Yesterday I completed one of the most difficult challenges of my life, and it’s all thanks to my little brother. When he first set the challenge I just thought he was being cruel. Run a half marathon?! You’ve got to be joking! His alternative challenge, “Have a baby”, was starting to look pretty good, but I’d made a pact to accept each challenge as it came and not get picky. So, much to the dismay of the would-be grandparents, I’d have to run that half marathon!
I started out the year training pretty consistently. The distances were short but I started building up quickly. I’m not new to running. A couple of years ago I was part of a running group with the gym at my old work, and I ran with them several times a week. Again, never particularly far or fast, but apparently my muscles have a more active memory than my brain, because they seemed to pick it back up fairly quickly.
Then December came and I started to slacken off. You know what it’s like when the holidays approach – there are things to do and people to see. Work gets busy as people try to cram things in before the end of the year, and you’re basically left with very little “me” time. I was getting bored as my progress lulled and – let’s be honest – I just got lazy.
After that lull my training never really recovered. Occasionally I’d embark on a guilt-addled burst but, realistically, my training was non-existent.
As the big day approached, panic set in. Andy will attest that I’ve been in a pretty bad mood for the past month or so, and I’m pretty sure it’s all thanks to that giant cocktail of guilt and fear that I’ve been sipping on. I really didn’t think I would make it and, on the 17th of March, 2 months before the big day, when I almost died at just 2/3 of the distance, I was convinced I was cactus.
Luckily for me, running a half marathon is a hugely psychological undertaking, and I’m convinced that 10,439 people proved themselves wrong yesterday; Proved the doubter in their head wrong that they could never win/finish in under XX:XX/finish at all.
I was one of those people.
I can now proudly say that I ran a half marathon, because that’s exactly what I did! While others around me let the matter get over their mind, walking instead of running up hills, I ran the whole way without stopping (well, unless you count battling the crowds at the Gatorade stand “stopping”, but I figure my unintentional “Solo Man” impersonation makes up for the brief pause).
I started the morning nervous as hell (I don’t know if hell gets nervous exactly… but if it does it would feel like this). After the starting gun, however, everything just seemed to work out in my favour. For example, I was nervous about not being allowed to take my iPod (aka security blanket), but in the end a few speakers dotted around the course were playing my iPod music anyway. We started to one of my running faves – ‘Run to Paradise’, and I couldn’t be happier to say that I finished on one of my all-time faves, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’. I prefer the “Triple Threat” approach to running (in other words, I often dance and sing while running), so I was ecstatic to hear one of my favourite “Triple Threat” songs playing at around the 10km mark, the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Pump It’. Everything was comin’ up Mandhouse.
I’m not a big fan of crowds (the main reason for never participating in the ‘City to Surf’) but I must confess that without the crowd I really couldn’t have done what I did. Sure, it can be annoying battling past people who’ve started walking within the first kilometer (and walking on the “inside track” too, I might add), and sure it can be disheartening to be overtaken by a 70+ year old with osteoporosis, but ultimately it’s the familiar faces (well, familiar butts) that you see as you’re running along that keep you going – “If they can do this, so can I”.
I accepted each cheer from the sidelines as if it were just for me (occasionally becoming a ‘Laura’ or ‘Colleen’), and I even stole a high-five from one of the cliquey ‘Can Too’ supporters. However the most impressive cheering had to be at the 20km mark, when I was actually cheered on by name by a guy in a tent with a fast internet connection who was typing in race numbers as they passed and dishing out personalised shout-outs.
When I got to the finish line I was surprised to find I had more in my tank. Bon Jovi will do that to you I suppose, but I found myself actually sprinting to the finish line. You can’t possibly fathom my joy at finding my own personal cheer squad waiting for me there.
Yes, both Andy and Dane Moneghetti had finished well before me and were there to greet me at the finish line along with Dane’s girlfriend and our surprise guest, my Aunty Cher. As you can see above, I was papped at the finish line by my friend Pat (who had planned to run the race as one of her own challenges, but fell ill at the most inconvenient time). I didn’t see Pat at the time, but funnily enough, amongst the huge crowd, we managed to sit down directly in front of Pat and her Sister-in-Law, and the reunion was complete.
In the end, I didn’t achieve my sub-2 hour goal, but do you know what? I couldn’t care less. As you can see below, my time was a respectable 2:13:35, well and truly beating the clean-up trucks to the finish line…And, hey! Look! I came 1094th in the Female 20-29 division! I wonder how I’ll do next year in the 30-39 division..? 😉
If nothing else, I hope that by completing this challenge I’ve shown that it’s possible for just about anyone to do the same. I definitely stressed a lot more about it than I needed to. When I arrived I was surprised to be surrounded by people in costume, oldies, kiddies, and plenty of people who looked far worse for wear than I did. Turns out half marathons aren’t as scary as they sound. Okay, so I feel a hundred years old today and I’m currently typing from bed because my poor little knees scream every time I move them, but there’s a smile on my face and I’m sure there’ll be a spring in my step as soon as I’m brave enough to take one.
So, stick a fork in challenge number 2. ‘Run a half marathon’ – it’s DONE baby.
I’ve now completed 23 of my 30 challenges with just over a month to go. Do you think I’ll make it through all 30?