One thing I like about running is you always have room for improvement. My new year's resolution included: be a smarter/better runner and set some new PRs (personal records). To become a smarter runner (train injury free and run faster), I had to do two things. I had to slow down my long runs and increase my pace on speed work runs. Slowing down seems counter intuitive to becoming a faster runner, but I truly believe in the equation.
I trained diligently, week after week. I had a race pace goal of an 8.30 minute mile. Every Saturday I would run anywhere from 3-5 miles at race pace only, to finish the run feeling like running a full 13.1 miles at that pace simply wasn't doable. Then on Sunday I would run my 'long run', anywhere from 9-12 miles at an 'easy pace' of about a 9.30-10 minute mile. I welcomed those long runs. That pace felt so comfortable and light compared to the pace I was pushing for the day before.
The week before the race I had been fighting off allergies? a cold? Taking vitamins, pretending the achy body I had was all in my head and popping Motrin like I was eating candy. The night before the race, Madeline was up 3 times from 12 am-3am and there was nothing for me to do but to suck it up and be a mom and tend to my Madeline. I'd deal with being a runner later.
Race day came. I decided to dedicate each mile of the race to someone near and dear to my heart. The usual suspects made the list:
Mile 1 was for Madeline. Oh Madeline. My stubbornly sweet girl. She says funny things to me like "Me-sa good girl". "Me pretty. I smart.". Yes, my Little Mama is all those things and more. I thought of how GOOD she is. So good that my heart bursts with joy knowing I was given the gift of a child like Madeline. Madeline. Good. Running. Joy. It all just tied together as a neat little present for me to wrap my head around. Enjoy the race my heart told me, just as you enjoy being a mother to Madeline. And I did.
Max was on my mind around mile 3. He's such a funny, sweet kid. I thanked God for giving me my only son. Images of Max's funny expressions kept popping into my head for that mile and I couldn't help but run the whole dang mile with a silly "Max grin' plastered on my face. I also noticed smiling is contagious. Maybe the spectators thought I was nuts but they were smiling back at me.
Mile 6 was for Chris. I knew he was running his own race and I knew this mile could be one of the toughest in a half marathon because it's at this point you realize you are barely half-way there. It can be discouraging or it can be a feeling of relief. I imagined running alongside of him like we do when we have a rare long-run date. I chatter non-stop next to him with my horrible running form, while he has a look of sheer concentration and perfect posture, not saying a word. Yin and Yang. Peas and Carrots. Love him so. My prayer for him was that he would meet his goal. There is something so amazing in achieving a goal you set for yourself. I saw it when he ran the San Antonio Marathon. A feeling that makes you want to scream to the world: I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mile 9 was dedicated to my Dear Claire. I couldn't help but remember the words she said to me the night before. "Mommy, I want you to win that race". OK, Baby Girl. I wanted to 'win' the race for my Girl. Mile 9 was one of my toughest because of all the energy I had spent speeding through the first 8 miles and because of the hill it was on. I thought of how tough Claire has been in her first year of kindergarten, working through some anxiety issues that no 5 year old should have to deal with. I thought of how I watched her in art class as she started to cry because she was nervous and thought she couldn't do the work. And then how a light switch turned on inside her and she composed herself with a deep breath and tackled the lesson in front of her like a pro. I took my own deep breath and powered through that mile. Each step was for Claire.
Mile 12 was for my brother Philip. It was my slowest mile. Sometimes the slowest ones are the best. Because if you can come out of that mile and power through the next one, you know you have some grit in you. I thought of Philip and his goal to walk 6 days a week. I prayed that he's still powering through. Getting through the tough days where he surely wants to throw in the towel. I prayed for him. And I thought, if Philip can walk every day, surely I can pick up my pace. So I did.
Mile 13 was for my mom. I like to think I got the gift of persevering from her. My mom has a goal to walk her first 5k in the Spring. Staying 'on track' is one of the toughest things to do in life. We all fall off the track but I think it's the ability to get back on it that defines a person. My mom always, always, gets back on track. So I thought of my mom as I knew I was nearly done with this race. I knew the finish line was around the corner and I imagined what it would be like for her to see her own finish line. I could hear some spectators shouting "Go Pink!" (I probably should have considered a less showy race shirt, but the pink one was too cute ;)) as I sprinted for that finish line as fast as my two dead legs would carry me. I got my first sub 8 minute mile in a half marathon (never mind that it was 7.59;)). For you, Mom.
And the last .1? Well, that was for me. Sometimes as moms, we forget to take care of ourselves. Twice this past week, I 'forgot' to eat breakfast. That's being a mom. We need to take the time to take care of ourselves if we are going to be the rock for our children. That is what running is for me. Taking care of myself so that I can take care of all those who depend on me. My race strategy was to physically push myself as hard as I could without bonking it at the end. So I pushed myself. Hard. I did not let myself think of any discomfort or pain I was feeling for the first 13 miles. Those miles were for the people I dedicated each step to. But .1? Mine. All mine. And that was when a few tears of joy, pain and relief slipped out.
13.1 miles. 1 hour 48 minutes and 40 seconds. PR done.