Finishing what I started
Confession: I hardly ever finish anything I start. Whether it’s taking up knitting (all I have to show for myself is a tenth of a scarf), blogging (all I can do is laugh), training my dog (sorry Billy, my vet/friend!), et cetera, I am the WORST at following through on personal projects. I get so excited about the prospect of a new hobby and throw myself into it full force, only to get bored, frustrated or busy.
Hopefully someone reading this can relate. If you can relate: I have come to give you hope.
Recently, I actually finished something I started: I ran the L.A. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.
In case you haven’t been following my invisible blog posts on this topic, let me fill you in. Last December, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be to run this particular half marathon. I maintain I had an aneurism or was drugged, because WHY ELSE WOULD ONE DECIDE TO RUN 13.1 MILES?
Looking back, I honestly don’t know what possessed me to run a half marathon. Why not a 5K? 5K is such a nice, pretty distance. But no. Remember what I said about getting really excited about new hobbies? Yeah.
So, I started training. Clad in wratty sneakers, high school sports t-shirts and running shorts from middle school, I started pounding the pavement. I logged all of my training runs (give or take a few) via RunKeeper. Whether I had finished the half marathon or not, I think I have something to be proud of this year:
- 70 runs
- I started out with a 15-minute mile pace. Now I’m at a 12-minute mile pace.
- 267 total miles logged
- 24,000 calories burned
Anyway, running was so painful at first. My lungs would burn, my muscles would cramp and my feet would blister. But every time I ran, I got better. I could run farther and a tiny bit faster each time. I was breaking my own records. I was up to 6 miles, then 7, then 9, then 14. Even though I was running at clunky 13-minute/mile paces, I might as well have been a Kenyan coasting with ease and grace through the streets and beaches of L.A. It seemed as if I were in primal territory on those long runs. It felt like I was going where no one had gone before. It sounds silly, but that’s honestly how it felt. Running, I’ve come to learn, is freeing.
Here are some of the things I saw on my runs this year:
I am forever indebted to the streets of L.A. for their inspiration.
On the morning of October 30, 2011, I woke up around 5 a.m. I put on the outfit I had laid out the night before (over the year I upgraded my running wardrobe to include some items from this decade and some proper shoes). I drank some water, an energy bar, put on a tiny bit of makeup in preparation for the post-race photos, and Stephen and I made our way downtown.
The start area was completely packed with people and music was already blaring before the sun came up. We met up with some friends who were also running the race and waited until we needed to go to our corrals for the start.
Once we made our way to the corral and the race began, it took probably 5 minutes before we crossed the start line. Stephen ran with me the entire time (I don’t think I would have finished without him…keep reading), and for the first hour and a half of the race, I felt AMAZING. I was pacing for a massively faster time than I had in all my training runs and I was attributing it to the race atmosphere and adrenaline. Through mile 9, I was so excited that I was going to beat my (loose) goal of a 2:45 time.
Then came…the hill.
The sadist who mapped out the course probably laughed with glee when he or she decided to include a practically vertical hill at mile 9. SUCKERS! You think you’re almost there, THINK AGAIN!
And there went my race.
I’m not exaggerating, this hill was completely evil. I wish I had a good picture of it to share with you so you could commiserate with me. But people must have been just focusing on getting air to their lungs instead of documenting the most hellacious hill of their lives. We walked/ran to the top of the hill, but by that point–after killing it the first 9 miles then crying my way up the hill, I was completely spent. By the time I was at the downhill on mile 10 I honestly didn’t think I could make it to the finish. Three more miles felt like we might as well be running to China.
Here’s where Stephen comes in again. He coached me the whole way to the finish line. I literally had nothing left but somehow, thanks to him, we made it. The last three miles of the course were mostly downhill, thank goodness, so with his encouragement and coaching (“OK, we’re going to run for 30 seconds.” “We’re going to make it to that stop light.”) I was able to finish what I started…in 2 hours and 58 minutes.
Once we crossed the finish line, we were instantly given medals and cold water. A man handed me a banana, which I proceeded to INHALE at warp speed. We met up with our friends, who all finished (yay!), and had a celebratory beer (which sounded terrible at first, but actually was so refreshing).
So. Will I keep running? Yes. In fact I just finished my second 10K race last weekend (with a personal record!). Will I ever run another half marathon? Yes. How about a full 26.2?
ARE YOU INSANE???