Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Best. Run. Ever.

There is really no way to fully describe Sunday's race to you. Every time I try, words fail me, all adjectives fall short and I find myself drifting off into my memories.

This was not my first race. It wasn't even my first running race or my first Half Marathon. Still, it was the first time I ever felt the way I did, and do. If I digress here or there, following a tangential limb out to its spindly end, bear with me. And if you take nothing else away from this, it should be this - I'm not the same person I was Sunday morning when the announcer called my wave to the start line.

Friday Night, ~3:00 AM
I wake in a panic. A terrible nightmare left me gasping for breath, full of anxiety. I was running through San Antonio and my lips were split open, dry and cracking more as I ran through the cold. Every step widened the cracks a little more. Even in my sleep, my mind was trying to talk me out of the race.

Saturday, Noon-ish
Gathering the last of my gear for San Antonio, I hurried around the house hoping that I hadn't forgotten something vital. Salt tabs, Advil, body glide, race belt, fleece headband, Ashe tee, hoodie, gloves, socks, confirmation letter, Gu packs, timing chip, watch, RoadID and sunglasses. That was just for the run. Since we were staying the night, there was all sorts of other gear to be gathered, double-checked and loaded. As I went over the 'final' checklist, I noticed my running shoes in the closet. D'oh! Disaster averted.

Saturday, Evening
Packet pickup went smoothly enough. The ride up was fun, and I enjoyed the distraction Bradford, Kristin, Arvind and Sha's company offered. At dinner, the kitchen was full of people, laughter and chatter. Food was delicious and a quick check on our fundraising total brought a smile to my face. It was wonderful to see how much people cared about what we're doing and the cause we support. Bedtime arrived before I knew it and sleep came more easily that expected.

Sunday, Early Morning
Wake up time came all too soon. Once we got up and moving, everyone seemed very charged. There were red Asha tee-clad runners everywhere! I went for my habitual warm-up run in sub-freezing darkness, hoping that the sun would bring warmth and energy to my sleepy body. Upon arriving at the parking lot, I finally realized how massive this event really was. A steady stream of shuttles carried off an ever-growing river of people. We jockeyed for position in line, both waiting for the shuttle, then the toilet (EIGHT potties for 30k people), then the shuttle again. Overheating on the bus over, I noticed more and more people on foot the closer we got to the race start. We walked a few blocks to the beginning, hoping for the luxury of toilet paper for our last pre-race pit stop. Stepping over mounds of shed sweaters and jackets, we sped past the later waves and found Corral 21 - our wave. Minutes later, after hugs and giddy good lucks, we were off.

Sunday, The Race

This is why you're here, right? I wish this were more cohesive, but these memories come in flashes. I will try to keep it as chronological as possible.

Kristin and I worked to find our comfortable pace, Bradford warming up next to us. Once he sped up and broke away, we started pacing with a couple of APD officers. This only lasted about 2-3 miles until we left them at a water stop. Somewhere between that point and mile 10, I remember these things:

-Groups of girls dressed in '50's costume and Elvis get-ups...cheering and clapping as we rounded a center plaza
-"Love is a Battlefield" performed live by a lone musician in front of the Alamo
-A man riding a bicycle with a portable stereo playing a march call "Left, right, left right..."
-The Elmo signs "Hooray for you!"
-A terrible pain in my left hip that I was too afraid to mention to Kristin
-Pictures of lost loved ones on the backs of Team In Training runners
-Children holding out their hands, as if collecting hi-fives
-Contemplating leaving my hoodie at a small business to retrieve it late (I love my hoodie)
-A smiling Hispanic guy standing under a tree holding a sign that read "I love you, Jenny!"
-Cheering family members FREAKING OUT as their loved one ran by ("HOOOOOOOOOOLLY!!!!! Holly! Look! It's Holly!")
-The running "Spartan" in all his splendor
-The smiling couple who let me use the port-a-let in their yard...and there was TP!
-Dodging the street reflector in the middle of the road
-Randomly cheering and hearing my fellow runners echo back
-Realizing at 1:15 that we had a chance to hit our goal time
-Greedily grabbing 2 Clif Shots and then regretting the decision as they bounced around chaotically in my hoodie pocket
-My favorite sign - 'Your feet hurt because you are kicking a$$'

Many times during the race, tears welled up in my eyes. Most of the time, I was feeling joy - there were so many people out there supporting. They left their warm beds and committed to standing and cheering for thousands of people they will never meet.

That's what really hit me.

The whole reason I am running is to help countless children I will never meet. Each of those spectators gave me hope that, yes, I would prevail. And that's what we're doing for the kids in India. With our help, they will prevail and they will live a better life. So in the end, this post is for all my coach, my fellow runners, my Asha donors and all those cheering people lining the road Sunday morning. You're all part of this journey.

Thank you. There is no way I could have done this without you.


Sharanya said...

Thrilled that it went so well for you, Stephie! I'm so proud of you, and all that work that you've put in for this race! You radiate so much positive energy! Rooting for you all the way!

From your No. 1 fan. :)

gk said...

Awesome report...its as if I was there seeing the race happen :P

Jeanine said...

Wow, this race report is amazing. And what a great purpose you have for running - helping countless children you will never meet. That is something to be proud of, you are truly making a life better.

I second Sharanya and am quickly becoming your biggest fan.