October 5, 2012

The Half

Race day.

Dark and cold.  Nervously, I am standing in the middle of a city street.  Seth is pressed to my side as we wait for the start.  The crowd is crushing in on us eagerly, but the start is still minutes away.

I am anxious.  The peanut butter sandwich I ate at 5am sits in my throat.  Seth looks down at me and whispers, "Good luck!"  With a kiss on the cheek, he quickly disappears ahead of me.

Even more anxious now, I stand alone in a crowd of 10,000 runners.  The countdown begins.  The crowd lunges forward as fireworks light up the sky.  We won't begin running for a few minutes.  As a shuffling mass of humanity, we push toward the start.

Still nervous.  Still can't believe I will attempt to run 13 miles today.  No pat responses have squelched my worry about finishing this race.

Finally, the crowd surges forward and there is space to run.  We run through the dark streets with thousands watching.  Soon, we cross the bridge and I feel good.  My legs are moving and I begin to relax.  It clicks that I have been working towards this all summer.  Just another run.

It's fun now.  Fireworks still cracking in the distance.  Cheers from the sidewalk and fellow runners.

Looking around, I notice myriad of running shirts around me.  Relay teams, local businesses, funny quips--I wonder if any of the 20,000 people expected here today will notice my shirt.  Written down my back:  "Sponsor a child.  Give food, water, education, and hope. "  "Running for hope" across my chest, I know people will be stuck behind me or seeing my back as they pass me.  Bystanders will see my front--a slow moving billboard.

I relax and begin to enjoy the sound of thousands of feet hitting pavement.  Cheers and signs--volunteers yelling.  The cadence of my own feet allows me to delight.  I look above the street and see faces peering from the apartment building ahead.  Five little heads, noses pressed to the glass, watching the river of runners stream past.  I smile and reach my arm high, waving my hand as I pass below their window.  They light up and wave furiously.  It makes me wonder who else we might be disturbing.

Six miles pass in a blur.

Soon enough my legs begin to tire and I realize that I still have five more miles to run.  A new song comes through my headphones and the burning in my legs is forgotten as I listen.  I'm in the car loudly singing with the kids.  They love this one and I smile thinking of them.  They were so excited for this race.  They have been my biggest champions.  In the afternoons, when I didn't feel like running, Eli would lace up his shoes and run a few miles.  We'd pass the house and Sally would trade places with him for a quick mile.  My last lap would be with our eldest.  Always starting off too fast and burning out, but finishing since he doesn't want to be beat by his mother.  Running with our children is a sweet time.  We chat and run and enjoy being together. 

Sally took this picture when we got home.

The song ends and it brings me into my ninth mile.  We are back downtown, crossing the bridge again.  My phone beeps and shows that Seth has already finished his race.  I hear my name as I near the stadium and see him cheering from the side, wearing an ecstatic but goofy grin. I cross the finish minutes under my goal time, thrilled to be done.  My first half, a celebration of my 35 birthday, a summer of working towards a goal I never thought I could meet.

I think I might just try it again.


Christina said...

congratulations! Great job! :)

Carpenters said...

Wow! Go you!