If you’d have told me three years ago that I’d be running a half marathon this year I would’ve laughed you out the door. That, or I’d have offered you a beer so we could talk about how lovely it was to be sitting at a pub instead of running past one like a “silly” jogger. But after I had my baby I discovered my weight was now somehow redistributed to places that wobbled with extra flesh.
Fast forward to this year and I’m standing at the starting line of my first half marathon. I felt terribly out of shape because I’d been sick for three weeks, so I prepared the way someone might when they’re behind in school – I ran many many miles one week ahead of the race (like make-up homework), then bought brand new shoes two days before (they were so cushiony and soft!), drank two glasses of wine that night (to take my mind off the task ahead), and selected a bright colored top in the morning (in a perky coral hue that made me smile).
In the wee hours of daybreak I joined the masses gathered behind the starting line, huddling between bodies to keep myself warm. The race started and everyone began to move forward. Suddenly I panicked, This is really happening. Shit.
– Mile 1 – I run fast. Then I slow down. Then I speed up. I question why I had any wine the night before.
– Mile 2 – Various people make calls or answer their phones: “I love you. This is it. I’m not sure if I can do this. Just tell me that I can do it, and I’m sure I can. I just want to say a few things before I lose reception…” (I’m reminded of the movie Titanic, and the things Kate Winslet might’ve said to Leonardo DiCaprio while clinging to life. If they had cell phones).
– Mile 3 – I notice that people (running past me) are wearing all kinds of running accessories. A few people carry something akin to a boxing glove, which holds water on the inside palm and food on the outside. Others wear backpacks with hydrating bladders and candy bars dangling off the sides. A racer flies by me with five 16 oz bottles strapped to her back, the water loudly sloshing with every bounce. On the front she strapped gels across her chest like an ammo belt.
Are you kidding? I ask myself. How long is this race, really? When will they have time to eat? And how are they running so fast? I had a peek at the race map once, yesterday, and I was sure there were hydrating stations every few miles. But after seeing what all these runners had packed, I begin to doubt my knowledge of the course or what lay ahead. I look down at my hands and the only things I’m carrying are a GoPro, an iPhone, and my daughter’s lucky red fish.
Miles 3 & 4 – I feel good. I run past lots of adults and kids, offering high fives and holding up signs that said “Don’t poop!” Suddenly I have to pee and I begin to think about where the next bathroom might be.
Mile 8 – The sun comes out. It’s hot. I’m tired. I realize I don’t have to pee anymore. I’m absolutely ready to fall flat on my face. Perhaps a carnivorous ground squirrel will drag me to its burrow and divide my remains among the pack. I just want to be done with this.
Mile 9 – I discover I’m looking down too much because I’m measuring my progress by counting dog poops at the side of the road.
Mile 10 – The woman behind me is on the phone to her husband or partner or someone, “Yeah, honey, I’m in the middle of the race. Okay, what do you want to talk about? Sure.” They talk for a while. I learn that she needs milk and tampons from the store (Kotex, specifically).
Mile 11 – I’m ecstatic! I quicken my gait and want to skip to the finish line. Only 1 more mile left! Yes! Then it dawns on me that a half marathon is actually 13 miles. I try to be pissed off and depressed but some kind of runners high prevents me from connecting with my emotions, so I press on, feverishly grunting and smiling (similar to Jack Nicholson in The Shining).
Mile 12 – My GoPro runs out of batteries, but I hold it up because my arm is locked in position.
Mile 13 – I see my family cheering me on from the sidewalk. My adorable daughter waives. A runner ahead of me vomits.
We finish the race (and no one pooped their pants!).
Beer and wine await for all the dehydrated runners! (at 10am) But, really, that’s the best part.
How did I feel once it was over? I can confirm that I probably had a few out of body experiences, and that it was painful. I exchanged high-fives with the woman who crossed the finish line with me, and she compares it to childbirth (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d had a c-section and barely felt a thing in those pivotal ten minutes).