My medal for finishing the Chicago Half Marathon.
Yep. It's mine. I finished. I did it.
I DID IT!!
And wanna know something really cool?
I ran the whole way.
That may not seem like a big deal - but you must understand that in my training I ALWAYS walked some of the run. Run five minutes, walk one. Five. One. 5:1. Even on my "easy" runs in Seattle I did some walking. And, I fully intended to walk some in Chicago. 5:1. But I didn't.
I ran the whole way. Hehe.
My friend and neighbor, the great Patti Digh, wrote a little book, "Four Word Self Help." It's full of simple four word guidance for life. I read it this week and was struck by her guide to running a half-marathon: Take People With You.
That is exactly what I did. Each mile was dedicated to a person, and I intentionally thought of them as I ran their mile. I was amazed at how this simple act impacted my run. A half-marathon is a LONG time to be alone. Two hours and twenty-seven minutes, to be exact. Think about how much time that is! It could have seemed endless, save for my intentional focus on who was "with" me in each mile.
Some of these folks I know better than others, but each has impacted me in their own way. I asked each person what they would like me to focus on for their lives. When their mile came, I thought of that person and that thing. I considered how it was our paths had crossed, what their impact has been in my life, and then I spent the bulk of each person's mile considering their request. I tried to imagine where each request came from, wondering about that person's soul and journey - intentional time just for them. It was so rewarding to allow myself to "feel" each person as I ran. I was not alone.
As for the race itself, there were sooo many emotions that went with it:
It was almost unbearably exciting to start. Me, one little runner, among a sea of bodies, shoes, bibs and iPods.
I felt a twinge of fear in the first couple of miles. After crossing the starting line, I was like, "Is this it? Just this? Running, for the next two hours?" Uh oh... (And I thought of Tim and Brad.)
It felt peaceful in miles three and four as the crowd spread out and we all found our place among each other and settled in. (And I thought of Tia and Jason.)
I felt checked out in mile seven. I remember the dedication (you were there Jill!), but my body was saying, "Uh, Dani? Are you aware you've been running for over an hour? Let's stop this now and get some food!"
I felt challenged and amazed in mile eight. It was my first really hard mile, the first mile where I was aware of how physically hard this feat was for me (which, I must say, I am proud of myself for running the first seven miles relatively pain-free!) It was fun to see my mental training kick in. The thought of stopping did not even cross my mind. I buckled down and worked with the fatigue, grateful to all of those runs in Asheville where I thought I was going to die but kept going anyway.
The amazement in mile eight had to do with that mile's dedication. It was hot, I was sweating and overheated, yet I got chills when I sent out the energy for Paula, my mile eight dedicatee. I ran the last half of this mile with a silly grin on my face - hot, chilled, and in some pain, but with a grin all the same.
I felt tired in miles nine and ten. I had rounded the corner of the out and back portion, and was aware that I was past the halfway point, headed back toward the finish. Oh but there were still miles to go. I was running quite slowly, remembering that "I don't have to go fast. I just have to go." I tried not to let myself think about how much was left. "Do not think about mile thirteen. Just think about THIS mile. Be in the moment. Be with Lori. Be with Karen."
Mile twelve was the hardest. I had the first thoughts of "I might not make it." I was so tired. It had gotten very warm. And I was so close - SO CLOSE - but yet so far. I thought of Mary and somehow got through the mile. (Thank you, thank you Mary dear!)
In mile thirteen, my energy returned. All of a sudden throngs of spectators lined the sides of the road, cheering on very weary looking runners. I had been running nearly two and a half hours at this point, and the sudden burst of energy that came from their support was exhilarating! There is nothing like running along and hearing a total stranger call your name. In mile thirteen I hear, "C'mon Dani! You can do it! You're almost there!" I look up, and am looking in the eyes of a complete stranger, smiling at me and giving me the thumbs up. Tears came to my eyes...I'm still not sure why. Something about the enthusiasm of a total stranger who seemed, in that brief moment, completely focused on my success. It was a great feeling.
Then, I saw him. Kirk, my love, my support, my husband. I am not sure how I found him in the huge crowd that was there. But I did. And as soon as I saw him, I knew I could do it. Mile thirteen had been dedicated to him, and it was quite a feeling to be thinking of how grateful I am for him, and then to see him. It was just the boost I needed as I neared the end of the race.
Oddly, when I crossed the finish line, I must be honest and say I felt a little let down. I think it's because I put so much into this - months of training, worrying, preparing, researching, eating, strength training, etc., - and as I crossed the line, it was all over. I had done it. I had succeeded, made my goal, done what I thought was not possible. It was finished.
Amazing accomplishment. And a little disappointing.
Ah, but isn't that what life is? Amazing and disappointing all at the same time, moment to moment.
I didn't run this race alone. This medal I hold was only possible because of the many people I took with me. Not just the thirteen names written on my arm, but also the people who encouraged me along the way. So, I say THANK YOU, to each of you who came with me:
To those of you who have sent me words of support.
To those of you who helped me fill my play list.
To those of you who have let me know my efforts of blogging about this journey are not in vain.
To those of you who encouraged me while I ran so slowly and you ran so fast!
To those of you who allowed me to take the inside lane.
To those of you who laughed at the crazy things I did while training.
To those of you who supported me in my midlife crisis (ha!)
To those of you who let me rant as I worked through the mental game.
To those of you who spent hours IMing with me to teach me about this sport.
To those of you who talked to me each week, encouraging me in the next step.
To those of you who offered advice and wisdom in this journey that I knew so little about.
And, to those of you who have told me how I have inspired you. I cannot tell you how much those particular words have meant to me. I finished this race, in part, because of you.
You are each a part of this journey. You are each a part of this personal victory. I could not have done it alone. Patti is right when she says that the way to run a half-marathon is to Take People With You. And so I am filled with...
Gratitude - deep gratitude - to each of you who has come with me.
Until next time, may you love your life today.