Two days ago, I completed my third half marathon. You know how they say that the third time's a charm? Well, "they" (whoever they are) must be right.
Sunday, October 9th, 2011 was a wonderful day. I ran my third and best half marathon of my life. It was such a special accomplishment on so many levels. I've shared previously on this blog how this particular race was my first major race since losing 120lbs and re-claiming my health. But it's also my first major race in 7 years, and I was determined to prove to myself that I haven't lost a beat in that time - that at the age of 31, I am in fact now younger and fitter than I was at 24. And so, I proved just that - I beat my previous best finish time from 2003 by 30 minutes.
My official finish time from this past Sunday = 2:10:23.
It was a really special race because I trained with a very close friend, Patti, whom I've known about 12 years now after meeting in university. I, for the first time, truly understand the power of being part of a running community, no matter the size. Having someone who truly gets it when you ask questions, who isn't afraid to give you honest feedback, who will tell you you "look great" during a race even when you likely don't, and who will motivate you to push hard when you're ready to give in is incredibly helpful. And of course, someone to celebrate the accomplishment with too is priceless. So Patti, I want to thank you for being with me all those Sundays for our long training runs, and for running by my side the entire way on race day. I want to thank you for your patience when I was being negative (and likely annoying as a result) on race day. I want to thank you for your amazing positivity that lifted my spirits and my sore legs out of their misery so we could push hard for the finish. I loved crossing the finish line with you. And I want to commend you for achieving your own personal best finish time! We've got many more races to do yet together.
And the race itself was an incredible event to be part of. The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathonevent attracted over 11,000 runners for the marathon, half marathon, 8km road race, and kids run. Being in a race of such a high calibre was a realization that I am part of a much larger running community. The race is as much about pushing yourself to achieve your best as it is about celebrating the sport of running and the power of the human body and spirit all at the same time, with thousands of others who feel the same way. In addition to the 11,000+ runners, thousands came out to cheer on friends, family, and random strangers. I loved all the encouragement from faces I've never seen before, all the witty signs, all the motivating songs, fun costumes, and of course, the beautiful and scenic seaside route through some of Victoria's finest areas.
As the half marathon started well before the full marathon event, as we were passing Beacon Hill Park again for our final stretch around Dallas Road toward the finish, we started to see the leaders of the pack from the marathon race. What a thrill it was to see the elite runners, in perfect form, running twice the distance we were, at literally twice the pace. How inspiring it is it to know and witness their speed, power, and grace in the sport of running. In fact, three course records were set in this event, with perfect weather conditions and an amazing energy I could never describe here with words.
It wasn't a perfect race for me. I had a bit of negative self talk at points. I was at times less than positive in my comments to my running partner (sorry P). I found I struggled a bit with my pacing. I have to tweak my fuelling strategy. And I had to overcome a throbbing quad muscle that was threatening to cramp up at the 20km mark. But this was also my first real race since I ran the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon in 2004. When I ran that, I only thought about completion, and definitely did not care about pacing or finishing fast. So this race was a first in many ways. And a first that I learned a LOT from. With time, practice, more training, and more learning about the sport, I know I will be able to make my personal best even better some day. On many levels, I have so much to be ecstatic about. I DID IT! I am a half-marathoner! It is not a stretch to say that anymore. It really is who I am.
I've not been able to stop thinking about the race, and I likely won't stop for a while. I'm so proud of how I did. I'm so proud of how Patti did. I'm so amazed at how EVERYONE did. Moments after crossing the finish line, having some chocolate milk and a banana, and giving my legs a good stretch, my thoughts quickly went to, "ok, what race shall I do next?" I was soon greeted by my sweetheart, Cam, who I could tell was bursting with pride. We spent the afternoon and evening with family for a delicious and memorable Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was so encouraging and we talked and talked about the race. Family and friends have been incredibly supportive, and I feed off the energy. I know I'll be racing again really soon!
We got home from Victoria yesterday. One of the first things I did was hang up my finisher medal on the wall with my other ones. It felt amazing to do so. My humble medal collection is no longer a souvenir of a past version of me. Now it's a symbol of who I am NOW, and where I want to go NEXT as a runner.