I don’t know why it’s taken me a week to write about the half marathon. It feels a little like a dream. I’m glad there are pictures because I’m not sure I would have believed that I did it without them. I told myself I couldn’t write about anything else until I wrote about this race. And tonight I am eager to write about so many other things: grad school weekend – October edition, running in the dark, Parks & Rec (!!!!) and the fact that Halloween will soon be behind us and I can officially focus on the “holiday” season – my favorite time of the year.
I read several runner blogs – women who are athletic and write about their lives and do detailed course and race recaps. I think I thought it had to be like that. I don’t have technical ways to describe what I did. I don’t have any running advice for anyone. So I’m not going to worry about what I think it should be and I’m just going to talk about what I did.
I finished the Rock and Roll St. Louis half marathon. One year ago – almost to the day of the race this year – I spectated the run. I wrote this post, that at the time was kind of a joke, called When I Run the Marathon. I didn’t really know I would run that race one year later. I was inspired by the runners last year, but I didn’t know I would be inspired to really do it. I think it took more than inspiration. It was the right blend of opportunity, suggestion, making peace with the past, honoring those close to me that are no longer here and that I needed to do something hard. It truly took a village for me to run this – I have Team in Training to thank, all the wonderful people that donated to the cause, the friends that listened to every run recap, the friends that ran with me during training and everyone that cheered me on that day. I didn’t do this alone – nor could I ever have. I ran with memories of those no longer here, inspired by those who thought enough of my goal to help me get there and the positive thoughts of so many.
I finished it within my goal times. Our TNT coaches told us to set three goals and I’m grateful for that advice. I went for realistic. My overall goal was just finish in an upright position. With the IT band stuff I had been dealing with, I wanted to just be able to run this race. Goal #2 was my safety time (like a safety school – the one you’re pretty sure you can beat) of 2:45. Dream goal was 2:30.
I finished in 2:40.
The weather was perfect. Starting the race staring at the Arch, the landmark of my city, was really special. I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t have a lot of anxiety. I met the whole TNT group the night before for dinner. Pasta was had. We all stayed in a hotel that night and my roommate was TNT staff and she decided not to stay the night there at the last minute so I had this really lovely room all to myself. I’m so glad I did. I relaxed. I texted some friends about the next day. I laid out every piece of clothing and all the accessories for the next day. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen. The work had been done. No use worrying about it. I still didn’t get a great night’s sleep. It took much longer than I thought to get to sleep and I was up before the alarm. I met the TNT group in the hotel lobby at 5:30am and we walked to the race start 8 blocks away. And I still wasn’t nervous. In fact, I was starting to get excited.
The woman in the middle will always be part of my story. She is a very consistent runner with a 11:30 min/mile pace and I stayed with her every step until mile 4. Without her I would have gone out way too fast and been done for.
I loved the first 4 miles. Running through downtown St. Louis and then up towards the Fox Theatre. I had a fantastic pacer so I didn’t even feel that I was working that hard. I was shocked at how fast the first two miles went by. I was expecting to see my mom and grandparents around mile 3.5 and looking for them took most of mile 3. They ended up being at this amazing spot at about mile 3.8. I jogged off the course for a moment to hug them all. I wish I had a picture of Grandpa. He’s such a weeper. He’s crying. My mom’s crying. My grandma is rolling her eyes at the crying twins. I wave at them and jump back on the course. Diane, my pacing friend, told me she could see how moved Grandpa was. She said it was clear he was touched by the whole thing. I’m so happy they made it there and had such a great viewing location. My mom had been super freaked about figuring out how to get to the course and how she’d ever spot me, etc. No worries.
We turned on to Grand Avenue right at the Fox Theatre. This was one of my most favorite moments.
While I don’t think this is a great picture of me – it was such a special spot for me to run.
First, I love the Fox Theatre. Second, it’s on my street – kind of. I live just off Grand Avenue about 2 miles away. This is when I started to feel this warm and special feeling about how proud and happy I was to run my town. I left my headphones out and music off until mile 5. I read somewhere that you’ll need a boost halfway through a long run and your music will provide that. Also, this is the Rock and Roll, so there were bands at least at every mile.
Running down Grand! The St. Louis University banner is in the background and I feel like home in this stretch.
Around mile 7 – my friend Angela jumped out and snapped a picture. Loved the course support!
I neared Mile 8 with determination and excitement. I knew my personal cheer squad would be around mile 8.5 and I had to look strong for them. I saw Claire and Emilie first, Claire with my favorite sign (“Smile if you’re not wearing underwear!” – which I wasn’t – so I smiled!) and Emilie with a sign that said something like “Run Sarah Run” and “We’re proud of you”, I think. My mom had found her way there as well. Emilie told me later she was still bawling. Em could hardly understand her when she called earlier to say she saw me earlier in the race. I was expecting to see my Running Buddy and his brother there as well – they said they would be farther down that stretch to help get me up the hill. This was the stretch I was most concerned about – the sustained incline. Just a bit farther, I saw them both with signs for “Team Commando!” (not wearing underwear on race day was really becoming my rally cry). Alan snapped a few photos and I made Running Buddy jump on the course for the next .4 of a mile to get me up the hill. He obliged.
One of Alan’s photos of me as I saw the Team Commando signs! Running Buddy commented that in all the photos of me that day I have a big smile on my face. Might as well have a good time out there!
And one of the biggest surprises of that stretch was that as soon as Running Buddy turned off, Mr. Hampton jumped in! He ran the next mile with me. I feel a little bad – this is about where I started to fade fast. Mr. H got me to the Mile 10 marker and then Mile 10 happened. Mile 10 is what I refer to as my vacation. I slowed way down. I took a bathroom break. I grabbed water and Gatorade at the water station. I told myself at Mile 11 I had to get back in it, but I gave myself a full mile to get my head together.
Mile 11 came at Lafayette Square – a beautiful St. Louis neighborhood. Also, this is where I realized that there’s only 2 miles left. Soooo close…
I was tired. I dug deep. I had one last fantastic surprise and that was Mom and Em made it to Mile 12! I have no idea how they got around some of the road closures to make it there, but they did and it was so great! I’m really happy my sister saw me do this. I am happy I gave her something to be proud of me for. I’ve not always been a great role model for big sister and I am just so touched and pleased that she was all over the course and that she stuck around to have breakfast with me afterwards.
And then it was over.
And now there’s just the time I ran the half marathon.
Running Buddy, Em and Claire met me for breakfast at City Diner afterwards. It was exactly the day I was hoping I would have. I seriously could not have asked for a different experience. I don’t wish I ran different. I don’t wish I finished those 10 minutes faster. I ran my own race and I can barely even believe it.
The half aftermath: So, it’s been a week. And I’ve been congratulated. Even today at work during the All HR meeting my boss snuck a slide in with one of the pictures above congratulating me in front of everyone. And it’s nice to hear. But I didn’t do this to say that I did it. I did this for such deeply personal reasons that it seems odd to talk about how I did. One of my co-workers commented that she hasn’t even heard how I did yet. I’m so proud of me, don’t get me wrong. But I guess I never thought about other people being proud of me. I was at school this weekend and one of my most favorite new friends, Kristy, told me she was inspired – she was downloading the Couch to 5K app and was going to get started. I got this text from another classmate late last night telling me he was telling his wife about what I did and how amazing and they should get back into running. I’m happy anyone would make a positive choice about setting a goal, getting more exercise, etc…I just never saw me as a person motivating that kind of change. I read this blog post almost a year ago entitled – “Running a marathon does not make you Mother Theresa”. I highly recommend you read it. It’s really funny. But those sentiments have been with me since. I didn’t cure cancer (although my generous supporters helped me raise over $1500 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society!! Yeah!!!!!). I ran a race. I guess I just want to keep things in perspective. Again, I’m so proud of me. I look at the medal and I grin and I think about how I can probably do anything. It was a moment in time. I am not expressing what I want to very well here. Last December I hung this sign on my bathroom mirror that said, “FINISH”. Adam was always accusing me of starting things and not finishing them. I’ve looked at that sign for almost a year. I’m going to take it down tomorrow. Because I am finished with this chapter.
To sum up: I am proud of myself. I am so grateful for the love and support. I won’t forget crossing that finish line for some time. I believe in myself a heck of a lot more now than I did a week ago. I feel calmer and more confident. And I did it for my reasons. I can probably do anything.
Thanks for bearing with all the running and racing tales the past 10 months.
“Mrs. Landingham! What’s next?”