I ran the Winnipeg Police Half-Marathon yesterday. I’d been training for months and then worrying all last week.
Last fall I ran the Budapest Half-Marathon. It was a big deal. I’ve been running for a few years now, and yet I am astonished that I am a runner, since I never thought of myself as an athlete the whole time I was growing up and since I’ve never pursued races of any length with much determination, preferring to focus on the day-to-day runs rather than the big events. So the realization that I was ready to try a long distance like the half-marathon was an exhilarating yet intimidating one. Crossing that finish line was a wonderful feeling and gave me a real confidence in my running.
This one, though, was different in a couple of key ways that kept me from being totally relaxed last week. I ran in Budapest to finish, to run in an amazing setting, to show myself that I could. I also ran it under difficult conditions: it was a hot, hot day after a cold summer of training, and we’d been touristing on foot for two weeks beforehand. I was exceedingly happy to finish it in 2:09:06.
This year, I wanted to see if I could make 2:00. Every race is a race, clearly, but not every runner is running it as a race.The WPS Half Marathon was a race for me, not an event. I trained hard, following an ambitious plan that asked so much of me and yet filled me with pride every time I finished one of the hard runs.
In addition to being the first race I’d really ever run, I’d also hardly done any training on my own. Until now, I was on the treadmill (which sets my pace and keeps me there) or running outside with Rainer – my personal pace-bunny and motivational system. I love to run with him. He’s the reason I’m a runner. Running alongside him makes me feel both relaxed by his company and inspired by his presence. I want to work hard so he’ll be proud of me. When I realized that not only was he not going to be by my side during the race but that I had no experience running alone and setting my pace for more than an hour, I made sure to do a 12 mile run on my own a few weeks back.
But still. Races are different than runs. The excitement. The people running faster than you. The footfalls of others obscuring the rhythm of your own feet. So I was nervous. I wanted to improve my time and I was doing it without my one-man miracle support system.
I did a horrid job of pacing myself the first 3 miles. Too slow, too fast, way too slow. That left me with time to make up on the rest of the course if I was going to do it. So sped up and tried to chase that goal.
In that top picture, I’m nearly at mile 13, shouting to my sister, “I am going to make it!” I was tired at that point, so tired of pushing the pace. But I could see on the watch that nothing but an injury was going to keep me from getting into the park, over that bridge, and to the finish line in less than 2 hours. Yes, less than two hours. 1:57:08 to be precise. 12 minutes off my previous time. 15th out of the 89 women in my age category.
I still laugh when I realize I’m a runner; the self has a hard time reconciling that with my mental labels. But it’s beginning to sink in.
Running has given me so much. Patience with the children. Energy. Strength of body. So much strength of mind. Practice in taking big goals and breaking them down into managable steps. Confidence. Adventure. Accomplishment.