Three months of training. Approximately 62 hours, or 350 miles, or 50 runs. An entire winter/spring season spent looking forward to one event. And now, suddenly, I'm on the other side of it. 13.1 miles, done.
The Run Through Redlands 5K was the first race I participated it. It was 2011, I was carrying an additional 20 pounds and couldn't run two straight miles. I felt terrible on the morning of the race, like a big poser on the way to make a total fool of myself. Afterwards... I can't really describe the feeling. Happy, high, accomplished, a part of something wonderful, maybe? I promised myself that I would come back next year and run the half marathon.
But the next year, I was heavily pregnant and watched from the sidelines. The year after, I was struggling to balance an always-sick infant with work and stopped running altogether in the spring. I once again toed the line of the 5K and, though it was a great day, I was envious of all the other runners who made the turn for the half marathon while I huffed and puffed my way to the finish line.
This year was my year. I followed a training plan for 13 straight weeks, running tempos and fartleks, hill repeats and intervals, even a 15 mile long run just as prescribed. I cross trained to build muscle with the hope of gaining speed and avoiding injury. There were plenty of early mornings and not-so-great runs, but honestly, I enjoyed the training process immensely. I wasn't sure if I would like being on a training plan (I mean, come on, adding yet another set of have-to's to my day? Really?) but I actually loved knowing ahead of time what my workouts would be for the week and knocking them out one by one. I went to bed early and gave up alcohol with a sense of purpose, knowing that I needed to be at my best to crank out 25-30 mile weeks. It took discipline, yes, but I also found it sort of... freeing.
So, while I was looking forward to the race, I went into it relaxed and feeling ready to accept whatever the day brought me. I've come a long way since my first Run Through Redlands three years ago, reflecting on the journey at the starting line of a half marathon was humbling. Just getting there, making it through the training and arriving on race day healthy, in shape, and ready to run, was enough.
Well.... almost enough. I still really wanted to beat my 2:29 PR.
The race went by in a blur. The crowd was sparse but enthusiastic, the volunteers were incredible, and the hills were as painful as expected. My whiny knee quieted down and didn't make a peep for the entire run. I took 3 Gus and drank water at every aid station. I stopped running once to switch to a different podcast, which probably added a minute to my finishing time. I have no memory of the middle of the race, except that it went by quickly and I was grateful for cool weather and overcast skies. I ran the last two miles fast, and my lungs burned. My family was waiting for me along the final stretch, but I was so focused on breathing and hauling ass that I did not even see them.
Final time? 2:21:29.
That's a PR by 8 minutes, and exactly what I hoped to accomplish. Overall, it was a fantastic morning and a near-perfect race.
I popped a bottle of wine and am taking two weeks off from serious running, but after that... we'll see. I am the sort of person who needs goals, so I can guarantee that I will not be between training cycles for too long. It's time to set my eyes on a new prize.
For now, I'm content to kick back and spend a few early mornings looking at this face instead of hitting the road. Can you blame me?