Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Story of my First Race (Dream List #72)

The day started 5:00 early. As I went outside to do the chores I found that the weather was exactly the way it had been forecasted to be for the past few days... cold, windy and wet.
To say that I was nervous was an understatement. For the whole hour long drive to the location of the race, I had mixed feelings of both excitement and trepidation. Not only was the weather not on my side, but I had also been struggling with a minor injury... and as a result had not been able to train like I should have been. It pained me to walk.... and just thinking about the 13.1 miles that I would soon face, was quite daunting.

But one thing I'll never purpose to be is a quitter. And with that thought in mind, when we arrived, I registered for the Winkler Thanks for Giving Race (fundraiser for the food cupboard) and determined give it my very best. I scrapped the top 20/first female goal out of my mind and just prayed that God would give me the strength to finish in under 2 hours.

I made my way to the starting line with Pastor T, his amazin' wife Joanna (Sista'!) and John Froese (Bro Henry's big brother), who were all also running in the race.
And with a "ready, set... GO!" the race began.

First couple of miles were some of the hardest mentally, yet the easiest physically.
The race course for the half marathon was 2 loops, so while I was seeing mile markers for the first, second, third (ect) mile... I was also seeing seven, eight, nine (ect.). I fought with the reality of the length of the race, and just kept telling myself that before I knew what was happening, I would be on the second loop and headed to the finish line.

My first four miles I averaged at right around 8:30 min/mile and after I got through that first mental
block... I was feeling pretty good. My amazing family (mom, dad and Ker) cruised around town and
would stop at corners and stop signs to cheer me on. It was quite motivating to know that my family
was supporting me. It made me want to do better than my best for them. I heard many a race volunteer chuckle as they heard my name being chanted and cheered :)
(my fam. is the best... just so you know :)

There was a 5k (which Pastor T and Joanna were running) and a 10K (which John was running) going on at the same time as the half marathon. As I was running the first 5ish miles, there were some people that passed me by, it was somewhat discouraging until I saw on their race tags that they were all in the 10k and were picking up speed in their last mile.
There was one stretch that really wore on me in which I was running straight into the 30km wind. I wanted to walk soooo bad, but instead I gave myself a little pep talk, and picked up my pace. I made it through ok (albeit a little bit slower), but it was knowing that I had to go through that again later that really got to me.

Running through the finish line that marked almost-half-way was quite exhilarating. Especially upon seeing not only my family (gram and gramps Pauls included!) cheering me on... but also the folks who had already completed their races (in which they all did AMAZING!) and John's sweet wife Cheryl. They all stood out there in the freezing cold just to support me.... I felt so loved and was even MORE determined to give it my all.
My 10k time was just over 55 min.
I was now on the second loop and every single step was bringing me closer to that finish line.

Everything was going great until just after mile eight when I felt a sudden sharp pain on one of my toes... I realized that the bandaid that I had put on one of my toes to prevent a blister had rubbed and created a new blister on my other toe,which had now popped and was rubbing bandaid on flesh. I entertained the thought of stopping to take that bandaid off... but told myself that I could handle this, I just needed to keep going. I prayed that I would be able to get my focus off the pain and back on to the race. Amazingly, not only was I able to take my mind off it, but the whole incident made me run faster. I was able to go back into my "zone" and I just put one foot in front of the other.

Around mile 10 I came back to that notorious windy spot, but was delighted to find that I didn't have to do it alone. Taking turns dad, mom and Joanna ran with me. Joanna played the song "Overcomer" by Mandisa on her phone as she ran with me, I felt like crying with joy as I felt not only the love from these amazing people, but also the love from my God. Definitely picked me up after that rough spot!

Later on down the road John jumped out of his van and ran the last 2 miles with me, even though he had already completed a 10k himself. (Once again feeling SO blessed to have such an amazing church family!!!)
After hitting mile 12, I really started struggling... my legs felt like they were going to fall off and every single step was taken in pure exhaustion. Two women passed me in the last half mile (which I will never forgive myself for!), my lack of training was catching up with me. As they passed, I wondered if I was now the last person running the half-marathon, I certainly didn't think that I was doing that well. I had refused to let myself look at my overall time on my Garmin, only my pace (which was sadly decreasing) as I ran along, so other then the 55 min. that I saw as I passed through the finish line the first time, I had no idea where I was. I was quite certain that I was already past my 2 hr. goal.
With less then a quarter mile to go, Pastor T came and joined us. He told me how I was doing (WAY better then I expected!), and that was enough to encourage me to the finish line.
As I neared the end, I saw my time and I realized that I was like 15 seconds away from going over 2 hours! I sprinted as fast as my body would allow and my official time became 1:59:56!

And so... with a bloodied and blistered toe, and an injured quad muscle....
I FINISHED A HALF MARATHON!!!! And my first race :)

And I give the praise and glory to God for it! There were so many days during training that I felt like I could not even run, let alone run the x amount of miles on my training schedule. So I'd pray "God, I don't feel like I can do this today, I need your help!" And He came through every single time. I came to learn that it is my job to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to do my best.... then God will do the rest.

Do I plan to continue running? You bet! I already have my sights set for a full marathon next year.
I have found a passion for running that I never knew I had. And I now know that I love racing!

And for those of you who think "wow, I could NEVER do that!" Remember that I had to start somewhere too, I remember the day that running a half mile was a HUGE victory for me! You've just got to take that first step and then keep at it until you have reached your goal.
If I can do it... you can do it too!

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Official Results:
Average Pace 9:01 min/mile
33rd out of 59 overall
7th female finisher out of 26
2nd out of 8 in the 20-29 female age group (I actually got the first prize for this age group... but official results show that I was second by 10 seconds :)