As I mentioned yesterday, I was not in the best mental state to run, let alone run one mile thirteen times. I was not in the best physical shape to run one mile thirteen times.
But I woke up at 4:30 am, with one of the children sleeping soundly next to me and I looked at his sweet face and thought you deserve a momma to be proud of. I snapped at you last night because I was tired and I was upset with myself. I started this journey to be a healthier mom and I’m going to do that. Today I can prove that.
Doubt set in, I went to a curvy runner support group and the ladies yelled FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED. GO. TRY. DO NOT STOP. So I pulled on my big girl pants and woke up DOC sleeping with the other child in the next room and off to Pittsburgh we went.
Again, easy peasy drive in. DOC dropped me off at the corrals, I found the VIP restrooms (thanks P3R for THAT!) and headed to Corral D. The Sweeper Corral. The back of the pack. Curvy Athletes are us. These are my people for life and I love them all. There I met a great Pittsburgher named Danielle. She was my life line. There are six people I met along the route that saved my life. The woman I mentioned yesterday, Heather, who dragged my ass through miles 6 – 11, Danielle who got me in the right mind from Corral to mile 2 and found me again at 11. Flag guy who cheered me over bridges and kept me on pace. And the beep beep girls who made me laugh, kept me from quitting and showered me with love, water, ice and happiness. I may never see these four women and one man again but I will cherish them always.
OK, so. You know I finished. But this is how.
Mile 1 is a freaking freak show. I hate mile one of every race. The Charlottesville 4 Miler is crowded, I’ve fallen at the Foam Fest, the Muddy Buddy was a muddy gross mess of muck… Pittsburgh was as awful as the rest. I typically run alone. You can not run mile one, you just survive mile one. I was thankful to have Danielle in the Corral and through one to two with me. We adjusted pace, music, underpants. We survived.
Mile 2 is my favorite mile. You break out of the crowded mass of people (or, you know, get left behind with your people! I love my people, slow, interval walk runners, chatty friends. Love them.) You start to get your groove at Mile 2. I saw one of my favorite human beings on the planet, my nephew Sean and his fraternity the TKEs from California University of Pennsylvania. The showered me with water and smiles and high fives. I knew if I got to through the first 5K at least I didn’t embarrass myself in front of my nephew.
Miles 3 – 5
I found Danielle again after my selfie stop and we went through the Bridges. The Bridges are the best and worst part of the entire 1/2. There are cheering people on the bridges, they keep you going. The views are amazing and I love the views, so it’s nice to slow down… like so so slow that you really get to see what’s around you for the first time in your life.
Here’s Flag Guy! He was not an official pacer, but he was MY pacer through the bridges. He would yell out “12 minute mile. We got this girl. 12 minute miles.” I assume I was the girl whose back he had. People cheered “USA USA” when he came through. I’m not ashamed to say I felt proud to run with him for a bit.
The woman in blue pants and I had the same goal/fear. Don’t die. Don’t get swept. When I’d see her later on she cheered “We didn’t get picked up by the sweeper.” I love my people. They get me. They make me feel not alone.
And then the West End bridge came. The Bridge into Southside. What a view. What a perfectly perfect moment.
The bottom of this bridge is the 1/2 way point. It was where I knew I wanted to get to feel successful. Further than I’d ever run in one day. I was going to get there and I was going to be ok with it! However, this is where I picked up Heather, the woman who I mentioned saved my life in yesterday’s post and The Beep Beep Girls (Annika and Jennifer). They were running 30/30 splits and their little timer Beep Beeped to alert us when to run and walk and they were so much fun that I thought, hey, keep going! You’re feeling good, the music is fun, you are still doing this and you can probably go another mile or two. And we kept great pace together through the Southside from 7-10ish. We danced with sorority girls, we sang along, we chided cheerleaders for not cheering hard enough, we cursed hills. It was a blast. I love my people.
and then…. BONK. Crash. CRAMP.
Along about mile 10.5 – 11 I started cramping up BAD. Charlie Horses set into my thighs. I told Heather to run ahead, she was doing so great. I stopped at a med tent. They told me to sit. I yelled NO! I was to scared to sit. Sitting meant quitting. The spread some icy hot or something on my calves, they couldn’t get up my pants to my thighs. I just kept rubbing the cramps out. One of them said “The Sweep Truck is about two miles back if you want to wait”! NO! I screamed, grabbed a cup of ice and limp/ran out of the tent.
I was ahead of the sweeper! I was ahead of my goal! I didn’t have a police escort! I was only a 5k from the finish! I could do a 5k. 5ks are MY JAM. I got this!!! By GOT THIS I mean, that’s what I told myself. I didn’t infact have anything except the determination not to quit!
I found Danielle again! I have no idea how I had gotten ahead of her but after the med tent, there she was. I was so thankful to find her. A friend. A life line. My people. DOC texted that they’d arrived at the finish line and that my pace was good. I wrote back that I was cramping up hard and needed to find some bananas. He wrote back that he’d find some for me at the finish but that I was doing great. He knew I could do it! I could not quit. My reasons for running were at the finish for me.
The last 5K was awful. The Birmingham Bridge is a dirty B. Forbes Ave, I hate your guts and Boulevard of the Allies you’re dead to me.
I was still cramping up in my thighs and my calves were tight. I was hot. I tried to go back to my thirty 30 intervals but it was more like fifteen seconds of jog and five minutes of limping. It was the hottest it has been on any run I did this spring. The sun was hot and I had been in it for three hours. Those that finished in 2-2.5 hours complained about the heat – they might have run faster – but we were in that heat longer. Danielle and I kept getting together and separating, but she went ahead. She was finishing so strong!
A lot has been written about Back of the Pack runners. Being at the back of a distance race is awful. There were no oranges left, only water and gatorade. I never saw a salty snack that I desperately was counting on. One band was loading up their gear, they’d called it a day. Some say there was a station passing out beer – no beer for me. But those that were out there were beautiful. The little girls dancing in the street passing out dandelions and lollypops. The Pitt drumline. The rest stop that had shut down but that had left piles of ice. Those that high fived me. Thank you for being there. For not giving up on me!
And at last I saw it. After the longest stretch of Boulevard of the Allies we started the long slow hill to the finish line. I was in tears. Bittersweet. I was going to be a finisher and I was in so much pain I couldn’t run through the finish line. I smiled for the photographers. I am a Runner of Steel.
Some might see this and see a slow time.
I see this and think GOALS ACCOMPLISHED.
I didn’t get swept.
I didn’t come in last.
I did it before I turned 40.
Everything I hoped to accomplish!
Thank you City of Pittsburgh. Thank you my people. Thank you DOC, The Boy and The Girl. Thank you Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon, Inc. for an unforgettable weekend and the VIP massage at the finish from Massage Envy was one of the better moments of my life. Thank you UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon for a day I will celebrate the rest of my life.
Ok. So there you have it. The real life story of how I didn’t fully train for a half marathon and still finished a half marathon. Or, you know, ran one mile, thirteen point one times and became a Runner of Steel.
PS: If you ever choose to run the Pittsburgh half or full marathon, pay for the VIP experience. It’s worth every penny for that massage, the food, the bathrooms. You’ve probably trained for three months or more – you deserve that VIP experience. And who knows, I might see you there next year. (Oh God, did I just say that?) #GAMEONPGH