A little over two months ago, while wearing rosé colored glasses and toasting the new year’s fresh possibilities, I signed up for a half marathon. I’m a runner. I run. I love the exhilarating feeling you get from running. However, the longest distance these legs have ever run is around 8 miles. I told myself I was content with charity fun runs and 5Ks and Pub Runs with Harp at the finish line. I would joke about getting a 0.0 sticker for the van in defiance of all the 13.1 stickers that had seemingly appeared overnight on every car in town. Half-marathons, heck, marathons were for ‘serious’ runners. I just run for fun. So it must have been in a moment of mid-life crisis as I pondered the fact I’ll be mid-forty this Spring that got me to think about earning one of those bumper stickers. I talked with my hubby about the training commitment and found a race that was far enough out I could still prepare for in time. I know myself well enough that if I say I want to do something, I have to act quickly or it doesn’t get done so in a moment of madness, I signed up.
The first few weeks were a breeze until I started upping my mileage. Then it happened. An old injury resurfaced, landing me in the chiropractor with a “recovery plan” and appointments 3x a week. What had I been thinking? I berated myself for being so stupid. Memories of my Dad’s own ‘mid-life’ crisis added to the guilt I felt when I told hubs how much the doctor bill would be. I had promised myself that when I hit forty, I wouldn’t throw myself into every wind-surfing, racquetball game, hiking 14,000 ft. mountains, scuba diving Blue Hole adventures like my Dad had to the expense of family. I love my dad and we have a great relationship now but there’s still residual resentment of his old hobbies. The race was starting to cost more than just time and the entry fee. Then I hit a wall three weeks from race day. My beloved past time was now a chore I despised. All the joy had been sucked out and my attitude plummeted. Fear, anxiety and doubt crept in. What the heck was I doing? What if I tanked half way through the race and couldn’t finish? Was hubby resenting me for taking every weekend with a long run? How had I succumbed to the dreaded mid-life crisis? Was this a mid-life crisis? Why hadn’t I prayed about this before I signed up? Life sucked. The last three weeks were hard and I wanted to quit but the cost and my husband keep me going.
The day before the race, I broke the cardinal rule of racing and purchased a new jacket and running pants to run in. It was like I was mentally trying to set myself up for failure. Race day arrived and my husband who has been my constant coach and cheerleader, made all of our kids get up and go with us. He confessed he’d laid on a guilt trip telling them this was really important and they needed to be there for me.
The race started in front of the Bricktown ballpark in downtown so Hubby dropped me off near the entrance with the promise to meet at Mickey Mantle’s statue. A friend was running with me, too, so we planned on meeting at the same spot. The morning was brisk and dark. As I made my way to Mantle, ladies in shiny blue and pink tutus jogged past on warm up runs. Others in matching team t-shirts stretched and chatted. The lines to the Ballpark bathrooms started to snake past the concession stands. Upbeat music filled the morning air. Our group gathered by Mantle where we took a few quick pictures, laughed at some of the fun outfits, and then it was time to go to the corral. My friend and I strategized on how close to the front we should go. Everyone around me was strapping on earbuds and priming watches. This was it. I was about to run 13 miles. And then the bullhorn sounded and we were cautiously moving in mass through the gate. I was a bundle of nervous energy and quickly left my friend behind powered by all the pent-up emotions of getting to this moment.
The first few miles, we moved carefully through the darkened streets pointing out potholes and other potential dangers to each other. Ladies energetically chatted with excitement. Birds started to sing and on we ran, into the Paseo Art district, with it’s art galleries and patio cafes. Neon signs lit the way past hip eateries and artwork decorating the sidewalks. Mile 3 came and there on the corner stood my personal cheering section, Hubby and the kids, shouting encouragements. Their voices and whoops echoed loudly off the darkened buildings and that’s when it happened. I could feel a smile begin to grow on my face and I’m sure those around me probably thought I was crazy. We ran on into the manicured neighborhoods. Here were areas of the downtown Oklahoma City I rarely venture into and it was lovely. I thought of all the challenges of the past weeks and how I would have missed out on so much if I’d quit. Suddenly, a bright yellow shirt leap into the midst of the runners up ahead. Race crasher?? Turns out, it was someone’s husband giving them their pace time. His words of encouragement drifted back as he stopped at the race official and I got a bit emotional as I shot up a prayer of thanks to God for my own loving and supportive husband.
The sun began to peak at the top of the first hill silhouetting a church steeple in hues of pink, yellow, blue and lavender. As I passed mile 5, my mind wondered and I tried to keep positive as our group pushed up the hill. I know half the battle of finishing a challenge is mental. I focused on my husband at the finish line and how his eyes light up and he does this little fist pump thing when his excited. I knew he would be there, excited for me. Around mile 6, I’d started running beside a girl in pink Reebok calve socks. We trekked together for the next 6 miles until the bridge leading to the finish line. As I crested the top the lavender Go Girl awning came into view. I couldn’t believe it! I was going to make it. Well, as long as I didn’t trip on the way down. At the bottom, I could hear an announcer calling runner’s names as they came to the finish and giving congratulations. Oh my goodness! Personal shout outs? Awesome. Sure enough as I entered the last few feet, he said my name and my arms involuntarily shoot up in victory. I’d just run the farthest in my entire life and survived! Actually, I more than survived, I’d finished!
I did learn a few things in those long, sometimes painful weeks leading up race day. I learned that challenges are painful and that’s OK because after enduring it, success is sweet. Also, God makes us a lot tougher than we think we are and we wouldn’t know it without the experience. I learned that even when progress seems to be slow or going backwards, it’s still being made. I learned that you climb over the wall by letting a friend help you and to be thankful for them. I learned I need the support system God has given me and I couldn’t have done it alone. I’m naturally independent and think I have to do things alone or they don’t count. Yes, I’m prideful. This was a dose of humility and in a way a much needed reality-check. I couldn’t have done it without my husband pushing me to keep going, telling me to forget about the expense and that I’d succeed. He said it wasn’t a mid-life crisis and to stop griping and run. The feeling I got from seeing my cheering family as I came across the finish makes my heart want to burst. I’m getting emotional writing about it. I’m so thankful for them.
My husband predicted during one of my training melt-downs that I’d love racing and do it again. I adamantly swore against it. I have to learn to quit swearing. On Easter afternoon while we sat enjoying the warm weather and sipping the last of the Domaine Carneros sparkling wine, my hubby brought up racing again. Nah, I said. He mentioned I was already in condition for it. Good point. And that’s when it happened. I signed up for the Oklahoma City Memorial half-marathon. Yeah, I’ve caught the race bug just like he said. He knows me. Besides, I’m already conditioned and they give really great medals! Now I’ve gotta run.