"Smile Laura!", she kept shouting from just behind me as we gave it our all and sprinted towards the finish line. She had told me just what to do. "Now this is what you're going to do" she told me as we ran together in stride, "as soon as your feet hit that field I want you to give it your all and sprint towards the finish line. I know you've got it in you Laura!" she said. Before I knew it, I was there, doing just what she had told me. It was just as she said it would be. She was still cheering me on as I made that final step across the finish line. All I could think of was "I actually made it, it's over, I did it!
Miles of red, yellow, blue, white, orange and black dots stretched out before me, each one bobbing to the rhythm of their own pace. From where I was I couldn't even see the front of the line. I knew if I could, one of those dots would be Ryan. With the steady sound of shoes beating on the pavement also came the sound of heavy breathing from the hundreds of people around me. It was as if everyone was breathing in unison. I'm taking it all in. I think something inside of me thought, "this isn't normal, thousands of people running, together, 13.1 miles". But yet, it felt so right. It felt good.
My plan was to take the first two miles slow, really slow. I wanted to save my energy for the hills and for the last few miles knowing this wasn't going to be easy for me. I glanced behind me a few times at the beginning, worried I was last in line! I didn't want to be last.
I expected to run the race with a 10 minute mile. I couldn't be sure if my Run Keeper was completely accurate while I ran, but from what I could tell it was. My pace was around 9:21. I didn't know if I should slow down or just keep going. I keep going.
I pass by cars stuck at crossroads for the foreseeable future. I pass by cows and farms and barns. I pass by people of all ages cheering me on. Kids waving and giving high fives. Grandparents sitting in camping chairs enjoying the view. Signs that read "Run Now Drink Later". I smile at all of this. This does feel right.
The hills are behind me and after my downhill decent I see Jackson Quary Road in the distance. "Wow, I've already made it this far?" I though to myself. I had run 12 miles of the course once while training so I was familiar with the terrain and geography. I was proud of myself so making it this far.
I see a girl just in front of me. She seems to be keeping a steady pace. She looks nice too. I come up right behind her on the right and keep pace with her stride. There's another thing. This girl just behind me is cheering everyone on. Why is she so happy? Doesn't she know we are running 13.1 grueling miles? Now I feel guilty. I'm reminded of the words my husband prayed over me in the car before the race, asking that the joy of the Lord would shine through me as I ran. Well I don't know if the huffing and puffing sounds I'm making and the somewhat disgruntled look on my face and my wrinkled brow as I run are showing the joy of the Lord, but this girl is on. Before I know it she scoots up to the left side of the girl I'm tailing and starts making friends with her. Holly is her name. I overhear most of what they say and chip in after awhile. I just made two friends.
Okay it's hot. The sun in beating down on me. Why didn't I wear my shorts? I think my stomach is staring to hurt. Yeah it is. My legs, oh no, my knees, actually no my hips, yes it's the hips. Is it time for the fruit snacks I stuffed in my back pocket this morning? Let's try that.
West Union. Furrow Farms. I start to fall back. My friend I was tailing and the encouraging race coach are now a good 10 - 15 feet in front of me. I could feel my body saying "no more, you're done here". I fall back more. Mentally I was not looking forward to what was next, the gravel road. In my trial run the gravel road was the worst part for me. I was wishing for a way to avoid it but knew I couldn't so I caught up to my friends and rounded the corner on the gravel road. Suddenly I took off. Maybe it was the song that was playing on my playlist, I don't know. I'm hesitant because I really didn't want to leave me friends behind. We had been together for the last 4 miles. I'm faithful like that. But then who am I fooling, it's not like I would really pass them... for good.
The gravel road is behind me and there is no sign of my friends. I glance back a few times to check. I feel a little bad. I press on.
Suddenly Holly the cheer coach is on my right. From here she talks me through the last two miles. I begin to think this girl is an angel or a miracle. Truly. She talks me through the next little hill. She reminds me three times to keep my arms going.
We chat. I ask her if she always does this and she says yes. She tells me running has given her so much so she wants to give back to running. She's giving back to me. I feel so blessed.
The last mile was rough but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Holly never left my side. "See those stadium lights?" she asked me as we rounded the corner on Bennett St "those are your lights" she said! I just smile. She's the best!
As we neared the stadium she gave me her final instructions as to what I would do when I reached the stadium, encouraging me every step of the way. "Why me?" I thought. "How is it that out of thousands of people this girl picks me to cheer on to the end?
"One step up right here Laura" she said as she pointed to the sidewalk that would lead me to the field where the finish line was. We keep running. I feel the excitement building as I see all the people cheering.
"Smile Laura" she shouts out to me as I take lead on the field. "Smile Laura!"
Running my first half marathon was the best experience. If I race again, and I hope that I do, I don't think that any race will compare to this one. I'm so so so very thankful for my godsend Holly who pushed me and coached me through my first race. I finished in 2 hours 3 minutes 54 seconds. My pace was 9:27, much faster then I had trained for.
Ryan came in 43 out of 2400+ people! He's got some talent there. We both had a great time and I'm already on the lookout for my next race!
And yes, I'm addicted.