I stood there waiting for the the race to start. I was surrounded by thousands of runners. The American Anthem was being sung. A man's voice echoed the words through speakers filling the air around us. I could feel the tears gather in my eyes the way they always do when I hear the anthem. It felt like an eternity waiting for the words START to begin the race. Butterfly's danced in my belly and the familiar feeling of excitement filled my body. My legs were eager to dance on the pavement. I was ready to run.
This was my fourth Half Marathon and exactly a year since I did my first Half. There is something special about this particular race. Even as a spectator in previous years I have loved being in Burlington for this day. The Vermont City Marathon fills the city with an energy unlike any other. Everyone comes together to cheer, support, and encourage. Strangers wait outside of their houses and generously hand out food and water. Children stand on the sidewalk yelling cheers and holding posters. Thousands of volunteers give their time to help pull this event together.
At the end of mile two I realized that I was at a 7:38 minute mile. I hear a man behind me talking with his friend and he says: "I wasn't planning on being at this pace this early." I wanted to turn around and agree with him, even give him a high five, but I just keep running. I knew what he meant as I too know that in order to push through strong, I didn't want to be at that fast of a pace this early on. I found myself unable to slow down. Adrenaline fueled me as I continued on. My legs felt strong and I was feeling euphoric.
I was running on the Burlington Beltline and all you could hear was the sound of feet hitting the pavement. This is the one stretch of the race where the road is not lined with spectators. I focused on my breath and pin pointed a woman that I could keep pace with. I never did see what she looked like. All I know was that she had salt and pepper colored hair done in a braid and wore a multi colored hat to shield her from the sun. I stayed right with her until mile eight at which point I felt I was ready to push myself with only five miles left. That was the last I saw of the woman with the braid. I am thankful for her.
Mile ten soon crept up on me as I was pushing myself to stay around a 7:15 minute mile. Typically I run between a 8:00 to 8:30 minute mile on my normal runs. I knew that I was almost done and though I never intended to have this race be a new PR for me, somewhere around mile six or seven and I became committed to that goal. My previous PR was 1:42 for a Half Marathon. I knew this meant I needed to pound the pavement with I all I had. I had to focus and put my mind in a happy place. I was feeling good through most of my run. The cheers of the crowds enticing me to push myself. I wanted that new PR so bad.
Finally I came face to face with the last mile. It was HARD. A part of me wanted to just fall back a little, let the wind push me the rest of the way. My legs were tired, my breath was fast, and I was ready to be done. I continued on fast and gave it my all. It helped that I passed a group of people in the neighborhood and heard cheers for me from someone I know. Then the last upward hill I heard encouraging words and support from a fellow runner (An amazing one at that! She finished the entire marathon in 3:25!) telling me I was almost there. It was the push I needed. A voice, like a hand pushing me on, letting me know I needed to finish this strong.
I reached my team mate, my father, for the Half hand off and stopped my watch at 1:40. I had a new PR and as I watched my father begin his 13.1 miles I felt such accomplishment and pride. It didn't matter that I had done this four times already. What mattered was that I did it again. I ran with every ounce of who I am. I ran it with my father.
I love this sport. I have found out so much about myself in choosing to run. Each run I dig a little deeper, pray a little harder, and learn a little more. This has been a physical as well as emotional journey for me. My strength is not just on the outside, in those muscles that have developed from miles and hills my legs have covered...It comes from a much deeper and intimate place. It is where belief and faith collide to create this "accidental" love I have found in running.
I am truly grateful for my legs. I am grateful for the ability to move them in the way that I do. I have found a place where I belong. A place that makes sense to me. A place where I can worship and give thanks for everything I have. I become a healthier me, a better me, and a stronger me...with every mile that I take.
How I Learned To Love My Body
Ready...Set...Go! Time For Another Half Marathon!