As promised, I am going to give you the second half of my story about running my first half marathon.
We are now at race day. The big day. The day I have been having panic attacks over. I wake up in the morning and get myself ready. I double check that my K-Tape is in place. I put on my outfit. Make sure my hair is done in a way to keep it out of my face and head out. I eat my banana and Luna bar on the drive over. I am doing everything like I have planned it out to be. This is my moment. This run is about me and proving to myself that anything is possible.
As I am driving the cold streets of Anaheim, I am trying to think of what is about to happen. I pull into the driveway that is marked for employees and attempt to get in. I did this because this employee parking lot is right where the race ends, and if I am too wiped out after I will at least be able to make it to my car. I thought this all out, even after my friend told me where she was parking. I thought, “Nope, this is going to be it.” I start to panic as I realize the security bar won’t swing open. At this point it is 4:45 and the race is supposed to start at 5:00. Just when I am about to try and reverse out of the lot, the security guard slides open his door and looks at me. I am clearly not an employee, but he says, “Oh, you are working the event, right?” Then he winked and opened the gate. I gave a huge sigh of relief. This guy could have made it harder on me and sent me on my way, but he was nice enough to just let me in. I knew that things were just going to get better from there.
Once I parked I called my friend to see where she was, she was in the process of walking in so I went and checked in my bag. As I checked my bag I was checking my running belt; bandaids (check), ear buds (check), chapstick (check), cell phone (check), Pandora set to the Calvin Harris station (check). I was good to go. I stood around waiting for Tifa and saw all the women around me prepping for the run. It made me so hyped up to be a part of something that was promoting the health of women and our unity. Tifa found me and gave me a hug. She asked “Are you ready? You know you got this?” Then we agreed to meet after the race was done. She was running in a faster heat than I was so we wouldn’t be able to stick together.
I went to the last gate of people, I was in the slow moving crowd because I didn’t have an official half marathon time I couldn’t pick which heat I was running in. At first I felt bad that I would be with all the people who were slow movers, but as I listened to conversations and looked around, the people around me were made up of women who looked thin and fit, older women, women who like me were running for the first time. I knew that all the fears I had were not true. I wasn’t going to fail. This group of people around me proved it. Although each person runs for a different cause, we are all running to finish, and that was it for me, FINISH.
Although the race was slatted to start at 5:00, by the time my heat was released it was close to 5:30/5:45. I made sure that I was stretching and keeping warm as I waited. When we made our way to the start the only thing I could help but think was, “this is happening.”
The bell rang and like a stampeding herd (there is really no other way to describe the mass of thousands all attempting to run at the same time) we moved slowly forward. The one thing I knew from my 10K was that I liked to find someone to pace. I usually found someone who was going about my pace to keep up with as a marker. In the first mile and a half I was going strong. I ran up the two hills over the 5 freeway and my breathing was strong and steady. Then after I passed mile 2 something happened. My shins started to feel like they were on fire, my foot was hurting. I had a mini panic attack as I was running. I started to doubt myself “Oh no! What have I done! Who am I kidding? I can’t do this!” And in that moment of self doubt I looked up and saw the cheerleaders on the sides of the road, holding signs that read “I didn’t wake up at 4 to watch you walk,” or “Running like that makes my heart beat harder for you.” All this cheesy corny stuff that can’t help but make you smile. What’s more, it made my heart swell thinking all these people are not just out here to support their loved ones, they are supporting all of us.
And so I made a decision right then and there. I knew that upon leaving Disneyland and hitting the streets of Anaheim I will have already run about 6 miles. I told myself, “You know what, at least run through the two parks.” I have always had this weird fantasy of running through Disneyland, this was my chance. And I took it. In the Jeff Galloway training Disney provided for the runners it talked about having a positive mantra. I am not sure if people will think mine is positive, but all I told myself was “Run B*!#&, Run!!” Thinking this made me laugh that I was mentally talking to myself like that, and it also gave me the strength to keep going. I will tell you, I ran through most of the two Disney Parks, I only stopped to say hi to a few friends I saw along the way.
The first was one of the Entertainment hosts who was with Merida! I love this guy, he is someone I have worked with in the past and is a dear person. I would have loved to stop and take more photos with the characters, but the lines were just so long and I really didn’t want to have the stopping affect my race time. I was a woman on a mission. Nothing was going to stand in my way, not even cute characters.
Runner’s high is so true. I found once I pushed past my pain in the first 3 miles I was able to keep going. I feel like I made really good time through Disneyland, and as I ran through Downtown Disney entering the Anaheim neighborhoods I felt like I had pushed myself as hard as I could. One of the best moments was when I was about to leave Disneyland and I saw this crow of Red Hat Society women. They were sitting, standing, wrapped up and yelling for us. It almost made me cry because it was like having my grandma there watching. My grandma is a Red Hatter in the desert and seeing these women cheer was just like having my grandma cheer for me. I ran until I hit Walnut and had left Disney property. I knew this second half was going to be hard because I was no longer running through the world of fantasy I was running through streets. Streets that aren’t even that pretty. I made the most of thins by starting to think of how I was going to tackle my run. Did I want to run a mile, walk a mile? How would I push myself?
Looking back, I am not too sure how I pushed through in some moments. I just knew that when I got to the end I would have someone waiting for me. … Or so I thought…..
As I stated in my last post, my fiance and cousin had gone drinking the night before when I went to sleep. As I hit mile 7 I texted my fiance to tell him where I was and what my estimated end time was. I didn’t hear from him. I texted him again and I texted my cousin. When he answered back he said that he was barely waking up, but they would be there. The tone of the text (if text’s really have tones, because sometimes I am not sure they do) was one that seemed doubtful. I then received a text from my dad saying he had overslept and there was no way he could make it. He of course told me he loved me regardless of my half marathon, but it still stung a little. In that moment I felt like the people I loved most didn’t see how much it meant to me. Yes, finishing was my own personal goal, but I wanted to do a touchdown dance at the end. I wanted to throw my hands up and yell, “Eff yeah b*!@&’s, I finished this!!!!” I don’t think I was asking for much.
So with a heavy heart and hurting feet I plodded through miles 7-9. Then at mile 9 I had to remind myself, if no one shows up what does it matter? I still will have finished, and I can tell them all I did. So I started to reeve myself up for the final few miles. Just as I was about to enter Disney property for the last 2 miles my friend Tifa texted me to say she was done and waiting for me. That was it. I needed to finish. I needed to push myself to meet up with her.
Those last 2 miles were horrible. I kept trying to push myself to run, and my legs just didn’t want to. I walk/ran a lot of the last part. But I knew I needed to run across that finish line. So when I saw the sign for 13 and knew I had .1 more to go I forced myself. I drew each ragged breath, and I plodded on tired feet. And then as I saw the end I heard the cheering, and I knew I made it. I had done it. I have proved my own self doubt wrong. And what’s more. In those last moments was when my friends started to text me (this was around 8:30) saying “Go Monica, go,” “You got this,” “I believe in you.” Even though I knew they were not there, I could feel their words lift me.
I came across the finish line and just wanted to collapse. And that is when I saw it, my finisher medal. I would have pushed a child down to get mine. This heavy thing was worth all 13.1 miles I just did. As I got my medal I looked across the fence and saw my cousin and my fiance waving and smiling at me. It was like a picture perfect moment. I was more excited to see them than taking my finisher picture.
I pushed past the photo booth for finishers and found my family. Jacob grabbed me in a hug and then immediately told me to start stretching. I laughed because it is so like him to always give me advice, but I did. I stopped right in the middle of all the crowds and started stretching. I could feel my legs start to tighten up. I knew it was going to be a hard and painful few days that would follow.
Tifa came and found me in the crowds and we celebrated our run.
This is one of the only photos I have from the end of the race. I was so tired, excited, and hungry when it ended all I wanted to do was get out of there. But looking at this photo and remembering that moment, all I can think is pure bliss and happiness.
Jacob, Rachel and I left Disneyland and headed home. When I got back to my Aunt and Uncle’s house I flashed my medal for everyone. I even sent the following picture message to my two brothers:
I had no problem sharing it in that manner. My older brother is a runner and always telling me to workout more, this was the ultimate in working out for me. The following week I walked around my house wearing this when I wanted to be obnoxious, I felt I had earned it. I love this so much, not just because it is gorgeous, but because I earned it. I finished.
I will totally say, yes, I was sore for two days following this race but I think it was worth it. I think there were a lot of things I would have done differently, but I can change it all for next time. I also would recommend running a Disney race as your first half marathon, it made it so entertaining for me.
I am so proud of myself for finishing that race. I proved to myself that no amount of self-doubt should stand in your way. If you want it, go out and get it. Just keep telling yourself, “Run B*!@%, Run!”