One year ago I continued my goal setting series with my new found joy of running and stepped out of the car setting my feet onto the pavement of Marist College’s parking lot, the starting point for the Walkway of the Hudson Half Marathon 2015. I had done all the necessary training to complete the course on which I was about to embark and I was about to find out just how important my training was- the training of my mind and my body. I didn’t preview the course map; I rarely do prior to running a race. I’d rather take off not knowing what may lie ahead and deal with the terrain as it presents itself. Being an over thinker, this allows me to focus on the journey.
It was an over cast humid day with a damp chill in the air. Accompanying me I had two wonderful ladies I had met while searching for run buddies to help me accumulate the higher mileage that I needed to prepare for this day. I wasn’t feeling my optimal self, a woman’s body does not always cooperate with important dates circled on the calendar- this was one of those days. It is important not to allow distractions or a little discomfort to keep you from what your eyes are focused upon.
As we waited for the opening ceremonies and announcements to finish, my stomach was in knots and I had to ignore the urge to use the bathroom…. once again! The K-T tap I placed on my knee to hold it at bay from overuse was beginning to peel away from my skin and the race had not even begun. I did my best not to allow these minor nuisances hinder my focus.
BANG! We’re off! Uphill to start, “No big deal, I am use to running uphill.” I quickly wondered when the uphill start would actually become level ground, it seemed to last longer than I was accustomed to. Along the way there were people that had to veer off to catch their breath – this never ending “mountain” was a killer. I kept my eyes focused on the pavement and not on the incline- one step at a time. Looking straight down was less intimidating then looking at the elevation that taunted my mind and body so early on. The ground finally leveled out and it was beginning to get warmer and the humidity no longer carried a chill. I felt good and finally settled into a comfortable pace behind a fellow runner. I cleared my mind and zoned myself into a place that I could run free of any thoughts and tuned into the rhythm of my heartbeat and sound of my breathing, I had many miles to contend with. I soon began feeling twinges in my knee; I wished them away and refocused on my sites ahead. The course had now taken to the rail trail and it began to feel a bit cramped and at times it was hard to keep a steady pace without weaving and bobbing through the masses.
I had tried not to drink an excessive amount of fluids prior to the race, just enough to hydrate myself for a hot and humid day. As my body became increasingly taxed from exertion and heat, it became more difficult to retain any fluid- what I am trying to say is…… I peed myself. Yes folks, this happens. I always am prepared for such an occurrence but this day it was more than the usual dribble. I had passed several porta-potty stops but I didn’t want my pit stop to impede on my overall finish time, alas I knew that if I didn’t stop and treat myself to a bathroom break I would be crossing the finish line quite embarrassed from the streaks of urine that would be running down my legs.
It may have been about my eighth mile when I became impatient wondering when I would get to the bridge; I longed to see something beautiful to take my mind off of this trek. Finally! There it was! If I remember correctly I heard a gentleman say it was only three more miles to complete the course…..” I can do that!” I told myself, “It’s only a simple 5k race at this point.”, and that’s what I began to focus on.
Once off the bridge and back onto the rail trail I started to feel over heated, a bit dehydrated and TIRED. I was approaching a refueling station where a band was playing and that is where I found a familiar face handing me a cup of cool liquid gold. It was an older gentleman from my hometown; his encouragement helped me to press on. There was a turning point on this trail that brought us back across the bridge but this time the sights were not as enjoyable. The wind had picked up and felt quite ferocious, impeding on the steady pace I was trying to maintain. My knees started to feel very stiff and cramped from the repetitive motion so I began to run in a high knee fashion on and off in cycles which seemed to help ease the stiffness.
Before long we were back onto the streets of a neighborhood, UPHILL again! At this point I don’t remember much because I think I mentally checked out just to be able to get through the hilly finish. I am not sure how I was moving any longer; I had to of been working off of sheer will to finish the course. I rounded a corner and was back onto Marist’s grounds- the end was near! I was about to complete my first half marathon…. THEN…… another hill! This one was a massive decline. After running thirteen miles there was no way my knees could handle running down such a decline and expect I would be able to walk after crossing the finish line. I had to slow down to an almost walking pace for fear I would injure myself if I tried to do otherwise. There were people yelling from the sidelines, “Use the momentum, run!”
No thanks, I’d rather keep my knees intact, I thought.
The decline was met by a tunnel and just outside that tunnel the finish line was in view! Once again up another slight ascent and then straight across the finish line! “I DID IT!”
I immediately sought out the lady holding the finisher medals; I couldn’t wait to wear it! Once adorned with the proof I was now an official Half Marathoner, I made my way through the crowd and found a cool shaded spot against a stone wall and took a selfie with my medal!
The feeling of setting a goal, working hard to meet the demands of it and not allowing any limitations to cloud my vision, is an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
A fellow runner once said to me that the psychological aspect of running is about running away from things and in his case I can understand why he would think and feel such a thing. For me it has nothing to do with that, in fact the exact opposite. Running for me is about pushing the limits that I may have unconsciously set for myself- not just with physical health but also limits in life’s experiences. . When I am actively setting and meeting goals in my physical life it promotes my self-confidence and what I think I am capable of accomplishing in all aspects of my life. Running gives me an overall sense of strength, capableness, and reminds me to continue striving for what I seek in life because it is attainable.
That first mile I ran almost 3 years ago became an incredibly important milestone in my life. It was the beginning of a new chapter, the chapter of no limitations and dream bigger. Running created a means for me to engage in life more fully and not allow life to become stagnant or monetary. It took my blinders off and helped me to break out of any confines that were holding me back from seeing my full potential in this world.
I know that running is not for everyone, but I encourage you to find that something special that opens your eyes to find the beauty in this world and your special place within it. Find something that challenges you to find your inner strength to help you accomplish more than you thought possible.