After a long hiatus from running, I finally returned to the race circuit on Sunday. I decided to run the Colfax Half Marathon again in Denver after having done it for the first time last year. A family friend wanted to do the race, so I told her I’d do it with her since it was her first half. I had good intentions to train hard and set a PR, but alas the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
I didn’t anticipate I was going to fall deeply in love nor did I anticipate I was going to get extremely sick with a severe upper respiratory infection that nearly had me hospitalized. I fell in love with a handsome foreigner who has a dangerous job with the military/CIA and was facing an 8-month deployment this month. So, instead of training, I chose to spend all of my time with him, making the most of what we had together. I was also out of commission nearly a month with my illness. So I didn’t train.
In fact I hadn’t run 10 miles since January. When I was in Las Vegas in March, I did a 7 miler on the Strip at sea level, which was wonderful. Then around the start of April, I did a 6 miler with my handsome foreigner, but other than that, I had mostly just been doing short distance speed work on the treadmill and strength training during the week. The half marathon was in the back of my head, but at the same time, I had other priorities.
My handsome foreigner was deployed on Saturday, the day before the race. It was devastating to have to say goodbye, but we are in a good place in our relationship, and I know when he returns in 8 months, we’ll be stronger than ever. Nevertheless, it was extremely difficult to say goodbye. After he left, I immediately went up to Denver with my friend to pick up my race packet and get checked into the hotel for the night.
The race honestly could not have come at a better time. I needed a release from the stress and tension I was feeling over my man’s departure. I knew that running those 13.1 mile was going to help cleanse me and start to heal. I also figured if I could “wing” a half marathon, then I could definitely get through his 8 month deployment.
I had offered to run the race with my friend if she needed the support, but also told her she was free to run it on her own if she wanted. She chose the latter, and I was relieved. I wanted the alone time to clear my head. Unlike last year when I was a complete nervous wreck, ready to barf and crying from being so scared, this year I was very calm. I was looking forward to the run even.
I ate a good breakfast and marched over to the starting area like a seasoned pro. There were no butterflies in my stomach, no tears and no nerves. Instead of a frightening obstacle, I saw this race as my salvation during a dark time. We marched up from our corral and started the race.
I started it off by listening to “Run” by Matt Nathanson and Jennifer Nettles, which is a beautiful love song that reminds me of my relationship. It brought tears to my eyes, but calmed me down and allowed me to get into the groove of this race.
The miles kept coming, surprisingly very easily. I was shocked. Last year I had trained and trained and I thought every mile was hard. This year, after running a full marathon, this seemed so easy. I kept going, each mile peeling off a layer of sadness and giving me a glimmer of hope that I will get through the next 8 months.
Around mile 8, my foot started to hurt per usual and I was feeling the lactic acid build up. I knew I’d make it through, but I was starting to think maybe I should have trained. I figured though if I could make it to mile 10, I was going to be just fine. Once mile 10 came around, I knew I was in the home stretch. Last year, I saw mile 10 as an obstacle—I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the next 3 miles and was terrified. This year, it was welcomed. I knew once I saw it that a 5K was nothing, and I’d be done in about 40 minutes.
The last 3 miles were hard, no question. The lactic acid had built up, and my legs were becoming very stiff. But I knew I’d get through it. I remember thinking last year that mile 12 seemed to last forever. This year, it seemed like nothing. I began to wonder if I’d get the same rush crossing the finish line this year as I did for my first.
As I came around the corner and saw the finish line, I felt my stone legs begin to loosen and I picked up the pace. I was sprinting home, finishing strong. A huge grin spread across my face and my eyes began to water. I didn’t have a downpour of tears like last year, but I felt such extreme joy again. I sailed down the last 0.1 mile and through the finish line knowing somehow everything was going to be okay. I crossed under the archway listening to Kelly Clarkson’s hit “Stronger” knowing that I was stronger at that moment.
A year ago, I was barely finishing the race and a terrified, unconfident mess. This year, I completely winged a half marathon, finishing it only 8 minutes slower than last year for 3:05:23. What a difference a year makes! I felt so confident and happy like this was something I did everyday.
Finishing the race was a very cathartic experience. I knew as I crossed the line that everything with my relationship was going to be okay. Not to say that the next 8 months aren’t going to be extremely tough and sad for a while, but I know we’ll be okay, and I know I’m strong enough to get through it.
I’ve decided I need a project to keep me busy. I’m doing what I said I’d never do again. I’ve signed up for the Walt Disney World Full Marathon in January 2013. That is the month my man is due home, and training for that race will keep me occupied until his return. I’m too strong to fold under these difficult times. I’m going to do what the Pink Ninja does best: fight through the tough times. So, in two weeks, I’ll be starting my training for the race. I may be a ninja, but I can’t wing 26.2 miles.