For the last several months I’ve been training for my first ever half marathon. I only wanted to do this just once and say, “Yep, I did that!” So each time I ran my long distance miles of 7, 8, 9 and 10 miles, I would say, “the good news is I never have to run THAT distance again!”
Running a half marathon was my celebration, my victory “dance” of surviving cancer for 10 years. August 27th is the day I was diagnosed, so running a half in the month of August was fitting.
My half marathon was this past Sunday, August 3rd. It was brutal, the temps were somewhere between 88 and 91 degrees, humid and blazing sun with no clouds. I ran for 7 straight miles before I started to falter. I was asking myself, “What’s the problem? You ran 10 miles for a training run and now you are struggling at mile 7?” The balls of my feet hurt, the tops of my toes hurt, (I think my mistake was wearing last year’s shoes, they just didn’t have that last race in them) my legs ached, I was sick to my stomach for a bit, then it would switch to stomach cramps and then back to nausea. The worst of it though was the pain running down my spine from just below my neck through the area of my shoulder blades. (My mistake here, I have the tendency to run with my head down). That and the nausea were doing me in. I was afraid I might have been on the verge of heat exhaustion. I knew I must have looked bad, because someone came running toward me with a small “Dixie” cup in hand saying to me, “Were you the one that thought they were going to pass out?” God I wanted to tell her yes and get that cup from her, but I told her no and kept going. I looked at the lake and wanted to jump in, but I kept going. I looked at the big rocks and wanted to sit down, but I kept going. I looked at the names of loved ones lost I had written on my arm and I kept going. I kept going for Mom, and Andrew, and Olive and Tommy.
I kept going for me, for these 10 years. I was miserable, sick, in agonizing pain, but I kept going. When I saw Carolyna there before the finish I probably didn’t look like it but I was happy, so happy to see her, because I think I could have sat down right there with only 100 feet left to get to the finish.
Back at mile 7 I was walking and running, walking and running. They ran out of water at some of the water stops, so I and several other participants were hitting the water fountains, thank God for the fountains.
I started this race near the back because I didn’t want to start out too fast; the only problem with that was having to get past all of the walkers. Now don’t get me wrong I’m glad the walkers are off their butts and doing 13.1 miles. However, when they are walking 3 abreast on a bike path along the lakefront in Chicago I am very unhappy with them. They refuse to move over, when a runner is coming up behind them. This forced me to have to work quickly to get around them so that I would not be in the way of the public bikers and runners. This was not a closed course. I watched as one participant that had moved into the other lane to get around walkers was hit by a guy whizzing by on a bike. So I expended a lot of energy to make my way around probably 30 walkers whose pace was far slower than the 15/17 minute pace I placed myself at. Either they had no idea what their pace was or they just didn’t care that they were creating issues for those of us who were faster than they were. Getting around one walker is not a huge deal, but 3 friends chitt, chatting across the whole path, not good!
I was glad to see my friend near the finish line, because all I wanted to do was lie down and cry. I had walked the last 3 miles to get to the finish and it was all I could do to get myself across that line. I had decided my health was more important than me trying to finish this running. I have always told myself it didn’t matter if I ran, walked or crawled, as long as I got to the finish. I’m not sure what kept me from crawling. I hurt so bad I couldn’t make myself run to the finish. I crossed the line, and broke down, I almost didn’t get my finisher’s medal because I hurt so bad I couldn’t hold my head up and all I wanted to do was find some grass so I could lay down. The guy with the medals placed one over my head and I made my way to the grass and laid down. Instantly the pain went out of my back, my new friend Cristina, Carolyna’s sister, gave me a glass of Gatorade and I got back up. I “gimped” my way over to the Biggest Loser Backdrop so we could have our picture taken, and I smiled. While the pain was gone from my spine, I still hurt like hell everywhere else.
It was a brutal day and as I sat in the passenger seat of my friend Carolyna’s car I said, “thank God I never have to do that again!” I did what I said I would do, no matter how I got it done, I completed a half marathon. All those months of training had come to its end. I was proud of my accomplishment and wore my medal the rest of that day and into the next day. As Monday morning cracked opened and I climbed out of bed not feeling too terribly bad I thought to myself, I can do better. If it just hadn’t been so hot, if I had not worn old shoes, if I didn’t have to get past all those walkers. What, was I crazy? I was actually thinking about doing this all over again! I must be nuts! Why would I want to do this again? Maybe because I survived. I survived 10 years with a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. This journey has been far from easy, but I survived and I need another chance to see what I have in me. So yep, I’m gonna do it again! The registration is filled out and ready to go in tomorrow’s mail, in 5 weeks I’ll run, walk or crawl my second half marathon. For a second time I will run 7, 8, 9 and 10 miles. I may or may not run any better than I ran this one, but I have to try, heck, I don’t want to waste a bottle of Gatorade I still have left in the fridge and doesn’t 2 halfs equal a full?