Archive for May 2011

Twin Lights Half Marathon

May 16, 2011

I roll over at 4 am., listening to the rain pounding on the roof outside my bedroom window.  I sigh, knowing I will run anyway, and return to sleep, dreaming of tucking extra pairs of socks into my waterproof jacket pockets. In case blisters bubble up on my feet in my wet sneakers, I will be able to pull over and put on fresh socks.

I wake up before the alarm and see that there is just drizzle coming down outside. I can only hope the hard rain holds off until after the race.  After drinking two cups of coffee and eating a banana and some toast, I get dressed.  Sports bra, long underwear top, vest.  Capri bottoms, smart wool socks, my old Nike Free shoes.  I zip my bright aqua rain jacket and pin on my number—192—and I am ready.

Before my first race last year, I definitely had jitters.  Not too bad, but still.  It was my first race.  This time, I am nothing other than excited.  I have been looking forward to the Twin Lights Half Marathon for weeks.  I can’t wait until it’s time to leave.  My husband and I dance around the decision of driving.  Should we go together?  Should I leave now and he can meet at the finish?  Will there be enough parking for both cars?  We decide to go together and he fills a bowl with cereal to eat in the car.

We arrive at 9:15 and the timing is perfect.  We get a parking spot and get out to walk around.  Lots of runners are already there, tons more arrive as we scout out the vendor booths and start line.  I only have to pee twice, a true sign that I am not nervous.  I find my neighbor Debbie and her daughter Alyssa, who is running today, too.  Although Alyssa and I have never met, never mind run together, we decide to start off side by side for the warm-up part of the run.

The five minute delay does not throw me off, nor does the fact that my warm-up buddy is wearing an iPod.  We keep pace for the first five minutes or so, then split.  I  feel the grin on my face as I listen to the pounding of 2000 feet all around me. I hear spitting, too, and remember being surprised by that in my first race last year.   Men and women alike turn their heads and lay some pretty gross phlegm on the pavement.  I smile bigger with the sound of each splat.  The cool morning air makes me glad I chose warm clothes.  I see lots of women running in shorts and sports bras.  I shiver in my layers and pray for a quick warm up.

My son calls this photo "Where's Waldo" Runners' Edition".

After the first mile, the crowd thins out and I find myself running beside a woman who is almost exactly at my pace.  We start to chat.  She tells me her name—Christine—and before I know it, we are running the route together.  I am having so much fun that I am surprised when I notice we are at the halfway mark.  Christine is just a couple of years younger than I, from New Hampshire, and this is her fourth half marathon.  Her mom lives on Granite Street and is there with other members of her family to cheer her on.

The route takes us from Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester along route 127A to Rockport, through Pigeon Cove, then back onto 127A,  back to Good Harbor Beach.  The streets are lined with spectators, among them my running partner Sue, my daughter Savannah, friends from the high school and the gym.  It makes my heart soar to see so many familiar faces, and to hear so many voices cheering me on.

Thank goodness for the water stations!  I don’t usually drink on my long runs unless it’s hot out, but I find myself gulping two cups at almost every station.  I spill plenty of it, but it helps to be able to swallow the fresh, cool wetness, especially at the tops of the big hills.

I don’t spend time worrying about the hills.  The hills are always part of my regular daily run, but I can hear other runners struggling up the steep slopes, some saying they are surprised at how many and how intense the hills are on this route.  I keep running, thinking of my friend Maria who teases me all the time.  When she sees me, she says, “Run, Forrest, run!”  She herself is in running denial, claiming that 25 miles a week doesn’t count.  I smile to myself as her voice echoes in my head.

As Christine and I hit mile 11, she starts to fade back.  I press up the next hill, calling behind me.

“Are you still with me?”

“I’m coming!  You keep going!  You’re like a gazelle!”

All I can think of at that point is Robin the Mermaid, and how she calls me Gazelle Girl.  I leave Christine, ready to pick up the pace and finish strong.  Strong and alone, excited and happy to be finishing my first half marathon, I crest the last hill and push myself hard, now thinking of my running partner Sue, and what a great finisher she is.  I am going to finish like Sue.

I pass four or five runners, a couple of them boys, and think about how far I have come in my life—from the slow, round, cumbersome girl in Mrs. Hermann’s gym class, always last, to this—a runner.  A runner passing other runners at the end of 13 miles.  I sense a surge coming and I sprint across the finish!

Final Sprint---pushing hard, still in bright aqua rain jacket!

I don’t even know if I am really sprinting, but that is how it feels as I hear my name and clapping, see my friend Debbie and her husband, then finally, my own husband.  He stands waiting for me, camera ready, a huge smile on his face.  I can’t believe it!  I did it!  I check my time and see that I came in under two hours.  I turn to wait for Christine and she comes in a couple of minutes later.  She high-fives me  and we hug, slugging bottles of cool water in between praising each other and thanking each other for running strong the whole race.

Christine and I at the end of the race.

I cut the food line to grab a banana,

Post-run refuel. First things first!

then look for the result board.  1:52’38”, 237 out of 1000.  I did it!  And I did it well.

The rest of the day is a blur.  I go home shivering and take a long, very hot shower.  I eat.  I see a client.  I call my mom.  Every time I look at my husband, he mirrors the goofy smile I know is spread across my own face.  He says how proud he is of me.  Beneath all that, I am floating, prouder of myself than I have ever been.  13.1 miles?  Piece of cake!