We did it y’all. Jamie and I successfully ran a half marathon, accomplishing the hardest goal on our list for this year. It’s been a journey, that’s for sure, and I want to thank you for reading my crazy thoughts, following along with this journey, supporting and encouraging me. I truly could not have made it through this journey without your kind words of encouragement and accountability. I started this journey with you and I want to be sure you know the full story, so here is my last half marathon journey post.
To be completely honest with you, I’ve had a lot of different feelings over these past couple of weeks about our half marathon, some harder to digest than others and I have contemplated how I want to share them all. It’s easy to only write about the fun, celebratory parts of my story but that’s not genuine, and I really want you to know it all.
Unfortunately, my half marathon run was my worst run to date. Jamie, Will, Nancy and myself all drove down to Atlanta on Saturday. We had such a fun car ride together. We laughed hysterically discussing our nerves and excitement. We had trained well, we were ready and were feeling all the feels about what we were about to do. When we finally got to Atlanta, we met Olivia and her family for dinner. Nervous about what I should eat and not wanting to upset my stomach, I chose a spinach salad loaded with chicken and yummy vegetables. Although I can’t know for sure, I’m pretty positive this meal upset my stomach from that night all the way through the end of our race.
Sunday morning, we woke up early and I did what I would normally do before a long run. I was feeling good and excited! We got to the race and it was so exciting. There were people everywhere, loud music playing, an announcer and a huge start/finish line. We were pumped! We all decided that we should go to the bathroom before the race started and we had plenty of time. When we finally found the bathrooms, the lines was out of control and we ended up missing the official start of the race because we were waiting in lines (major bummer!)
Elizabeth was able to start with the starting time, Jamie and I started a couple minutes after that, and then Will, Nancy and Olivia started a couple minutes behind Jamie and me. I was happy about this situation because I knew that at some point Will, Nancy and Olivia would catch up with us and it would be good motivation for me. I was pretty certain that because Elizabeth started ahead of us that I wouldn’t ever see her and her fast, long legs. Jamie and I started strong. We were feeling good, talking a lot and actually not listening to any music. The excitement of everything, running with so many other people and exploring a new course was enough distraction and motivation for the first couple of miles. I think that’s the best part about racing a large race!
At about mile 4.5, my stomach started hurting. The best way to describe it is that it felt like there was a hard squeezing bubble in my stomach. It was incredibly uncomfortable, but I kept running, thinking that it would slowly go away. After a mile or so I realized it wasn’t going away. I drank some water, ate a Gu and tried to walk it off but nothing was working, and I started to get really mad. We had to start walking a lot more than what we had trained to do and I was incredibly frustrated. “This is not what I came here to do,” I kept telling Jamie, which didn’t help because he felt so bad for me and was also getting frustrated. Regardless of how slow I was walking or running, he never left my side. He was the strong one, my greatest support, and the one who kept telling me “Our goal is to finish, you can do this!” I couldn’t have done this race without him.
Around mile 9, Will and Nancy caught up to us and it was a sweet encouragement to see them, vent to them about our race and hear that I wasn’t the only one struggling. Did I mention that for some reason we all thought that running in Atlanta meant that it would be flat? Yeah, huge mistake. This course was way hillier than we had expected and trained for, and it was hard. The heat and humidity was also something that we knew would be difficult. They don’t call it the HOTlanta half for nothing. By the grace of God, it was cloudy when we started the race, and it didn’t get super hot or humid until more than halfway through the race. Let’s just say that it could have been a lot worse, but it was still very hot and humid.
(Want to know a funny story? This picture was taken around mile 10 and Jamie and I were walking until I saw the photographer. I looked at Jamie and said “Start running! There’s no way I’m going to be walking in our professional picture!” You better believe I’m planning to get this framed for our house!)
A little bit after Will and Nancy ran ahead of us, Olivia came running up to us. And again, she was such an encouragement to see and to hear that I wasn’t the only one that was struggling (Olivia had thrown up multiple times around mile 4). She went ahead of us, but only far enough where we could still see her until the finish line.
The last couple of miles were really tough. When we were training, I knew the last couple of miles were going to be the hardest part of the race because I would be extremely tired and running on pure adrenaline. These last couple of miles were hard for a completely different reason. Yes, my stomach was killing me and all I wanted to do was throw up, but what was the hardest was the lack of pain my legs and lungs were in. I knew that I hadn’t pushed myself, that my legs and lungs weren’t tired and that if it weren’t for my stupid stomach pain, I could have potentially had the best run of my life. I was angry and wishing so many things that I truly couldn’t control.
We finished the race in 2:47:22. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but our goal wasn’t a time. Our goal was to finish and that’s exactly what we did. With a half a mile left, Jamie looked at me and said “We’ve got to run. We can do this. Run until you throw up.” So that’s what I did. I knew that there was no way that I was going to walk through the finish line. Regardless of how I had felt, I wanted to finish strong. I ran all the way to the finish line and finished with my hands above my head and my head held high. Will, Nancy, Elizabeth and Olivia were there to cheer us through. I ran straight over to the closest bush I could find and thought for sure I was going to throw up everywhere but nothing came out. I stood up feeling really light headed and I couldn’t stand up without holding onto Jamie.
Once I got some electrolytes into my system, I started feeling much better. We took pictures in front of the finish line and headed home to shower before we went to eat lunch. By lunchtime, I was feeling back to normal and we ate delicious cheeseburgers and fries. After lunch it was time to get back on the road to Raleigh, as it was a really quick trip for us.
I was sore the next day, but not terribly uncomfortable. What I experienced greater than physical pain was an emotional breakdown. People had warned me that I might cry when I cross the finish line, which didn’t happen but I never considered how emotional I would be the following day. I am not kidding when I tell you that I couldn’t even think about the race or running without crying. The thought of what I had accomplished came with so many emotions that I didn’t know how to handle or process. I have never experienced anything like this before, and I thought I was going crazy. After talking through my feelings with Nancy, Olivia, Elizabeth and Jamie, I realized that because I was dealing with such severe stomach issues, I didn’t have any time on the race day to really process what I had accomplished.
When you pour your heart, soul and time into something for 6 months that felt completely impossible and then successfully accomplish it, it’s hard to wrap your brain around it. The thoughts were going one hundred miles a minute. I was so proud of myself yet so upset with the feeling that I could have done better.
The night before our race, Nancy read Joshua 1 over us and our race. I wrote “Be strong and courageous” on the inside of my arm the morning of our race. I knew that I would have to be strong and courageous throughout this race and it served as a reminder of the words in Joshua 1. Running has sparked a new fire in my relationship with The Lord and required me to rely on Him and His strength in a way that I have never experienced. We meet The Lord when we step out into the unknown and put our faith into his perfect goodness. Ephesians 3:20 says, “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.” Immeasurably more. Never would I imagine that I would be capable of successfully finishing a half marathon, but here we I am. Praise God! He knew all along that he would use this journey to draw me closer to Him.
Here’s the greatest thing that I learned through all this: Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. For my whole life, I’ve hated running so I assumed that I couldn’t do it. “It isn’t for me” is what I would tell myself, but here I am. I accomplished something that “wasn’t for me” and I didn’t hate it. I actually had a lot of fun through the journey that I would have never experienced if I didn’t take a risk. Don’t get me wrong, this journey didn’t completely change my mind. I still don’t love running but I know that I am capable. This thought has lead to me a lot of other thoughts about my life. What are you not doing because you don’t like it? How is that holding you back from making what matters happen in your life? It could be something as simple as trying a new food, adding exercise in your everyday life or something as complex as childbirth (yes, I said it. I’m terrified of the idea.) or stepping out into a decision or choice in your career that you think you’re not capable of or that you don’t like. Say it out loud. Speak life into that fear or doubt. Comment it below if you’re feeling crazy. I promise you if I can run a half marathon, you can do anything! Be strong and courageous!
I know what all of you are thinking: Now what? True story y’all, I’m quite ashamed to admit that I haven’t been on a run since our race. I have been active but I haven’t actually gone for a run. Part of it is that weather here is miserably hot and I don’t belong to a gym, and part of it is that I don’t have a goal or anything motivating me to go on a run. As I said earlier, this journey hasn’t necessarily turned me into a running enthusiast. Yes it’s turned me into a runner, but not a lover of running and that’s ok. No I do not want to do a full marathon next!
Some people might think that because I had such a terrible race, that I wouldn’t ever want to do one again, and trust me I’ve had those thoughts many times. But I’ve also had the exact opposite thoughts: this race didn’t go the way it was supposed to go and I owe it to myself to try again and race a half marathon when I’m feeling normal. It’s a scary thought, because most of the time I don’t want to do another race, but when I think about how running has changed my lifestyle and made me feel, given me an outlet to release stress and anxiety, I know I’ve got to do another one to keep up with it. So although I don’t have all the answers, like when and where and how, I’m taking it one step at a time and planning to continue to sign up for smaller races like a 5K and 10K in the Fall.
This is where my 2016 half marathon journey ends, but I think this is just the beginning of my running journey. I cannot thank you enough for being a part of this with me! Be sure to click here to read my full 21 week training journey.