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Grinning Like a Jackass or That Time I Ran a Half Marathon

I did it.

2 hours, 22 minutes, and 13 seconds.

That’s how long it took me to run 13.1 miles.

You guys, it was fucking amazing.

I woke up at 6am and I was instantly awake.  It’s like I went from unconscious to bunny-on-crack-cocaine in three seconds flat.  Brushed my teeth, washed my face, dressed.  Bandaged my feet.  (I get chronic blisters on my arches and have a couple toenails that have been a bit tender lately.)  Ate some oatmeal with peanut butter and raisins.  Oh, and freaked out about the temperature.  You guys, it was 40 fucking degrees when I woke up, and it couldn’t have been more than 42 when we left the house at 7:00.  Which added plenty of fuel to the nervous energy that was bubbling in my chest.

We drove downtown and found a place to park close to the start/finish line.  The drive couldn’t have been longer than 5 minutes long, but the entire time my stomach was so knotted and twisted that I questioned my oatmeal’s ability to remain where it was.  Once we parked, it was a short one block walk to the starting line…and then what?  It was approximately 45 minutes until the start of the race, and I had no idea what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty to be done.  Like most runners, I have a ritual of stretching and warming up that precedes my normal runs.  But this wasn’t a normal run.  Everything about that morning was different.  The place, the timing, the circumstances, the energy; nothing about it felt the same.  I just stood there, awkwardly clutching my little bag of dry clothes and band aids, mumbling, “Um…maybe I should…I guess…maybe now…”  It took Kyle gently taking me by the arm and saying, “Do you need to stretch first?” to get me focused.

Which is how I found myself doing this:

For those wondering, that is a bike rack.  And I am stretching my iliopsoas (hip) muscle.  I usually do this on the back of the couch while I play Bejeweled and watch tv.  But, as previously established, nothing about this morning was normal, so the bike rack it was.  Equally effective, not quite so kind to the ass.

After that there was some brisk walking, more stretching, followed by that awkward hoppy butt-kicky thing that runners do that looks like a warm up but is really just a great way to burn some nervous energy.  And then it was time to get ready to go.

Pinned on my bib, plugged in my headphones, strapped on my bottle full of frozen sports drink, and stripped off my long sleeve shirt.  It was fucking cold, you guys, but Kyle convinced me that I’d be more comfortable without it.  (20/20 hindsight, I don’t think he had a fucking clue what he was talking about, but he turned out to be absolutely right.)

And then it was time to line up.

I truly felt like the nervous excitement was going to spill out of my mouth like nervous excitement…vomit.

And then it started and I was running.

(If you can’t tell, I’m the greenish-yellow blob that’s crossing the starting line.)

It was fucking amazing.

Journey blasting in my ears.  The adrenalin exploding out of my chest.  My legs wanting badly to fly, but my head telling me that I had 13 more miles to go and to slow that ass down.  And I’m grinning like a jackass and can’t stop laughing because I’m finally doing the thing I’ve been dreaming of doing for a year now.   I’m running with 880 other people, a raging river of people swelling ahead and behind me, and it’s the biggest fucking thrill I’ve ever felt in my life.

And then there was the race.  I remember bits and pieces of it, but truth be told it went by so fast.  Luckily, I had Kyle, my one-man ninja cheering/photography team, so photographic evidence exists.

This was 2ish miles into the race.  After waving to Kyle, I shouted to him, “Am I last?”  He made a face and said, “…kinda…” in a way that you could tell he was trying not to hurt my feelings.  A little later I would find out that by “last” Kyle meant “close to last,” and there were actually about 15 people behind me, but at the time I thought he meant THE last person in the race.  So every time I passed a person, I would think to myself, “Okay, I finished before one person…okay, I’m going to finish before two people.”

Another fun fact.  This is the guy who won the race.

He was almost 4 miles ahead of me.  His average minutes-per-mile pace for the entire race?  5:05.  Yes, that’s five minutes and five seconds per mile.  For 13  miles.  I’m just going to throw this out there, I’m not entirely sure I could run ONE mile at that pace, let alone thirteen.  Let’s all take a minute and think about how fucked up that shit is.

Anyhoo.  Back to the race.

I know, it looks like I’m completely alone, doesn’t it?  Not true.  Granted, I was pretty much at the back of the crowd for the whole race.  I finished 783rd out of 880, so to say I was a threat of any variety would be a gross over statement.  Fuck that, it would be a lie.  But I was never completely alone.  There were always other runners to chase, someone always just ahead.  (Except in this one picture.)

One of my favorite moments of the race (not pictured, but use your imagination,) came a little after mile 9.  As we entered another park, the trail suddenly plunged sharply downhill.  The hill couldn’t have been more than 20′ long, but it was pretty damn steep.  You pretty much had two options: mince carefully down, arms out and leaning backwards, or open up the brake, let gravity do her thing, and charge down it like your ass is on fire.

Guess which one I chose.

Damn skippy.  I shouted, “Let’s go!” and flew down that hill, laughing hysterically as I went.  It was beyond exhilarating.  It only lasted a few seconds, but I literally felt like I was flying.  Fucking amazing.

And then there was THE HILL.  Looming a little after mile 11, I call it that because everyone that I spoke to about this race mentioned THE HILL like it would destroy my body and soul.

I disagree.

Yes, it was a hill.  By definition, it was more difficult than flat land.  But I’ve battled both longer and steeper, and I did not think it warranted the ominous tone with which it was spoken.  On the other hand, Kyle said that a large portion of runners (especially those with me in the back of the pack) walked it.  So maybe I just don’t have the respect for THE HILL that I should.

And sooner than I could ever believe, I was nearing the finish line.

For most of the race, I held myself back in a very comfortable pace.  Despite my over-competitive desire to pick people off one at a time, I kept remind myself that it wasn’t about how many people I beat but about the experience and finishing.   Also, that I didn’t want to die.  Until about mile 9.  At that point, I let myself ease the brake off a little.  Not chase people down, exactly, but certainly start staring holes in their backs.  And the last half mile?

I let it loose.

See, I have this philosophy when it comes to running.  It dates back to my high school cross country days, but it’s one that I apply to all of my running, even my training runs.

Leave everything on the pavement. 

That means that when I cross that end line, I don’t want to have a thing left in me.  I give it my everything.  Even if I am absolutely dying, I dig deep down in the bottom of  my gut to find that little extra and let it loose.

It’s a deeply over-complicated way of saying that I like to sprint at the end.

Last mile I started going after people.  One by one, they were mine.  And the last half mile?

I left it all. on. the. pavement.

I have a vague memory of shouting, “This is it!” as I let loose.  And I fucking flew.  Passing people right and left, the whole time laughing and crying and just feeling so exuberant that I was truly afraid that I would throw up because I was just so fucking happy.

Of course, the flying feeling of elation didn’t last too long. During the race, with the exception of some blister and toenail troubles, I felt great.  My lungs felt amazing, my legs felt amazing, my whole body felt amazing.  I wasn’t even really hot!  Despite the cold temperature at the start, it warmed up to an extremely comfortable 55 or so and there was a lovely breeze, so I wasn’t even sweating as much as usual.  I felt great.  But about 10 minutes after I’d finished, everything that I should have been feeling during the race slammed me.  All that pain that should have slowly broken my soul over 13 miles hit me at once, and it felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my whole body.

My feet were none  too happy either.

Which is why I spent the rest of Sunday (and a good chunk of Monday, too,) in some form of horizontal.  I was wrecked.

But honest to god, I take every ounce of pain willingly.  The pain?  Is nothing compared to the pride that I feel.  Because I did it.  Ran 13.1 miles, the whole time grinning like a jackass.

It was fucking amazing.


{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Charm City Kim September 20, 2011, 11:12 am

    I mean this in the most sincere way possible – I am SO proud of you! Reading your recap makes me want to go run a 1/2 marathon. And I absolutely love your “leave everything on the pavement” mentality.

    When’s your next race? 🙂

    And I mean THIS in the most sincere way possible – I owe you a gigantic hug and a thank you to you for all of your advice and encouragement. You’re half of my running inspiration. (The other half being my badass marathon-running aunt-in-law, Sandy.) Just trying to be like you Superwoman!

    And my next race? Not a clue. I had my heart set on my first marathon being one in Albany until I figured out that they won’t let you wear headphones because they don’t close all the roads. No fucking thank you.

  • Christine September 20, 2011, 12:20 pm

    You are AWESOME! Makes me almost want to try running. And that is saying a lot. I will buy you several beers the next possible opportunity.

    ANYTIME you’d like a running partner/coach, just say the word!

  • patience September 20, 2011, 1:54 pm


  • Lauren September 20, 2011, 8:56 pm

    Congratulations!! Over two hours of running, straight?? You are a freakin superhero. I’m glad you posted that picture of your feet, I was worried you might only have stumps left.

    I don’t consider myself a runner (after all, I just started doing a few miles a few times a week consistently this year) and would have never considered entering a race. But now, with all that about it being ‘fucking amazing’, you’ve got me thinking…

  • Heather aka Sugar Free September 21, 2011, 10:37 am

    Whoa. 13 miles???? Of running???? No smoke breaks or cocktail stops or anything? You must not be human. Congratulations, though!! Seriously, that’s amazing! The only time I run is if the liquor store is about to close.

  • Kate (and Ben) September 21, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Yay!! Congrats!

  • Jenbug September 25, 2011, 3:10 pm

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! I’ve never had the desire to run for long distances, but I can see the draw after reading your post about how it can affect you. I hope your toenails don’t fall off, like The Oatmeal’s. You deserved every single break you took during the days following your run. Congratulations, again – can’t wait to hear about the next one!

    No fears, my black toenails are starting to lighten, so I imagine they’ll remain in tact. I read that article, though, and that sounds…just awful. Though I’m already researching my first FULL marathon, I have absolutely ZERO desire to run an ultra. That’s just stupid.

  • doahleigh September 26, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I am truly, honestly impressed. And proud. And insanely jealous. I have tried to like running – I read things like this and want that feeling. But every race I’ve run, I would never use the words “felt great” or “exuberant” or “fucking fantastic.” I never ever feel good when I’m running, and so I envy you and this post. I’m so happy for you though! And proud!

  • adriana September 28, 2011, 10:38 am

    Congratulations! That is so, so awesome! I can’t even run for 10 minutes straight, so the fact that you kicked the ass of a 1/2 marathon is just incredible!

  • Jenbug December 22, 2011, 9:19 am

    Okay, I am very excited for you that you love to run, but being a mother hen, I have to tell you that I just read a Freshly Pressed blog about marathons and found out that running marathons CAN. KILL. YOU. No shit. I leave you with these two links:

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