Yesterday, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon in Tacoma. And I finished. Let me sum up.
I signed up for this race back in the late spring. I figured I’d have enough time to train for it, adding in Saturday long runs to increase distance. I did 8 miles, 9 miles and so on, adding another mile each week. My training runs, as you know, met with mixed results. I hurt, and a lot. Pain during and after these runs rated about a 6-8. The last long run I did, which ended up being just shy of 12 miles, was on September 1. Then I got a cold, which kicked my butt for most of the week. I had to taper much earlier than I planned.
My last run Thursday before the race ended up being around 2 miles. Due to jackhammer-like pain, I had to piecemeal it. Enormously frustrated, I walked inside, head down. That night, I’d had it. How could I possibly run 13 miles in 3 days?! I could barely run 2 back to back.
Mercifully, Jonathon suggested we pray. At this point, I was angry. I didn’t want to pray. Perhaps you’ve felt this way. Where was God during all this time? I prayed on my own and with others several times during the past nearly 2 years on this very subject.
As we prayed, something came to mind: the 2012 Portland Marathon. That, friends, was my last long race. If you recall, I made it to 18 miles before I bonked and had to drop out. I made light of it and tried to move on, but the failure, after working so hard and trying and pushing, crippled me. Literally. The pain in my back that radiated down my right leg caused me to be able to only walk for a season. You’ll never know how many odd stretches and strengthening exercises I tried to relieve the pain. I improved over time but never reached full strength. I didn’t even like running most of the time because of it. I internalized the failure and as I trained for yet another endurance run, my old inner vows haunted me. I hadn’t forgiven myself. It appears I jammed the disappointment and self-hatred at scoring a DNF into my right rear pocket. Nobody could see it, but boy, did I feel it!
I had to repent of believing I was a loser. I had to confess I thought of myself as a failure, at least in this regard. My body could only react to what my spirit told it. Believe me: I know this sounds weird. All I know is after I prayed and told God I was sorry for believing those lies, the healing began. I felt the pain moving like a tingling down my back and out my leg.
The healing continued that night as I slept. I could lie on my back again, where for nearly 2 years I’d had a golf ball-sized knot preventing me from any position but on my left side. My right shoulder got healed, too, something I’d been seeing the chiropractor for for at least 4 years. I was, and am, so very thankful to God.
Grateful and overwhelmed, I hit the start line on Sunday morning with only 2 thoughts: be ferociously optimistic and go slow, taking it mile by mile. Honestly, to be pain-free felt like a huge victory in itself. I almost didn’t care about the race. Almost.
The day dawned beautiful and cold at 36 degrees. Mom, Jonathon and I made our way to Tacoma as the sun topped the tallest trees. Tacoma, situated on the Puget sound, reminds me of Portland. We arrived at the start line and saw several hundred women – and a couple dozen men – waiting and chatting. Most men wore pink, part of the deal allowing them to race. Some took it a step further and wore tutus and pink compression socks. Several non-running dads pushed little boys and girls in strollers as their wives pinned on bibs.
I spotted the 2:00, 2:10 and 2:20 pacers right off. Ideally, I wanted to finish in 2 hours. But since I hadn’t raced this distance in 2 years, I figured I better just aim to finish.
The race had several downhill parts, the tall buildings providing welcome shade. We did a mile loop on a gravel path in a darling local park. Jonathon and Mom waved to me from there.The first six miles went by pretty quickly. I kept around my normal pace and focused on relaxing and looking at the scenery along the way. I thanked God for cool breezes and getting to be outside. This in itself felt miraculous.
Since the race was supposed to be all women, I’d hoped to find camaraderie on the course. I did. As I crested the first overpass down by the waterfront, I chatted with two gals in purple tank tops on my left.
“Why can’t it end here?” I asked, looking out at the peaceful Pacific, dreamy blue in the morning light. Boats large and small pushed through the inviting water. The panoramic view encouraged my decision to walk a minute and breathe it all in.
“Oh, don’t worry, ” said the redhead, her hair back in a French braid under her visor. “It’s pretty flat from here.”
And it was. Flat and long. The stretch to the turnaround proved to be endless. The trouble with turnarounds is that someone is always already on their way back while you continue to soldier on in pursuit of the end of the loop. I kept looking, and looking. Orange safety cones stretched on an endless asphalt horizon. Where *was* the blasted thing?! Wait a minute. What if I turned around now? I could just skip over to the other side of the cones and turn towards the finish. Who would know? Bad Susan! I had to hold myself by the scruff of the neck to stay on the straight and narrow. Sigh.
At last I reached the turnaround. The final 3 miles stretched on and on, sun-drenched and dazzling. I had to walk more here as my stamina gave out. I chose to stay encouraged and enjoy the day anyway.
The two gals in purple passed me at mile 11.
“Let’s go, Shelton!” the brunette cheered. It lifted my heart.
After running for a while by my lonesome, I caught up with a tall gal in blue, dark hair back in a ponytail.
“Hey, good job!” she said to me. Truly, we ladies encouraged each other all along the course. Shouts of, “You can do it!” and “Way to go, ladies!” chorused out across the miles. We were all in this together, win or lose, anyway. No multitasking here.
“And to you! Hey, I’m getting hungry,” I said. My stomach growled its assent.
“Me, too,” she said, a small grimace creasing her face. “But we’re almost there.”
Soon after, she took off. We caught up again later. By that time, we needed to crest one more overpass, run over the top and then down to the finish.
As I spiraled down the ramp, I saw the finish line, inflatable and unmistakable.
“It’s mine!” I said and sped up. Grinning like an idiot, I made it in just under 2:20. Not bad for an old broad. I ran into both the purple-clad ladies, thanking them for their friendliness, and the blue gal.
“I haven’t run a half marathon in 13 years,” the pony-tailed Amazon told me between sips of water. Wow. Impressed,I congratulated her.
I had no idea when I signed up for this race all that would occur. Why didn’t God heal me sooner? I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t ready to admit my own powerlessness and sinful thinking until earlier last week. I’m just glad He healed me. I have a comeback story of my own. Today, I’m a little stiff but nothing too serious.This pain, birthed out of extra exertion, will subside. Thanks be to God! His love endures forever.
But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears. – Psalm 18:6