Yesterday I ran my first half-marathon. It’s been on my “bucket list” for a long time, and I figured it was about time I checked it off.
The night before the race, I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned, thinking of all of the things that could go wrong. I worried that I’d sleep through my alarm, that I would get a cramp and have to stop and walk, that my time would be embarrassingly slow. I hated myself for signing up and wished I could be doing anything but running a grueling 13.1 miles in the morning. I regretted asking my family, boyfriend, and best friend to watch me cross the finish line. My head hurt.
My alarm went off at 5:45am, and I jumped out of bed. My short hair looked frumpy pulled into a tiny ponytail, and without makeup the bags under my eyes seemed prominent. I pulled on my race shirt and felt self-conscious about the unforgiving way it hung on my body. The running pants I chose made my legs look short. I was picking at myself and bringing to light all of my insecurities, a habit of mine that happens when I get scared or nervous.
When I arrived at the race alone, I felt awkward surrounded by people who looked like they were pros. While I was wearing the free shirt given to me the day before by the sponsors, others were sporting fancy specialized running shoes and clothes, doing complex warm ups, and clearly confident.
When it finally began, I quickly attempted to find a comfortable pace. As my ipod blasted in my ears, everyone else began to slowly fade away. As the miles went by, I was surprised at my body for not tiring. By mile five, I was nearing the turnaround and approaching what I knew would be the races biggest challenge—a massive hill that seemed endless and totally impossible.
I decided to try something that I had done during my training to help get me through the rough patches. As I climbed the hill, I focused on each part of my body and my muscles individually. I thought about what they were each doing to help me, how it felt to push with my calves and pull my body up and up one step at a time. I thought about my lungs and their capacity to provide my body with oxygen. I thought about how my blood was rushing to my head and my muscles to power me through. And I realized that when I checked my watch, I was running a great deal faster then I’d predicted I would. So much so, in fact, that I worried my friends and family would not be there to see me finish in time.
I came around the turnaround and began to make my way back, down the hill I’d just conquered. The second half of the race flew by, and I didn’t care a bit about the way my hair looked, or how flushed and sweaty I appeared. I couldn’t have cared less about my clothes, because my skin wasn’t chafing and my shoes were not giving me blisters. The strong, powerful legs that I’d worked for pushed me through the race, and endorphins were kicking in as the finish line neared. I picked up my pace for one last push. Rounding the corner before the finish, I saw a board flash a time of just over two hours. Panicking, I realized that because I’d given myself so little credit and told my parents not to come until later, no one would be there to meet me.
To my surprise, that was when I heard my name. Right by the finish line, everyone I’d invited was cheering me on, holding up cameras and clapping for me. I crossed the line at two hours and one minute, a solid half an hour earlier than I’d predicted for myself. I felt great. I was proud of my sweaty face and my frizzy hair. I felt such a huge sense of pride and accomplishment, and I’m already looking forward to finding my next race.