I was just drafting a post about this time last year – with the anniversary of the earthquake coming up, it’s hard not to reminisce. I went to link the post of my half-marathon, and realized it was missing. I had drafted up this post on my phone on the flight to Haiti on January 11th . . . and obviously this post got lost in the shuffle. Anyways, one year later, here is the recap of my first (and hopefully not last) half marathon.
Writing a race recap feels a lot like writing a birth story. You know that only a few people are interested in hearing all the gory details. But since I've spent the last four months reading race accounts I figured I should write my own.
The night before the race was a tough one for me. I was sleep deprived and intimidated by the weather, and it was really making me feel insecure. Seven of us were staying in a suite together, and we were bustling around laying out our supplies and figuring out how we could avoid the race traffic without arriving at 4am. I felt like I was just going through the motions, play-acting that I was a runner. I felt this impending dread that I would soon be discovered as an imposter. I felt sure that the next day I would be unable to run more than a few miles. The last weeks of training don't include longer runs, and it only took a few days of not running for me to lose all confidence in my abilities. This whole experience has been a fight against a 35 year narrative that I am not an athlete. The night before, that narrative was strong, and I had many moments where I wondered what in the world I had been thinking, traveling across the country and raising money as a 'runner'. What would people think when they discovered I was a phony?
I had a lot of trouble sleeping, and that alarm came early. We all rushed around getting dressed, pinning on our bibs, and layering ourselves with old salvation army bound jackets and blankets we could throw off after a few miles. We even fashioned an outer layer of trashbags, which is supposed to hold in body heat. By the time we were done, we looked more like a group of homeless women than runners. As ridiculous as we looked, the rituals of preparing for a long run were helping give me confidence again. Two weeks prior, I had run the distance of a half-marathon. I could do this.
Since we were running this race for Haiti, we decided it was only fitting that we ride to the race 'Haiti style'. So all seven of us piled into one car. I was squashed in the backseat wearing a trashbag and using a portable breast pump as we drove to Disney. Not exactly how I envisioned my first big race, but we were already giggling and having fun, and I had forgotten all about the anxiety from the previous night.
When we hopped out, it was bitterly cold. The kind of cold that makes your nose run and then freezes your snot. There we thousands of people, all of them in a crazy getups to try to beat the unexpected temperatures. We were able to find the rest of our group pretty quickly, and it was so fun to all be together after our months of long-distance emailing, training and fundraising. Despite the weather, there was a huge spirit of camaraderie and excitement in the air. We huddled and prayed, and then waited. We met in the last corral so we could all be together, so it was about a half hour after the gun before we even reached the starting line. In Disney style, there were fireworks at the beginning, and once we started running my adrenaline was going.
I had created this amazing playlist on my ipod, complete with a book by David Sedaris that I thought would push me through some of the run, but just as I started running I realized my computer had failed to actually sync the ipod. This did instill a little panic, but I tried to talk myself down. I still had some good music, just not the master mix I had hoped for.
I felt pretty good as the race started. About a mile in, most of us started shedding some of the clothing. It was funning to be running and see people just throw off their outer layers into the grass. Disney had let us know that all clothes would be picked up and donated to charity, so most people were relieving themselves of coats once they worked up a sweat. My mom had brought me a red plaid-lined coat from the late 90’s that she had in the back of a closet, and I was happy to rid myself of that thing. Though I must admit, I ran the entire time with a trashbag around my legs.
My friend Erin and I ran together for a good portion of the race. It was so nice to have a friend to run with, even though we barely talked save for complaining about the cold. It was so cold that when we picked up the gatorade at the water stations, it had frozen just from sitting there. It was like getting little cups of gatorade slushie at every mile marker. There were also frozen patches of ground all along the race. I kept laughing to myself at how cold it was. I used to hear stories of people doing races in extreme weather and I would think that they sounded crazy. I remember my friend running a race in the rain and thinking that I would have just stayed home if it was raining. But after all the training, I finally got it. There was no way I was not going to finish this race, no matter how cold it was.
This particular race was such a good one for me to do first, because it was really non-competitive. There were a lot of people walking the marathon, and because I started in the very last group, I spent most of the race passing people. That was a huge confidence booster, even though I was still a slow runner. There were a lot of people dressed up, and there was just a spirit of friendliness and support. It felt like all of us were grinning.
Being Disney, they also had a lot of entertainment. There were bands on the sidelines, and crews of people cheering for us. Our names were on our bibs so they were cheer for us by name. I am a huge sap because that made me emotional several times. Which was not good, because my tears would freeze up my eyes. We also had Jamie Ivey and Paige Porter cheering us on, which was huge. Seeing them was a huge boost.
The downside of the race was that a lot of it was running through Disney parking lots. I am a little spoiled by my Southern California scenery. It was nice when we went through the parks.
Even though I only planned to run a half-marathon, I ran on the marathon day. Several of us did this together, because we wanted to be able to run as a big group, and about half of the group were doing the full. Let me make another crazy confession: at about mile 12, I seriously considered running the entire thing. I was feeling that good. I’m glad I didn’t because I probably would have been sorry, but I was caught up in the moment.
For the last half of the race, Erin and I ran with Tara and Jenn, who were running the whole thing. Tara had a foot injury and Jenn is just plain crazy – she hadn’t trained AT ALL and decided the night before that she would run for someone who had to bail out. Both of them finished the whole thing.
At mile 13, Kim and I stopped to take a picture, and then ran to mile 13.1. That whole time, I got a little emotional because I just couldn’t believe that I had run a half-marathon. My non-athletic, asthmatic self. At age 35. While breastfeeding. It’s really hard to articulate all that meant for me, but I really felt like a superwoman. It was a proud moment, and I hope someday I can repeat it.
It was a bit anticlimactic not getting to cross a finish line, but I’m glad we got to run with our friends. Plus, I had my Nike Plus going in my ear so I got to hear Lance Armstrong tell me congratulations for running my first half-marathon.
Kim and I met up with my family, and I nursed Karis in the bathroom at Disney’s Polynesian Hotel. I was equal parts drenched in sweat and freezing, and I was sore. SO SORE. We went back to our hotel and I took a long bath, and then we got dressed and went back to the race site to watch our friends cross the finish line for the full marathon.
It was really, really inspiring to watch people cross the finish line for the full. I was so proud of my friends who did it . . . especially of Beth and Tara, who did all of their training on the streets of Port-Au-Prince. Our rag-tag crew achieved a lot of personal milestones that day, but best of all, we raised the money to buy an ambulance for Heartline Haiti. I can say with confidence that I think this day will be one of the highlights of my life, and I’m so thankful for the women I got to share it with.