And after God created Adam and Eve, he told them to run. And he saw that it was good.
After months of agonizing non-running, re-injuring my leg and despairing of ever getting better, on Saturday morning I pinned on a number, strapped on my fuel belt and lined up at the starting line for a half marathon. I was one of only about 75 half-marathoners for the Caveman Run, and I hadn't run 13 miles since the marathon in July. I was praying that stamina comes back to you like riding a bike. And that my leg wasn't going to flare up and send me back into physical agony and non-running emotional anguish.
This time, in fact, was much more stressful than my first half marathon. Last time I'd run the entire course before and knew exactly what was coming. I knew it was hard, but that I could finish. And I wasn't worried about my body breaking down. This time I had a strap around one leg. I hadn't been to Boulder City, Nevada, since elementary school and had no idea what the trail held. I was hoping to finish in 2:15, more than 10 minutes slower than my last time. Really, I was just hoping to finish. At least the scenery would be good.
The gun went off. I started running. I got passed while running. I told myself, over and over again, that distance running isn't about winning. It's not about going faster than anybody else. It is about me and my body and pushing myself to be better than I was before. It is about enjoying the run.
The trail quickly became a steady climb. Falling into a rhythm, I focused on keeping the same distance from the people in front of me. I constantly checked my form, making sure I was leaning forward, that I was landing on my feet properly, that my leg didn't hurt. I stopped at every aid station for water because it was already 60 degrees. I hit my first walk break (30 minutes running, 2ish minutes walking) as I was heading up a steeper hill and gladly slowed. The few people I'd passed before quickly caught up to me, while the ones I'd been following faded away.
My two minutes were up, and I started the climb again. But something had changed by now. My legs were tingling, my blood was pumping and my body was ready to go. Not that passing people matters, but I started passing people. And people stopped passing me.
The day warmed up, the miles ticked by, the signs got funny. Six miles in, I thought, "Is there anything better than running?" At that time, I could honestly say no. It was beautiful. I felt great. I felt alive. I felt like I could finish.
It was plenty hard, particularly one brutally steep uphill more than eight miles in where I was plenty tired from how far I'd run but still had plenty more to go, and the last couple of miles, as last couple of miles tend to go, were hard. But I hadn't pushed myself through the subzero January temperatures to walk the last mile. I hadn't spent more than $1,000 on physical therapy, two new pairs of shoes and various stabilizing equipment to finish easy. I hadn't gotten up every day for the last month and gone through achingly boring yet painful strengthening exercises, or suffered through cycle classes, or almost made myself cry during stretches, to not enjoy the last perfect 400 meters to the finish line. I wasn't going to win, but who cares? The last few weeks of my life have felt like hell, but this -- this is what heaven is made of.
|Mary Lu and I in front of the Lake Mead, which the course followed|
|Coming into the finish line! The last couple of miles was downhill, and the last 200 meters was quite downhill, so gravity really made my finish seem quite spectacular.|
Krista and Mary Lu also enjoyed the course. I volunteered to make signs for them so they could run next time.
|My posse. Their signs read: "Run, total stranger, run!" "Run like you stole something," and "What are you doing? Horizontal running."|
|On the medal stand!|
So, all in all, it was pretty much super awesome. We rounded it off with a trip to Hoover Dam. Which comes with a funny story. (Really, everything comes with a funny story.) We drove down the road that pointed us toward Hoover Dam, approached a bridge named after Pat Tillman and somebody else, presumably another stranger, crossed it and found ourselves on the other side of Hoover Dam. Confused, bemused, sort of let down, we turned around and tried again. That must the be the dam, we thought. It was weird and not very cool, but there were people walking across it and that must be it. Once back on the Nevada side, we took the road that pointed to the visitors center -- and were shortly confronted with this:
That is the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. That large structure in the lower right corner of the picture -- that is Hoover Dam. Fortunately we figured that out well before we told people that we'd gone to Hoover Dam. And then we legitimately went to Hoover Dam.
Next stop: Ragnar trail relay