Sunday, October 05, 2014

Holy Cow!

This morning, I finally completed the task I've been talking about since June...I ran my first half marathon. I chose the Urban Cow, for timing (I registered in June, so this gave me plenty of time to train) and because it benefits a lot of local youth running groups, including the cross country team at my Large Suburban High School.

I woke up at 5:30, fed the cats, then laced up my trusty Brooks shoes while sipping a half-water-half-Gatorade mix. I left at 6:00 so I could get decent parking and have time to check in.

Once I arrived, I promptly ran into one of my choir students and her father, both of whom would be running the race. Another choir student who runs cross country was scheduled to be handing out water at Mile 12.

I'm not going to lie--this was not an easy day for me. But the bottom line is, I finished, and I finished running. I've been using the run-walk method, and never have I been so glad for this as I was today. Thirteen miles is no easy feat.

I ran the whole first mile. I wanted to start off badass. After that, I switched to my 2:30/1:00 run/walk intervals, though I did walk a couple of run intervals here and there. The first half of the race seemed to take forever. The mile markers felt like they were two miles apart. On my training runs, I wouldn't keep track of miles as I ran them; I would simply turn on Map My Run and stuff my phone in the pouch on my hydration belt. So miles blended together and it was more about making it to certain places--that one intersection, that one particular bridge, etc. But today, I found myself watching and waiting for those mile signs, and that made it seem so much longer.

At last, however, I reached the halfway point--at about 1 hour, 28 minutes. I was tired-ish, but I had a sudden burst of euphoria seeing that massive halfway arch they'd set up. There were tons of volunteers on hand, cheering and clanging cowbells. Hard not to get a little pumped up.

After that, the miles didn't seem as bad. At least I wasn't thinking, "Ugh, two down, eleven to go..." at that point. At Mile 8, two photographers were up on ladders. People ahead of me were giving peace signs and whatnot, so I pasted a cheesy grin on my face and gave two thumbs up as I ran through. The photographers were cheering for everyone, and seemed to love my pose.

I walked the entire 11th mile. My legs and lower back were pretty tight by this point. In the last two miles, I did my run-walk thing again but allowed myself slightly longer walking intervals.

As I approached Mile 12, I started a walk interval, and then, directly ahead, saw my choir student handing out Gatorade. I yelled out, "Hello, _____!" and she got a huge grin. "Ms. Cooper!!! How're you doing?!" "Well, I'm not dead yet!" She laughed and handed me a cup, which I took gratefully. As I passed the water table, I pumped a fist in the air and yelled the name of the school. A couple of kids acknowledged me with grins and fist pumps in return (most were busy making sure they had enough cups for thirsty runners).

Now I was on the home stretch. I did my best to run-walk, but my body was tired. My previous best mileage was 10.85, so I was easy on myself. Just getting out there and finishing a half marathon is a big deal. Still, I wanted to finish running. Before long, I approached another big arch, this one with huge letters informing me there was only half a mile left. I started my slow run at this point, not caring about speed or beauty.

I had to walk about 100 yards of that last half mile. My legs were simply screaming at this point, but I ran the last 300 or so yards with a huge grin on my face. Crowds of people--earlier finishers, 5K finishers, and spectators--cheered for all of us that were still out there. An amazing feeling came over me as I approached the finish. I couldn't stop smiling, even though my legs hurt, my back hurt, and my body was so tired.

I pumped my fist in the air as I crossed the finish line, and was promptly handed the best piece of "race bling" I've ever earned. You don't get a medal for finishing the Urban Cow. Oh, no.

You get a cowbell.

I was also given a cold bottle of water, and food. Oh, glorious food. I scarfed down a little sandwich and a cookie in short order.

And, of course, I took the requisite finish line selfie.

Sweaty, red-faced, grinning, and so very proud. 

The plan now is to take at least this week off from running. My gym trips for the next couple of days will be centered around stretching, foam-rolling, and recovery. While I was running today, I thought to myself that I'd never be so stupid to sign up for another half marathon...but now that it's finished, I find myself eyeing the Shamrock'n Half in March. We'll see...we'll see. My next registered race is the Santa Run in December. Last year I PR'ed there, almost getting my sub-thirty 5K. I kind of want to focus some time on getting my speed back, now that I've proven I can stumble through 13.1 miles.

I'm a half marathon finisher!

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