The Twin Lights Half Marathon 2012

I find myself shivering this morning, despite the rising temperature.  A thousand runners mill around me.  I stand in the warm embrace of my husband, the best cheerleader and support team anyone could ever hope for.  He lets me wear his fleece sweatshirt over my warm-up jacket, but my legs shake and are covered with goosebumps despite the extra layers.  The ten minute signal has been given and the runners press closer together.  I slip out of the two extra layers, handing them over.  I take a final sip from my water bottle and hand that over, too.  A last hug and kiss and he eases his way to the sidelines.  I stand alone in the crowd, ready.

The emcee chatters away on the microphone, then plays a tape of “The Star Spangled Banner”.  The runners around me put their hands over their hearts.  I watch them and listen to the words, willing it to be over so we can run.  Finally, the music changes.  “I Got a Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas blasts over the loudspeakers.  The announcer tells us to get ready.  There is no countdown, just a “GO!” and we’re off.  Although the we have been standing close together, we are able to run right from the start.  The runners spread apart quickly.  I forget all of my goals and just go.  I pick off one runner after another, passing with ease, seeking out the empty spaces through which I can slip.  The first mile is easy.

By the second mile, I am regretting my breakfast.  I chose to eat before the race, giving myself a good three hour window to start to digest.  The chai oatmeal sits like lead in my belly.  I feel no cramps, but rather a deep, uncomfortable pain that hurts more with each stride.  I suck it up and press on, wishing I had not read any of the advice from Runner’s World about what to eat.  I note my first lesson of the race:  stick with the banana for breakfast. I glance at my wristwatch at the mile three marker and see that I am under 24 minutes, much, much faster than I should be running.  I slow down.

I look for my children as I pass the foot of my street.  Neither one is there to cheer me on, but a couple of my neighbors are on the sidelines and call my name, waving, clapping, shouting encouragements—“Go Elizabeth!  Looking great!  You can do it!”—and I feel better.  Maybe my family will be there on the return loop.

We run through the downtown area of Rockport, up Main Street, and then along Beach Road.  I see a teacher I know from the high school who flashes me a wide smile and gives me the thumbs-up sign.  I wave and keep going.  I see at least six other people I usually pass on my regular morning run and each of them waves to me and calls out.  The support makes this mile easy.

We turn onto Granite Street and I chug up the hill, jumping up onto the sidewalk where no one else has chosen to run.  As I crest the hill, already tired and thirsty, I see my friend Charlene on my side of the road.  She’s waiting for me, standing under a tree, and as I approach, she reaches under the jacket she is holding and passes me a water bottle.  She has even thought to remove the cap and my heart swells with gratitude.  As I take sips and the refreshing water coats my parched lips and throat, I am filled with love—love for my friend who has remembered this day and come to cheer for me and give me exactly what I need, love for running, love for the beauty of the day.  The sun is bright,and the air  is warm and heavy with the scent of lilacs.  I can taste the salt of the sea with every breath.

As I continue along Granite Street, I see the woman who works at our local health food store, waving from her yard.  I wave back.  I see my friend Anthony outside his stonework shop and call to him.  He raises his head, immediately finds me in the group of runners, and calls out to me, “Go, go, go!  You got it!”  Again, I and filled with gratitude for the people in my life who are cheering for me today, and every day.

The route has been changed from last year and instead of turning onto Phillip’s Ave., we continue up the grueling hill on Granite Street.  We finally turn onto Curtis Street and I realize I am more than halfway through the race.  My legs are tired.  I can feel my quads protesting as I force myself up a sharp, short hill. I am lonesome, too.  This is the first long race I have run without a partner runner.  We turn again, then once more and are back on Granite Street.  Again I see Charlene, again on my side of the road.  A strange man calls my name and I see Charlene’s little girl Sarah standing with him and more children.  They wave and cheer.  Charlene’s husband is a few paces beyond them.  He holds his camera, the big lens aimed directly at me.  I give him my best sweaty movie star smile and wave.  I cannot wipe the grin off of my face as I let my legs carry me down the long hill back to Beach Road.

We retrace our steps most of the way down Main Street, running against the one-way traffic, then turn right onto School Street, the left onto Broadway.  We turn right onto Mount Pleasant Street and I realize I will have to run up the worst hill in town.  I plow on, wondering if either one of my children with be out looking for me.  I stop thinking about them as my muscles begin to protest the steep angle I am forcing them to overtake.  Although I have been taking advantage of each water stop, guzzling Gatorade, water, and more Gatorade, I know I am dehydrated.  The temperature is rising, rising.  My lips are cracked and I can taste blood.  I keep running, willing myself to take this hill as the biggest challenge of this race.

Sue, my running partner, makes me run this hill with her every time we go out together.  It starts off steep, then takes for damn ever to crest.  Up, up, up.  It’s Rockport’s Heartbreak Hill.  It is not breaking my heart.  Instead, it’s breaking my will.  I press on.  Runner after runner passes me.  I note the lesson here:  there is no conditioning for running other than running.  I cross-trained like crazy during the plantar fasciitis, but although my cardio fitness is excellent, perhaps better than ever, the lack of miles I usually log week after week has made a difference in my ability to easily run distance.  I tell myself I can finish.  I tell myself I am going back to running the way I did before the injury.  I take a careful mental note of this lesson.

I actually stop to drink three cups at the next water station, but jump right back in to the race.  Now, there are runners who are walking.  There are runners who are sitting.  There are runners who are down on the side of the road, medics attending them.  I send good thoughts their way.  I keep running.

And so to the last three miles.  My legs are made of lead.  My mouth is filled with cotton.  From the 13 mile marker to the finish, it is 10 miles to cover that last tenth mile.  I cross the finish line and see my husband standing in the crowd, the video camera in one hand, my warmup jacket in the other.  I go right up to the camera and say, “Do not let me run while recovering from an injury ever again!”  And then I smile into the camera.  “I DID IT!”

Time: 2:00:33.  Best lessons: maintain an excellent cheering squad and support team.  And keep running!

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4 Comments on “The Twin Lights Half Marathon 2012”

  1. Pat Earle Says:

    What a race ! and how beautifully written…I almost feell as if I had run the half marathon..GOOD JOB !

  2. Charlene Says:

    Great job! I’m so glad we came out to watch! I didn’t realize how much it means to people to have people clap and smile as they run by, but a bunch of people thanked us. I’ll have to get out there again next year : )

    • Thanks again, Charlene, for always being there when I need you. You rock! And you are an excellent cheerleader. And thanks for reading, even though you hear it live. 😉

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