My Bucket List and a Half Marathon

10.13.2010

Ten months ago, when I considered resolutions for 2010, I had no idea that this year I would cross (count it) two things off my bucket list. Actually, I didn't even know I had a bucket list--until a friend proposed going skydiving in celebration of her 25th birthday. Then I realized that I'd always wanted to go skying, but when it came down to actually planning it, paying for it, and jumping out of a plane, I needed someone else to motivate me. 

The same is apparently true for running. I'd always wanted to run a half marathon. I'd heard about people training and seen pictures of herds of skinny people in short shorts and sports bras, but for me it was just one of those I-would-love-to-do-that-but-I-would-die-if-I-ran-thirteen-miles kinds of things.

The idea of actually training for something like that seemed daunting and too far out of my reach. But then my good friend Audra e-mailed me and announced she was going to train for a half marathon. She sent me the link to register for a race on October 10 in Wichita, Kansas, and told me to think about it. It was late spring at this point, and I was running a few times a week--just to keep in shape but not enough to run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time, so 13 miles sounded insane.

Finally doing something I'd always wanted to was too tempting to resist, however, so I bought a cheap watch at Walmart and made a running playlist on my ipod. I mapped out a three-mile route around Jordan's neighborhood, and I made a tentative schedule that would have me ready to go by October.

My goal seemed simple enough: 13.1 miles at 10-min/mile pace. That's 131 minutes or 2hrs 11minutes, give or take a few minutes on either end. I started out running intervals of 5 or 6 minutes running and 1 minute walking, and eventually I was able to run 30 or 40 minutes without stopping. I was feeling good.

But the more I ran, the longer my runs became, and I soon found out that there's a huge difference between 8 miles and 4. Duh, it's twice as far. I know. But really, it's a whole different game, and I was sad to discover it was one I wasn't very good at.

I'm a mostly positive person. At least, I try to be as positive as I can given the circumstances. But for some reason, this running thing showed a side of me I didn't like. And it threw me for a loop.

I was whiny, stressed, pessimistic, and convinced that when it actually came down to it, I would fail. I was attempting something I wasn't at least mostly sure I would be able to do well. And well by my standards, which is usually a high bar. So I didn't register, and I didn't tell anyone I was training. I remained noncommittal about the whole thing until I finally officially signed up and wrote a blog post about it. Then, suddenly, it seemed more real once I actually said it out loud.

My goal time dropped from 2:10 to 2:30, and then after an 8-mile run that felt like death itself, I decided I was just going to be happy to finish. Screw making good time.

As race day approached, I became more and more nervous, especially after a terrible bathroom episode while on a 5-mile run, and I couldn't stop thinking about being in the middle of the race and having nowhere to relieve myself. It was depressing, so I stopped thinking about it.

Okay, that's a lie. It was all I could think about.

And then it was here, and I headed off to Kansas to meet up with Cori, Audra, Joey, and Hilda.

I was worried about eating too much fiber, too much protein, drinking too little water, too much juice. I knew anything I ate might come back to haunt me later. While Cori scarfed down a burger and fries on Saturday night, I picked at chips, fearfully dipping them in runny salsa before chugging glass after glass of water.

Sunday morning I woke up at 6:15. I popped my contacts in, tugged on my running shoes, ate a quick (slight) breakfast of a piece of toast and a half glass of OJ, and pinned #2220 to the front of my shirt. Then Cori and I drove 15 minutes to downtown Wichita, parked, and calmly walked to the start line--all while butterflies slammed against the inside of my stomach. It was surprisingly easy finding Joey and Audra in the crowd, and before I knew it we were waiting with an excited mob of runners, listening to the horn blow, and moving forward with the crowd.

From that point on, I was focused on one thing--the finish. As I zig-zagged through the crowd, Colbie Caillat singing in my ears, I looked around and thought, This is awesome!

I'd gotten used to running alone, meandering either through Jordan's neighborhood or a nearby park, that I'd been missing the community of running. Two thousand pairs of toned calves and blistered feet, hearts pumping, arms moving, feet kicking up gravel. Maybe I had beginner's luck, or maybe it was runner's high, but the first 7 miles went by before I knew it. Besides a quick 30-second stop at a few water stations, I went for over an hour without taking a legit walk break, and I was under my 10-min/mile goal. It wasn't until mile 9 that things got really hard.

When am I going to reach 10 miles! I thought, looking ahead to see a long line of runners stretched out before me. For the first time, I feared keeping up my (for me) blistering pace. When I finally did reach the blessed sign marked 10, I shouted, "Yes! Thank the Good Lord!" A girl in pink next to me turned and smiled. After a quick stop for water, I decided that I was going to stop again at mile 11. So I started running and running...and running. After ten minutes, I still hadn't seen any sign. I haven't slowed down that much, I thought. Then, like a beacon of light in a dark night, I saw a water station. 

"What MILE is this?" I asked the nearest worker. 
"You're almost to mile 12," she said, handing me a cup of Gatorade.
I guess that's the upside to not having clearly marked miles markers. Only a mile and a half to go; then I could stop. And eat.

When mile 12 hit, I was dead on my feet, but somehow I kept them moving. It's weird how that works. I mean, I could have stopped. No one was technically making me run, but my fear of failure and hope of greatness pushed me on. I think mile 12 was the worst. I was so close, and yet I still had 1.1 miles to go. As much as I wanted to sprint to the finish, it was all I could do to keep my current pace. There was a lady in orange I had my eye on; as long as she was near me, I was fine. If she started to pull away, it meant I needed to run faster.

With about two tenths of a mile to go, I saw Hilda. She wasn't running, but I stayed at her apartment in Wichita, and she'd agreed to meet me at the finish. I slapped her hand and smiled, and it was beautiful to see a friendly face.

She also snapped this photo of me:

When I ran across the finish, there were people lining the road, cheering, it seemed, just for me. I felt suddenly felt alone, but in a good way. I crossed the finish line and at last gave my legs the okay to stand still. Then I looked at the clock.

2:08:19. 

I couldn't believe it. I'd run faster and longer than I ever had before, and I beat my goal time! That's when I almost threw up. It's ironic, really. With all my worry about having to poop in the middle of the race, I hadn't even thought about something coming out the other end. It was a close call, but let's just say I was able to hold it down.




In the wake of my great success, I grabbed a water bottle, Gatorade, and somehow found Hilda. The wind, which had felt so refreshing just two minutes ago, now felt like a knife, slicing through my sweat and quickly freezing me to death. I wrapped what looked like a sheet of tinfoil around myself, and we went back to the race to wait for Audra, Joey, and Cori.

I used Hilda's phone to call Jordan, where I left an excited, out-of-breath message, which I have no doubt he wasn't able to understand. 

"I'm so excited!" I shouted to Hilda. "I can't believe I did it!"

And I really couldn't. Like I said, I'd been horribly pessimistic about the whole thing--certainly something to learn for next time. 

But when it came down to it, the adrenaline kicked in, and I just kept running. Thirteen whole miles (plus a tenth!) at 9:48 min/mile. 







 This story could have ended horribly. I ran 15-minute miles. I had to stop at every mile and go to the bathroom. I tripped and twisted my ankle. The possibilities for disaster are endless. Then I would have cried and written a post about how disappointed I am, how silly I feel, and how much of a failure I've become. Even though in this case nothing like that happened, I'm not naive enough to think that I won't even have setbacks or days when real-life me just can't measure up to my expectations for myself. But that doesn't mean I should stop setting a high bar, because it's just that much sweeter when I finally finish. 

In a world of ultra runners and 100-mile races, 13 miles isn't all that much, and 10-minute miles isn't lightening fast. But it was for me, and that's what I measured against. So I couldn't be happier. Another check for my bucket list. A medal for my wall. A 13.1 decal for my car. And the knowledge that I can do it, because just last weekend, I did.


5 comments:

  1. I'm so proud of you, Amanda!! Great job!!

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  2. For not having one, you're whizzing through your bucket list. Way to go!

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  3. Great post! And eerily similar to mine, which is weird since I wrote mine before reading yours. But cool! And great job. We are awesome, and I am so proud of us for doing this!! We are the coolest pair of friends that ever lived! And next time we meet in Wichita to hang out, Jordan is COMING. :) Love you!

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  4. Thanks, Lauren! Maybe I'll run in St. Louis sometime, and you can come watch!

    Hannah-it's all thanks to you for kick-starting the list :)

    Audra, yes, we are eerily similar. We are awesome, and I'm so proud of you! Next time, Jordan is coming for sure.

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  5. My friend and I just made a goal to run a 10K at the Thanksgiving Hobbler Gobbler Race here in ABQ. I have only ever raced a 5K, so I figured this was the next big step. You are so inspiring. (can't remember if I told you about this goal yet or not?) We talk about your marathon almost every time we get together. I'll probably mention you in an hour when she and I meet up at a park and run today. :)

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