I’ve run more than 30 half-marathons, so why did this one feel like my first?
The last time I ran a half, my mom was alive. That was only two years ago, but it feels like lifetimes ago. I’ve been through so much since then, and man, does your body hold on to emotions. (If you’ve ever cried in savasana, you know what I mean.)
Running has not come easy to me in some time. I’ve been trying to pick apart why to solve it: weight gain? age? medication side effects? The answer probably lies in a combination of all of these.
But my therapist constantly reminds me that it’s great just that I’m getting out there, which is honestly hard to hear to someone who’s used to doing more than just “getting out there.” Someone who’s used to running farther, faster, etc. etc. I’m not that person any more, though.
And yet I still wanted to run a half marathon. To prove to myself I still could—that there was still this vestige of my old life, of glimmers of joy. I ran the Women’s Run Series Half Marathon in Long Beach earlier this month.
The race started at Shoreline Aquatic Park, and parking was easy in a nearby garage (since this is a thing I have to worry about now?). The race was pretty small, so the port-a-potty lines were delightfully short.
It started at 8:20, which was nice for sleeping in purposes, but not so nice for not-running-in-the-sun purposes. The sun was already blazing by the time we started.
I’ve been running long runs roughly around a 10:45-11:00 pace, so I lined up with the 2:30 pacer, which was an 11:26 pace…thinking that it was too slow for me, but the 2:15 was sure as hell too fast for me right now.
The race ran south along the beach for about six miles before turning around. I love that 95 percent of my runs are along the beach these days. It still seems too good to be true some days.
I started with the 2:30 pace group, and I hung with them for the first eight miles, chatting with the pacer Caroline the entire time. But most of my runs lately have been a mix of walk-run, so after eight miles or so of no walking other than water stations, I needed a walk.
And this is when the wheels slid off. When I started to run again, my legs felt like lead, and I was struggling to breathe. (I’ve had some tightness in my chest lately…) I did a little more walk/run until I got to nine and started texting friends that I was at mile 9 and really wanted to quit—but wouldn’t. “I’ll walk it in before I quit,” I told them. And I did walk most of that ninth mile. FUCK THAT, I thought…while simultaneously being really disappointed in myself I had to walk so much.
“Just keep shuffling,” one of my friends wrote back. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled out my phone to text during a race, but I don’t think a race ever felt so hard to me before. My friends’ words felt motivating, and it filled my heart to know there were people cheering me on.
At mile 11, there was a mile out-and-back to get in two extra miles, and I just. wanted. to. be. done. At one point, I saw the pacer opposite me and felt disappointed I hadn’t been able to keep up with her.
My ego totally ran the show on this race. I had a really hard time almost the entire time not comparing myself to past me, whose PR was 1:48. Who, untrained, could run a ~2:05.
I waited to write this recap to see if I’d see any of this in a different light. I’m proud of myself for finishing this half—especially when I so badly wanted to quit—but it’s just so hard for me to not wonder if, even with more training, if I’ll ever get any of that speed back or if it’s time to kiss my old PRs goodbye.
Me, after the race.
And also me after the race.
I finished in 2:39:13, which is a personal worst, but I fought for every goddamn second of that, and I have a newfound respect for back-of-the-packers.