Thirteen point one.
A half marathoner. It still doesn’t feel real. In fact- I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t have a painful reminder every time I tried to move my legs. A feat that at one point seemed so ridiculous, so out of my league, is now a check mark on my great “to do list” of life. Objective completed.
Leading up to the race I was stuck between this feeling of wanting the week to fly by and praying for it to go slowly. Ready to get this thing done but at the same time, would sell a kidney if it meant I could have more time. As soon as I woke up the morning before there was a countdown in front of my eyes, a virtual ticking time bomb. Luckily the day passed by relatively painlessly. After some mindless errands and shopping my running buddies all met up for a big pasta party. The tears from laughing so hard were almost enough to make me forget about the 13.1 miles looming ahead of me. Back home in bed however- was a different story. I laid staring at the ceiling for what felt like hours feeling frustrated knowing that everyone else in the house was asleep except for me. And almost as soon as I finally nodded off the alarm went off. I woke up to the sound of pouring rain outside and thought to myself “I must be dreaming- today isn’t the day… it’s not going to rain on my half marathon.”
I quickly realized that yes it was raining and yes, it was indeed the big day. With shaky hands I got dressed, packed up, managed to shove an English Muffin down my throat (in fear of how I would feel 2 miles in without it) and we headed out. The rain had slowed down to a cold drizzle as we headed to the start, but that made my shaking even worse as I tried to pin on my bib on. The race had a “quiet start” which meant no announcers or music so suddenly I looked up – and people were moving! My heart jumped up my throat and I fumbled with my GPS watch as I tried to get my wobbly legs to find a pattern that I could sustain for 13 miles. I remember looking down at my running shoes and thinking “See you on the other side of 13.1!”. I’m weird like that.
The first mile passed almost effortlessly. I heard the familiar chirp of my watch and took a deep breath. My nerves began to calm down. I smiled. We joked about how hard a mile was for me to run a year and a half ago and yet here I was today, running a half marathon. One mile down, twelve to go. I’ve got this.
In fact, the first several miles were relatively painless. With my faithful trainer by my side we we talked and giggled, pointing out funny things along the course. Sometimes I almost forgot that we were running a half marathon, and not just out for a long weekend run. When I saw the beginning of the hills I got nervous, but I wanted to prove that I could do this. After every up and over my heart swelled, for hills have always been one of my weaknesses. On one of the most challenging of the hills we counted thirteen people that I passed and I smiled so big, it hurt. I felt strong, and even stronger once we passed our cheering squad. I’ve got this, I’m doing this. Somewhere before the start of the 8th mile I even bravely said “We’re almost at 8 miles? I feel great!”
And with that statement- came my downfall, and where the details begin to get hazy. My “I can do this” attitude quickly turned into “I don’t want to do this anymore”. I was tired, so tired. My magical sport beans weren’t feeling very magical. The Heartbreak Hill Gorilla that was hilarious the first time was annoying the second time around. I know we saw our crew several times, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how many. My legs felt like bricks and when I tried to calculate how much longer I had to run I freaked. I wasn’t about to hit the wall, I was ready to curl up in fetal position at the bottom of it. I just wanted it to be over.
And this is where the tough love came in. The tough love that I hate so much in the moment, but appreciate more than life itself after. The tough love that reminds me how far I’ve come, and what it took to get here. A reminder of how hard I had worked for this moment. To have someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses better than you yourself know them is a an incredible thing. And while so many details of those last few miles are a blur, those tough love moments are what stick out most in my memory of my first half marathon because I know they are what got me through those difficult miles.
We approached Mile 12 (at least, I think it was somewhere around there because at some point I got my watch taken away from me) and I willed myself forward. I kept thinking about the difference in me running a mile now versus a year ago, and somehow it helped me to keep going. Suddenly I could hear music, I could hear cheering and as I came around a bend I saw it- the glorious finish line. It very well may of been from dehydration but I felt chills all over my body. I, Kathleen Riley, the “former half ass, about to be absolute bad ass” was merely steps away from becoming a half marathoner. I forced the biggest smile onto my face and pushed myself over the finish line. I was breathless- not from running but from the pure awesomeness of what I had just accomplished. The girl who went from not being able to run down the street just finished her first half marathon. You want a “You can do anything you set your mind to” moment? I’ve got one for you right here kids.
It’s been a few days since I ran 13.1 miles and the smile on my face still hurts.