“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”
– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Anyone that knows me knows I am a huge Harry Potter dork. This particular line from the end of CoS has always stuck with me, but on Sunday it was a major source of inspiration for me.
Sunday I chose to run my very first half marathon. I can’t even begin to explain the mix of emotions I felt in the few days leading up to it. Over the last few months I’ve made many choices that have now defined me as a runner and a half marathon finisher.
I chose to sign up for a half marathon. This is something not many people ever do. I wasn’t even sure it was something I would ever do. A year ago, I never would have considered doing it.
I chose to train, and not train, for the half marathon. Somewhere along the line, I went into serious denial. I was overwhelmed by the idea of running 13.1 miles. Hell, I was overwhelmed by the idea of running more than about 7 miles. I slacked on my training. I slacked hardcore. I hid from my training plan. I hid from the fact that I was signed up for this half marathon. The furthest I had run prior to Sunday was 7 miles – just a little over half the distance I needed to go.
I chose to go pick up my packet on Saturday afternoon even though I had to drive myself into the city (which is something I hate doing) and pay $19 to park my car for less than an hour. I could have chosen to give up right there before I even made it to the starting line. I was so nervous going to packet pick-up I was in tears driving to McCormick Place. I chose to text Laura for encouragement when I was on the edge of a panic attack walking to pick up my packet.
I chose to get up at 4:00 on a Sunday morning: before the sun was up when some of my friends were just getting home from their Saturday night shenanigans. I actually drove by people catching cabs outside of a 5am bar. I rode the very first Orange Line train into the city that day.
I chose to start the race. I chose to run the race. I chose to keep going even when I wanted to give up. I chose to run the last 3.1 miles. I chose to cross the finish line running strong even though I felt like I had nothing left in me.
The fact that I felt so unprepared really fed into my nervousness and panic. This is what led me to call this race the “hail Mary half mary.” I felt like I was throwing a hail Mary pass running this thing. I had serious doubts about my ability to finish the half marathon. Waiting in the starting corral, I was fighting tears and panic. I was absolutely terrified, but I had made it this far. I had chosen to show up; there was no turning back. I made the choice to go it alone. I made the choice to run the race. I made the choice to do this for myself. I made the choice because I knew it was what I needed to do. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it because if I could do this, I could do anything.
I knew I would cross the finish line, but I wasn’t sure how much of the race I would actually end up running. Going in to the race, my plan was to try a run 2 miles, walk 1 mile approach. Once the race started I decided to take it one mile at a time and see how I was feeling.
I started really strong. I ran the first 4 miles or so without any problems. I knew I would be a struggle later in the race so I kept my pace a little slower than average. Around mile 4 I fell in with the 2:45 pace group. They were running 5 minutes and walking 1 minute which seemed like a pretty good strategy so I held with them until about mile 7.5 when I really started to struggle. My ankles were starting to hurt; my legs were tired, and I had pretty much decided to hell with time, I just want to finish and get my ass back on the train home.
The Denise from Ohio showed up next to me. She asked how I was doing and started chatting with me. She encouraged me, shared tips with me, and pretty much kept me going. I tried to encourage her as we talked and walked together to mile 10. I can honestly say Denise saved the day for me. I will always be grateful to her for helping me through the hardest part of my race. It was while I was walking with Denise, I decided I wanted to try and finish in under 3 hours.
Denise and I decided to start running again around mile 10. My goal was to run the last 5K. I didn’t make it the whole 3.1 miles without a few walk breaks, but I ran for 90% of that last 5K. Over and over again, I kept telling myself it was my choice, that our choices define us. I pulled out every mantra, and power phrase, and trick I had in my arsenal. I remembered Denise walking next to me telling me how I was about to become part of a very small group of people to ever completed a half marathon or marathon.
Ultimately, I finished the race in exactly 3 hours. When I signed up, I predicted my finished time to be 2:45. Considering my lack of training, my fear going in, and everything I felt during the race, I’m extremely proud of myself for finishing in 3 hours.
I didn’t take any pictures because, honestly, I was too busy being terrified to even think about taking pictures. I was so focused on what I needed to do.