I run naked in all of my races. No, I don’t run without clothes. Running naked is runner’s lingo for running without technology. So during races, there’s no app tracking my progress, reading out my mile times and paces. It’s just me with my hopes and my training to back up those hopes.
Last weekend in the DC Rock and Roll Half-Marathon, I was even more alone; Blake was running the 5k, and his race started in a different place than the half-marathon. No one waved me off as I crossed the start line, and no automated voice from an app told me to go.
Still, I started out with energy. I was telling myself not to push too hard and burnout early, but, at the same time, my legs felt springy and light, pushing me along at what seemed like a faster than usual pace, so I went with it because it felt great.
Then came mile 6 — the dreaded hill. It was lined with supporters, but I still wanted to slow down to a walk (or crawl). I cursed Georgetown for being located on a hill. The ground appeared to level out at the top of the hill, but, unfortunately, the next mile was full of deceptively flat inclines. Mini hills in succession are even worse than one giant hill — trust me.
At mile 7 came the cramp in my side. Never had that happened to me in a race before. It hurt so badly that I wanted to cry, but I was more than halfway there — I couldn’t stop.
At mile 8 came the dull pain in my knee, but, with the finish line so near, the push continued.
At mile 11 the self-doubt set in. I’m about to die and come this fall, this will be close to my halfway point. I so cannot run a marathon. What am I thinking?!
Finally I saw the glorious 13-mile marker in the distance: the beloved mile 13. I just had to get there and push. I passed it, and I ran with all I had in me as I did. I nearly vomited as I crossed the finish line because I had pushed so hard for the last 161 meters.
I was afraid to look at the text coming in from Blake; I knew that it contained my finish time. I didn’t know if all of the issues that I’d encountered had slowed me down. I crossed the finish line … that in itself was victory enough. Did I really want to know more?
But I conceded, and it read 1:43. I got tears in my eyes. The goal of 1:45 that I had tried to keep quiet — never thinking that I would meet it — had been surpassed. How?!
All those pace runs, meter repeats and long runs paid off. Thank God because they were incredibly painful and took an immense amount of work.
What can I accomplish next?
Hmm … how about a marathon?!