I surpassed my fundraising goal. I completed my training. I made it to California with my team. I made it to race day. Now here’s the story of my first half-marathon.
I didn’t know anyone in my corral, but we were all chatting before the race began. There were several Team Challenge runners and we automatically grouped up together. I was extremely nervous, I had no idea what to expect. Yes I had done my training and our coaches did prepare us, but my mind goes to extremes sometimes. I kept picturing myself getting picked up by the sweepers and being laughed at on the sad bus (not the actual term for the bus, but that’s what I called it).
It really helped that the weather was perfect. It was nice and cool, high 50s – low 60s with overcast skies. I was used to running in the South Florida heat in June. Once the race began I realized this wasn’t so bad, just one foot in front of the other. The course immediately begins with a steep hill, which is nicknamed “But Burning Hill.” My pace slowed down going up the incline, naturally. This woman next to me, her name was also Julie, told me if I was going to walk the entire time I needed to walk quickly. She had completed one half-marathon before so naturally she talked like she was an expert. Insert eye roll here. Chill madam expert, I’ve got this.
Other than that, most people I talked to along the way were super nice and encouraging. There is such a great community among runners, they may be strangers but not on the course. They will help you no questions asked.
Team Challenge coaches were running up and down the course, even if they weren’t your coach they still checked on you. I lost count of how many coaches ran along side me talking to me checking on my progress. You are never alone. Every mile or so there was a cheer station of Team Challenge staff decked out in blue, orange and crazy outfits screaming their heads off for you. It really does help, I noticed every time I passed them my pace would increase a little bit.
The thing about the course in Napa is the roads have lots of pot holes and are in desperate need of repaving. The roads were uneven and after about 10 miles of running/walking on the same side I noticed my right hip and right foot were killing me. I didn’t compensate for the uneven road and I slowed down. One coach from Texas started walking with me and I told him I would be fine as long I can just walk the rest. For about two miles he stayed with me and I was telling him my story. At one point after realizing that I had been near death in a hospital and now was running/walking in a half-marathon I started crying. Tears flowing down my face. All of a sudden three more coaches were there making sure I was okay and I told them these were good tears. They did notice I was limping a little and I said I’m not getting pulled off this coarse I’m going to finish.
My coaches found me about a half-mile away from the finish line. They were worried, I was the last one in my team, but I was still going. They helped me that last stretch and guided me right over the finish line. My entire team was there cheering me on, which was again, overwhelming.
My cousin was there and had my mom on the phone. A volunteer approached me slowly, as if I was a wild animal, and told me he was going to cut of my tracker from my shoe. Another put my medal on me and then before I knew it was guided to a chair and had my feet soaking in ice. Without even asking someone gave me a burger and I inhaled it and asked for another. 13.1 miles works up an appetite.
There is a natural high I had after I crossed the finish line. It didn’t matter that I was in pain, or I had blisters on my feet, or that I was physically exhausted. I was on top of the world. Every early Saturday group training, every thing I did leading up to this was worth it.
For more information about Team Challenge go to www.ccteamchallenge.org.
I still have a few more Team Challenge adventures to write about. Stay tuned.