeply reflective moment for me. This moment felt very transcendent for me, that I somehow surpassed the person that I thought I could be, that I have given myself something that is greater than I could have expected. If you take a quick look at the definitions for transcendent, I think it describes how I felt, perfectly.
1a : exceeding usual limits
1b : extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience
1c : in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge
2 : being beyond comprehension
3 : beyond the universe or material existence
People told me that once I finished the race, I would feel a great sense of accomplishment, which I did, but I won’t lie – I mostly felt like a semi-truck hit me from behind. My legs were stiff, my lungs were sore, I was wet, and the blisters that started to form at mile 11 were starting to hurt. Even right now, hours and hours later, my body is fighting the feat of the day. I came home, showered, and took a nap, and I am still tired as hell and feel like crap, but at the same time, I feel completely astonished at what I did today.
For those who do not know, and I think most people who haven’t run 13.1 miles, don’t (sorry!), they hear the number and think, “damn, that is a lot of running”. Friends chuckled when I told them the number, feeling like they couldn’t do it (hey, that was me 5 months ago!), and even yesterday, as I tried to prepare mentally, 13.1 did not fully sink in. It sunk in around mile 10, when my stomach started hurting, the sweat crept into my eyes, and my legs started stalling. Running is highly psychological, but at mile 11, things start becoming very very physical. Even my music, which always pushes me forward was not working. The last 2 miles of the race were the absolute hardest, but I knew victory was a short distance away, so I kept on keeping on.
The greatest thing about this day was that I ran this race UNBROKEN. For those who don’t know, that means that I did not stop during the entire race. I only grabbed water once (near mile 5), but ran and threw the cup to the ground after getting the hydration I needed. Around mile 10, my pace slowed dramatically, but I was still running (or fast jogging, as it probably was). The most I had EVER run UNBROKEN before was 6.2 miles, so I doubled this time. I knew at mile 10, I had to keep going, that the achievement of running this race without stopping was greater than 3 miles worth of pain. Also, I knew if I stopped to walk, that it would be extremely difficult to pick up a new pace, but I crossed the finish line at 1:55:58, just below 2 hours, and 35 minutes below my target time. I came in 9/9 in my age/division, but I conquered my own goals, I persevered through pain and sweat, and I proved something to myself today that I didn’t even know existed before 6 months ago.
Am I ready for a marathon? Hell no, but it might be something to look at for next summer if I spend a lot of time training for it. I have been watching videos of the Tough Mudder as well, which I am not making a goal of yet, but I think I may want to make it a goal for August 2013. Having these goals has kept me in check, it’s kept me on the right path, and it has given me a renewal of life that I never even knew I was missing, but I will not trade for anything else.
Keep on keepin’ on.
This is a photo fo me in the morning before the race – wish I had one of me crossing the finish line, feeling completely dead.