Last weekend kicked off the first of my half marathon races for 2014 with a hometown race that offered both a Full and Half Marathon option. The Tallahassee Marathon, a race sponsored and organized by my local running club, Gulf Winds Track Club, celebrated its 40th year this past weekend. A race literally as old as I am (almost) and I couldn’t be prouder to have it be the first of 2014 with many of my favorite running pals and Sole Sisters!
As the weekend approached I was excited to not have to travel for my first half marathon and even more that I would be running the race with a lot of our running Mamas from Mom’s RUN This Town with the support by a lot of them and at the first and last water stop at Mile 2 & 25 (or 12 if you were doing the half). To say that I was overjoyed with hometown pride was a bit of an understatement. It was turning out to be such a great race for our little town.
As race morning arrived, I had gladly arranged to pick up my running partner (who would be running her first marathon) and her daughter who would be helping man the water station. Our morning started off at our typical race morning time with the alarm going off at 4:30 am. Needless to say, since I was at home, my husband, who has been down with the Florida Crud, was less than thrilled that the alarm was going off. Even though I was at home with all my gear, I seemed to be in less of a rush to get dressed and on the road as I normally would be, maybe because I knew all the alternate routes that I could take to get us to where we needed to be on time, unlike on out-of-town race day. I had lagged so much that I was out of time to get on the road in in that rush I did not even have a chance to make breakfast and had to call on my running partner for my normal toast and peanut butter that I would eat on the way to the start.
The weather in Tallahassee on Sunday morning was humid, foggy and chilly. But we wouldn’t allow that to deter from our excitement. We pre-planned to meet our other Chapter members for a group photo before the start at 7:10 and we were so excited to have so many actually available for the photo, it was just the thing we needed to keep us pumped up for the start of the race. But also that we would see so many of our other members in just 2 short miles after we started whooping and hollering to cheer us on.
Needless to say, these smiling faces from both groups made the morning that much more amazing!
As we waited at the start line and they sang the National Anthem, as always happens, my eyes filled with tears, for on this day so many familiar faces would be running the same race path as me either along side, in front or behind me. Making their dreams come true and new running memories. I was even more emotional as I knew that my running partner and our friends Jen and Christine would be embarking on their first journey to completing a Full Marathon and I was so excited for them. Tallahassee did not have pace groups for this race, so our friend Becky and I decided to help pace them up until the turn around point at mile 7. Which for me, turned out to be a blessing for my legs since in previous weeks I struggled through my runs with some really intense left calf pain. But I wasn’t going to let that hold me back today from running my race at my pace while helping out some wonderful Sole Sisters!
We began the race by making a big loop through part of Florida State University Campus and ultimately back past the start point which would take us directly in front of Doak Campbell Stadium and the beginning of this flat and fast course. As we approached mile 2, we could already hear our friends yelling and cheering for all the runners. They were working but having a blast and it was so awesome to see their smiling faces so soon in the race. As we passed them, we were taken across Lake Bradford Road, which for me was a blast from the past since this course would take us to the side of town that I grew up on. We turned the corner that took us to the start of the St. Marks Trail and on course we were for the next 2 hours.
I felt great, we were all taking, laughing and cheering for the entire first 7 miles, it was wonderful. If I had issues with my leg, I was oblivious to them for the entire first half of the race. Becky and I kept prompting Tammy and Jen to slow down as they had farther than us to run when we turned around at 7, but that didn’t keep us from running a great pace for what Becky and I would finish our half with while keeping some gas to push through in reserves.
Here are my split times as recorded by my NikeGPS/Polar HR Monitor watch
When I looked at this last night I was very happy with my time, except for the end when I was having major blister issues on both feet that I feared would be bloody by the time I removed my shoes and socks at the end of the day when I got home. But pushing through that pain, TOTALLY WORTH IT!
As we approached the turn around point, Becky and I gave huge hugs and encouraging words to our friends and then turned back for the course back to the finish. I was still feeling really amazing even though the humidity in Tallahassee was pretty high that morning. I attribute that to the cooler temps that accompanied the overcast skies. I was thankful.
As we continued on our pace I began to feel the pain in my feet, much worse than anything I could imagine in my calf in the previous weeks. I knew that I wanted to finish this race with a great run and I wanted to overcome my mile 10 mental break down. I told Becky, I’m not walking when I get to mile 10, she nodded back at me and replied, let’s do this (but DON’T INJURE YOURSELF). I knew Becky would ultimately end up ahead of me for the race which was perfectly fine with me as I would use her as my rabbit to keep me going and on track, which she completely did. I never lost sight of her until she turned the corner to the windy finish at mile 2.
While I was running along, I thought back to all my Fall races and what had defeated me. I resolved YOU, YOU DEFEATED YOURSELF. I thought to myself, why are you running today? My answer, it was a training run for my marathon coming up at the end of February. I resolved that I didn’t care how damn hard it was, I was going to finish this race running at my own pace and strong. As I turned the corner to come back to the last water station I knew I would get encouragement from my friends once again and it was very welcomed. I don’t care who you are, when you see familiar faces on the course AND at the finish line it gives you the kick in the butt that you need to push through and sometimes through pain.
As I approached mile 12, I knew my feet were shot I knew I needed to walk some of the way to the finish line because after I had a half mile to go there would be no more walking. I turned my watch to elapsed time and used that to push myself mentally to get to the finish line. As I entered the FSU Track the announcer began calling our names, Tambra Means, I heard and it gave me the extra Ooomph I needed to push myself around the rest of the track to the finish. I also knew that my friends were waiting for me there to give big hugs and congratulations.
As I crossed the finish line I was happy to have completed another Half Marathon and to prepare to wait the next 2 hours to see Tammy, Jen and Christine cross that same finish for their first Marathon. The anticipation of how they would do was nerve-wracking, not as much as it would be to them at that moment, but wanting to see them finish and finish strong was very emotional.
I waited with Tammy P.’s daughter for a good hour and a half before her family arrived to cheer her to the finish and we began to get text updates from her. She was at mile 22.5 and she still felt pretty good. I knew that it was going to be a tough 4 miles to the finish line, but had all the faith that she would push through and get it done. Fellow runner Laura who was working at the water table at mile 25 had agreed to text us when she passed them so we would be prepared for her to come onto the track. Let me tell ya, that was the longest mile EVER and I know it wasn’t just for us either!
Finally, she approached the entry to the track and all I could do was yell RUN! Tears flowed as she stopped to give me a hug before pushing through to the finish line. She had put in all the training and all of the tough miles and finished in under 5 hours! I was beyond proud! Jen was not far behind either and looked so strong as she crossed the finish line also. I was also so proud that not far behind that another one of our friends, Christine crossed the finish line for her first marathon. They had run an amazing race!
For me this race was about everyone else, and I loved it. I loved the encouragement of the volunteers, the Tallahassee Police Department that stopped traffic for us and most of all to be a part of such a wonderful hometown race community. Pride, pride is what I felt at the end of the day on Sunday. THAT is what I will use the next few weeks on my training runs to get me through. Human spirit, in my world, is fed by wonderful sources of encouragement and I know that I have a wonderful community of friends in my corner to cheer me through every training run and race.