Sunday, May 4, 2014

Me, myself and I

I recently ran my very first half marathon. I had been working toward this goal for a really long time. I was nervous and excited all in one when the day finally arrived. It was also the first race I have ever done all by myself. That seemed really important to me for some reason. I needed to know I could do it, just me, myself and I. 

I woke up at 5:30 am the morning of the race. I showered and got my coffee and went out on the porch to enjoy the quiet. It was pretty chilly but the sun peeked through a little bit and I felt hopeful for a brisk but sunny day. 

I started getting dressed and as I did began second guessing my selections. 

Shorts or pants? Should I wear my North Face fleece? It's sunny so you might get hot, Darcey.

At the last minute I quietly crept in my sleeping 12 year old's room and borrowed her track pullover. She has by far a much nicer running wardrobe than her mama.

Lesson: Never second guess yourself at the last minute

Time got away from me during all my clothes fussing and I left later than I had wanted. The drive there was relaxing and I got lucky finding a great parking spot only a short walk to the starting line when I arrived. I noticed I had a text from my daughter so stopped to read it.

"your going to do great mom, so dont worry about it. Whether you cross or don't cross that finish line we are all still gonna love you and be just as proud. keep a good pace and remember my breathing technique, breathe to the sound of your music playing or to the beat your feet are running at. we will be there soon to cheer you on, so just relax, everything will be fine and you will do GREAT! i love you mom!!!!:) <3"

Lots of tears. 
God I love her. That's enough crying. I'm late. 
Out of the car and off to the start. 

Ugh. I have to go to the bathroom. Holy long bathroom line.

It was now 7:20 and the race started in just minutes. I made my way through thousands of people and was relieved to see the start line finally. I had done it. I had gotten myself right where I needed to be. I pulled out my phone and started video taping the excitement for my running buddy, Chantelle, from I Run for Michael. The bag pipers were playing and the energy was amazing. Then it dawned me as I panned the camera up to the start line sign. There were hardly any runners around me. They were all on the other side of the sign. It took a few seconds for all this to register in my brain.

Where are all the runners? Why are they all in front of me? They are in front of me. On.The.Other.Side? Of.The.Start.Line?? Light bulb goes off......OH MY GOSH!!! I am on the wrong side of the start line!!!

I cut the video short and made my way to the very back of a line up of over 2300 runners with about 1 minute 30 seconds to spare!

The gun went off and it took me several minutes to get to and cross the start line. I was in the back with walkers and runners who were running at a much slower pace than I was used to. I had a really hard time determining my pace. 

You are going too slow. Pick up your pace. Wow. Now you are passing people right and left. Are you going too fast? It's bad to start out too fast. Slow down.

Mile one was a ton of self talk and dodging and weaving to find my pace group. I eventually did but it wasn't easy.

Lesson: Sometimes you start off in the back. You have to weave and maneuver yourself to find where you belong. You might have to run faster to catch up. You might have to slow down. But you are still in the race as long as you don't give up.

Mile one I got to high five some of my co-workers and friends along the route. That really put me in a super frame of mind. I all but forgot the struggling to find my pace. The high fives and smiling faces of people who loved me and who were rooting for me carried me well into the next several miles.

Lesson: Never underestimate the difference a smile and a high five can make.

I ran past the Susan B Anthony House and a huge group of women dressed up as women from 1872. Susan B Anthony lived and voted illegally right here in this place. It felt powerful thinking of that as I ran by. Amazing how a woman that lived 140 years ago could still inspire a 41 year old woman in 2014.

Lesson: Be brave. Never underestimate the difference you can make long after you are gone.

My thoughts stayed positive for several miles and through the beginning hills. The good thing about climbing a hill is that after you hit the peak, the run after seems easier relative to what you just did. This mind set got me through a number of hills in miles 5,6,7. 

By the 8th mile I had grown weary of this. And I was absolutely freezing.

These hills suck. Are you kidding me? Why are we running in a cemetery anyway? It's so cold. Where did the sun go? Stop the negativity, Darcey. Count. You can't think a negative thought and count at the same time. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12..... This cemetery is never ending. I hate cemeteries. Count again, Darcey.

And that is how my time in the hilly cemetery went. Multiple times, during this stretch especially, I thought of the morning picture I received from my running partner and it spurred me on...

Lesson: It isn't easy being a badass :)

The run down the other side of the hill felt great when I finally got to it. By mile 10 I was already anticipating the end. I passed a group of girls in this mile that had by far the funniest sign the whole race.

Also in this mile I was becoming increasingly annoyed at this particular man with a red beard. He would pass me then I would pass him and then he would pass me, then I would pass him and so forth. It was really bugging me mentally so I decided to just blow past him once and for all at about mile 11. It was a good place to do it. I had not gotten past 11 miles in my training so it gave me the confidence I lacked that I would make it to the finish. Only 2 more miles to go. 

Good riddance my little red bearded nemesis.

Lesson: People and experiences don't go away until they teach you what you need to learn about yourself. It's never about them. It's always about you.

Mile 12 was getting progressively harder. I was on a familiar route. It was my work day lunch time running route.

I had to run up the canal path to get to the bridge and just that little hill nearly took me to a walk. It didn't mind you! But I felt like I was moving in slow motion at this point. My form and my core were rapidly breaking down.

Lesson: Just do the darn planks

I really pushed myself the last mile. I passed a woman walking and I tried to give her some encouragement to keep going. The truth was that I was afraid that would be me soon. I was fading fast. My legs were hurting. I was mentally drained. And just as I thought about walking with her....

Enter red bearded nemesis. 

Are you kidding me?? Where the heck did that dude come back from?? He was in my dust. Dig deep Darcey.

I started to try to catch up with him again and then all of a sudden I thought, let him go. Let him run his race and you just run yours. 
Lesson: It's not about who you beat. It's about your journey and no one else's. Try your best and just keep going. You'll get there when and if you are supposed to.

I crossed the finish in 2:06. I finished. Tears streamed down my face as someone put a medal around my neck. I had done it. I had finished my first half marathon all by myself. Just me, myself and I.

Or had I? 

True, it was mostly my own 2 legs and hard work that got me across the finish line. But I also started to think about all the other things that pushed me through along the way. Like my co-workers smiles, my daughter's text, my little running buddy Chantelle's inspiring 1 mile walk, women dressed as Susan B Anthony, college girls with fun signs, my TA running partner's morning motivation, my G+ peeps encouragement.

Even my little bearded running nemesis.

I decided the biggest lesson 13.1 miles taught me is that it's never really just me, myself and I. We are all connected. There will always be people along the way to help me or push me, or cheer me, or make me smile. That doesn't make me any less strong. The challenge is to develop my confidence and faith, open my eyes and trust that wherever I choose to go, whatever I choose to do, I will have everything I need along the way.