Confession: My last run was St. Patrick’s Day. I ran 9 miles on empty, got home, showered, and crawled into bed. That day I quit running.
Then I ran 13.1 at the Lincoln Half Marathon in Nebraska this weekend.
Irresponsible? My right knee thinks so. #holdme
But … I had way more fun this year being a slowskie than I did last year trying to be a speedster.
Last year after I ran my first half in Lincoln, I was pretty sure I would never want to run again. Then after a week or so I thought maybe I would. By December when registration time came and all the college friends were rallying around the race, I was totally game. By mid-March, I was suffering on the treadmill and bemoaning my existence. I was burned out. I gave up. I was over it. And I didn’t really want to face it or tell anyone. I was ashamed. I mean, didn’t I just run 12 5ks in a single year?
Then from afar I watched college BFF Little Rock Jill (who lives in Little Rock — so many friends named Jill, so everyone gets a nickname) pushing through her training like a boss. Jill was one of those I’m Not a Runner runners (sounds familiar) and had only started running last year. And in a single year had gone from couch to 5k to 10k and now was staring down the 13.1 miles in our beloved college town where 10 years ago we drank cheap beer, smoked heaters, and pursued journalistic endeavors.
I was very impressed.
My first half was in Lincoln last year, and I thought all the things I would have done differently. One of them was I wish I had someone to run with. I mentally broke down before my body gave out, and I didn’t want that to happen again and I didn’t want that to happen to Jill. I had pushed through a year of 5ks with the help of encouraging friends who ran alongside me who told me it was fine to hate every minute of it or to just run to that tree or told me I was on a good pace. Apparently I needed that for bigger races, too, and I wanted Jill to hear those things as much as I needed to hear them myself.
(Other things I’d change: wear sunglasses, wear a hat, bring a iPod with awesome music, switch to minimalist running shoes, high five more little kids, thank more volunteers, do anything and everything to avoid burning hip pain in the final miles, bring Honey Zinger chews, don’t beat myself up so much, don’t take myself so seriously, have fun, don’t die, etc etc etc.)
Inspired by a friend who last year did a Half Ironman with only, like, two days of kind of training, I just mentally committed to being kind of uncomfortable for approximately three hours, which was Jill’s goal to finish. By God I would be Jill’s
closest by proximity biggest cheerleader (but I secretly worried that I would hold her back — she at least trained the entire time, while I gave up, waffled about running in general, and then jumped back in very last minute). And maybe Jill wouldn’t need me (but I would need her, little did she know, bwahahaha). I would be a silent running partner, not to be left in the dust of tens of thousands ahead of me.
During the race, while Jill questioned the sanity of runners and cursed the seriously stupid weather (low 40s, gray skies, and wind — not cool, Nebraska, not cool), I committed to cheering her on and, for myself, trying to be present in the moment no matter what. Meanwhile, inside my brain there were lots of expletives about the stupid weather, my aching right knee, my skinless left heel, but overall again it was my mind versus body struggle — playing it cool for Jill’s sake forced me to ignore my own woe-is-me. Outside, I was full of smiles, high fiving little kids, telling volunteers how much they rocked my socks off and encouraging Jill to just run to that stop sign before the next walk break.
Running had become very isolating for me this year. I felt alone in gyms and on trails. So I bailed, and that made me sad and frustrated. I needed to have a good run to repair my relationship with running or I might never run again. And while Jill tells folks that I dragged her across the finish line, little does she know that she got me there, too. Insert warm n fuzzy feelings here.
In light of what happened at the Boston Marathon, there was more security measures and no cannon blasts at the start line signaling each wave of runners at the Lincoln Half Marathon and Marathon (thank you for that). On packet info, I noticed a simple statement that I didn’t remember last year:
See something, say something.
Sure, they were talking about shady characters with evil hearts and chaos planned. But luckily I did not recognize that on that Sunday. This is what I did see and this is what I will say to you:
The Lincoln Marathon/Half Marathon is a truly great event. I love the different personalities of the different legs of the race — the nostalgia of being on the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus, the straightforwardness of South Street, the big trees and fancy houses of Sheridan Boulevard, the wisp of yesteryear of College View, the bland and sucky suckage that is Hwy 2 (seriously, it sucks so bad!), and the tricky mind games played by the final stretch of 10th Street as you approach Memorial Stadium (if half marathons could have a false summit, this would be it).
I love the personalities of the spectators, from the Japanese drummers to the guy in a tuxedo serving runners cups of ice water to the real nuns and the burly guy dressed as a nun. I love the neighborhood that hands out Dixie cups of gummie bears and jelly beans, the house that puts out tables of slices of bananas and oranges, the National Guard who called out our names as we passed by (is there nothing
sexier more patriotic than a man in uniform cheering you on?) and police officers who stopped traffic for us, and all those who came out in stupid weather to cheer on people they did not know and made and held funny and inspiring signs. I saw friends stronger and more capable than they think they were. Friends who even as we embarked on something we weren’t very sure about, we were still making each other laugh out loud and applauding each other later over Miller High Lifes and jukebox tunes.
I got to see all of this because I cut myself some slack, and I got a front row seat to a friend’s major accomplishment. And during this race I was already thinking about next year’s Lincoln Half Marathon. Or any half marathon. I’m back, baby.