The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bellingham Bay Half Marathon

Bellingham Bay Half Marathon

September 27, 2009

Crisp with the smell of fall, the air was alive with excitement. People were milling around the start area trying to ward off the chill of the early September morning. The cloudless sky brought on the promise of warmer temperatures. Although chilly, I knew my best bet was a tank top and running skirt. I hadn’t run a race yet this year without battling the sun’s heat and was grateful for this welcome change. I’d take the chill any day.

My sister Marcy was toeing the line of her first half marathon. She decided early in the year she would take the challenge and train to walk the 13.1 miles that now lay ahead of her. If she was nervous, she didn’t show it. At all. But that was ok, I was nervous for her. Since I was the one who planted the seed in her brain, there was a chance she would walk the course, hate it, blame me and then never speak to me again. Or she would walk the 13.1 miles and realize the huge accomplishment she succeeded in, giving her a whole new insight to her strength and determination lending her heart to swell with pride. I knew the latter would happen but could in no way explain it to her. She had to experience it. Amidst well wishes, we hugged each other and took our places in the starting corral according to our pace. The horn blared and the journey began.

The first mile being a gentle downhill gave me an excellent “warm up” mile and I clocked an 8:38. My excitement was uncontainable as I realized this was going to be a good race for me. My second mile came in at an 8:33 cementing the realization that I felt I wasn’t working that hard and all the speed work I had done was paying off. Leaving the city and winding our way past the ocean we began a two mile ascent slowing my times to 8:43 and 9:08. At the top of the hill we turned back toward town and through the old neighborhood I lived in. I consistently ran in the 8:30s until mile 9. Here we made our way back downtown up a long hill taking us away from the ocean’s edge. Downtown was alive with people cheering words of encouragement while making noise with whatever lended them to be louder than the person next to them. One college student stood on the side of the road banging pots and pans together. I gave him an A+ for creativity. Bellingham had shown up in force to support the 1600 or so of us running the course. It helped tremendously in spurring me up and over that hill.

We weaved our way down a trail taking us back to the ocean where we ran over the water on the boardwalk. Boats peppered the water watching us making our way down the board walk. It was a perfect day. Maintaining an average 8:40 pace for 9 miles was taking its toll and mile 10 I had slowed down to a 9:28 pace. Of course, the hill could’ve played some part in that too. Mile 11 took us to Taylor Dock which is a short, but very steep dock leading off the boardwalk and onto dry land. My Garmin chirped the 11 mile lap and then went crazy. There were beeps flying all over the place. My watch was swearing at me. I had to slow to a shuffle and then a walk to figure out what was going on. Apparently my lap counter was full and I had to delete old laps. Great. Trying to do this amidst all the beeping, my watch was getting irritated with me and refused to accept any of the button presses I was making. Now it was my turn to use my very own human beeps. I hit the stop button and had to kiss my instantaneous knowledge goodbye. I was now running by how I felt and not by the comfort of the numbers I could look at on my wrist. I questioned my survival.

The next 2 miles was one hill after another. I was tired. I really, really wanted to walk. Each time the urge got too great I could hear the words of my friend Beth echo in my mind “A shuffle is better than a walk, a shuffle is better than a walk”. So I shuffled the uphills and ran strong on the downhills. Looking down I saw the 4k marker for the 5k that was run earlier on the course. That was all I needed and I began my final 1k sprint. Well, it felt like a sprint but I really don’t know since my Garmin threw a temper tantrum and walked off the course at mile 11. Rounding the corner we were taken back onto the trail. Here I knew there was a chance I could meet my sister. Every walker heading toward me I studied for the familiar face I wanted to see. I didn’t see her.

Leaving the trail I made the way back onto the city streets leading me to the final uphill and the finish line. I knew I had lost time around mile 11 but was hoping to hit a sub-2 hour anyway. Running strong I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 2:00:24.

With my finisher’s medal around my neck, I left the finisher’s shoot on a quest for some cold water. Drinking it down, I searched for my husband and boys. People were everywhere and I had a hard time finding a familiar face at all. About 10 minutes later I found them running toward the finish line. Traffic was crazy and they had missed my finish.

Knowing if we hurried, we could catch Marcy coming up the road to make her way to the trail. We hustled to the end of the block with one minute to spare. Marcy was making her way up the road. I yelled as loud as I could to get her attention and made my way through the throngs of people to get to her. Here I walked with her until the trail head. She was doing great and looked strong. Once we got to the 9 mile marker and I told her I would see her in 4 short miles and sent her on her way.

Knowing, from the marathon I’d run 2 weeks prior, just how dark and lonesome and evil those final couple miles can be I couldn’t leave her to finish them alone. After waiting for what I guessed to be the time when she’d hit the final mile, I left my family at the finish line and made my way backwards on the course to meet her and walk her through the Victory Mile. About a half mile down the trail I met her and started screaming for joy. She was almost there. Exhaustion was etched onto her face. Knowing the feeling all too well, I took the lead, set the pace and talked about the excitement the finish line held.

Rounding the corner I exclaimed in glee “There it is!” and pointed to her very first finish line. My pride bubbled over to tears and I left her to cross into the finisher’s shoot on her own. I raced down the sidelines to give her a big congratulations hug. She had done it. She embarked on the journey and successfully finished it.

The day is over, the wine is chilled and the pride is still welling below the surface. The results have been posted and my sister did a fantastic 3:21:13. My hopes of a sub-2 hour half happened as my time is posted as 1:59:38 placing me in the top24% of my age division and the top 36% overall.

The real joy comes from seeing goals accomplished. There is nothing like a race that tests you, challenges you and delivers you a different person on the other side of the finish line. Today was such a day. And in that, I celebrate. I think I’ll have another glass of wine.