Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"PR Day"

"Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall..." (Yeah! Pretty much describes me...)

So. Yesterday was the great Dallas White Rock Marathon. I ran the half, along with my roommate, Jessica. It was my first time running 13.1 miles, so it was definitely a Personal Record (PR) day for me!

I struggle to know what to tell you about this race, partly because it just happened and I'm still a little bit in shock that I was able to accomplish the entire run, as acquainted as I am with my own physical and psychological weaknesses. The magnitude of the weaknesses overcome is foremost in my mind today.

At the same time, I struggle because I was enveloped in such an enormous crowd of runners yesterday that I realized, quite possibly for the first time: what I was doing was so large to me, but it was very, very small in reality. I was one tiny individual in a massive sea of finishers. If you look at the website, you'll see that I finished in the final 25% or lower in every categorization! Yes, I accomplished a goal. But what I actually did was very small when you peer through the grand cosmic spectacles.

I am okay with that.

I do want to tell you some things that impressed and surprised me. 

Major impression of the morning: It. Was. Freezing!
Jessica and I somehow came by all these "throwaway" clothes from Jessica's family, and the night before we planned out our layers. We knew we wanted things that we wouldn't be too terribly sad to part with, because we would, like most other runners, need to shed items as we warmed up through the run. I wish you could have seen us... I was wearing a full set of white long-johns over my pants and t-shirt. I looked like a marshmallow wearing a diaper. Then on top of that I was wearing some big baggy t-shirt. About the only cute thing visible was my headband, designed to wick away sweat and keep my ears warm (successful!). I cut the cuffs and waistband of the long-john leggings for quick, easy removal over running shoes. Jessica went one step further. She cut the "seat" out of her long-johns and just wore the legs over her running tights, like extra-long leg warmers. Under her outer layers (similar to what I wore on top) she was wearing her Team In Training purple jersey from a race run with an Oklahoma team AND... socks. Old socks. Socks that she cut the toes off of and pulled them over her arms to keep them warm once she shed her long-sleeve shirt. 
VALUE JUDGMENT: It worked!! We may have been the silliest pair of girls running (oh, besides the ones wearing tutus and santa outfits ... and the people dressed like bananas ... um, and the people wearing the trash bags...), but I wasn't unhappy at all when it came time to leave a few layers behind.

Something unexpected was the 48 minute wait in our "wave" before starting. [FYI, the "wave" was determined by the amount of time you set as your goal for finishing the race. Everyone selects a completion time when they register for the race. Then you get assigned a letter and you're supposed to line up in front of the post with your letter on it. Well, they gave up on posting letters to the corrals after the letter 'N' and we were in Wave 'O' -- pretty much a free for all!] Supposedly the race began at 8 am. Once we got all set up in our corral, we heard from Father Henry (who completed his 18th White Rock marathon yesterday!) that the official start time was 8:10. They let the wheelchairs go first, then the elite runners, then each wave starts, one at a time. I guess after the 'N' wave they just turned us all loose! 

The greatest part of waiting for 48 minutes was waiting together with Fr. Henry. It is great to hear snippets of his experience as a veteran runner. He ran the Boston Marathon on its 100th anniversary. His favorite is the New York Marathon, which he's run twice. He told us about the Boroughs and how they vary so vastly in the ways their residents interact with the marathoners. I felt uncomfortable as the speakers blasted Katy Perry songs in front of my pastor. He and Jess joked about whether or not this would be a "PR Day" for him, and it was determined that it might be, only for the amount of time he had to wait before actually crossing the Start -- previously, his longest wait was 38 minutes! I had no idea what a "PR Day" was so they explained: "PR" means "personal record." Excellent. It was a PR Day for me from that moment! Thank you, Father, for the blessing gained in the waiting.

"but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;

   they shall walk and not faint."

You might be wondering how those wounds fared through the run. Well, I lost my bandaid on my hand pretty early on, so I was half wearing my glove and half holding it away from the sore. My knees throbbed a little in the bruised places, but for the most part they left me in peace!

What helped me most:
  • Jessica, my roommate and precious friend. She's run two marathons and she's pretty much a beast in all things athletic (plays soccer, beats people up with her black belt, etc.). She trained with me and stayed with me the whole way, even when my pace surely must have had her feeling like she was running in place!
  • The girls in front of me with Bible verses on the backs of their t-shirts: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)
  • The girl whose shirt read "I'm Pregnant" on the back. 
  • Remembering every encouraging word written from my many sweet friends! I had so many words to replay in my head!
  • Truly believing that I could only make my body do what God enabled it to do, and knowing that He was with me. I prayed so much and pled for His strength in my weakness. There was a girl with a long paragraph on the back of her shirt about how all her athletic conquests were through the strength of Christ, to His glory, not her own. I was so thankful to have her in front of me most of the time! 
  • Waiting to get to my new pink shirt that says, FRONT: "You think I run funny?" BACK: Wait til you see me walk tomorrow!"
  • The 'cheerleader' with the sign that read: "RUN, COMPLETE STRANGER!" When runners admired the sign she shouted, "Hey, this sign is for YOU!"
  • This might sound cheesy, but the people who stand on the sidelines and call your name off your bib and tell you you're doing a great job and to keep it up and finish strong -- those people really help! (There was some guy running next to me for a couple miles named James. He must have been looking really rough cause I heard about 12 people say things like "You can do it James! James, I know you want it! James, you're looking great! Finish strong, James." I didn't stop to check him out.) If you think you can't run [you probably can!], I encourage you to be a cheerleader. You are giving those runners the positive energy needed to keep going another quarter mile. In the last 4 miles my emotions were high and I was tearing up at the selflessness of people who left their houses early on a Sunday morning to clap and cheer us on, hold out the Kleenex for us to grab as we ran by, offer us homemade oatmeal cookies, and so on. THANK YOU, COMPLETE STRANGERS!

I have to tell you about the secret Purple Team. Jessica was wearing her Team in Training jersey from the past. Well, the purple shirts worn by the Teams are like a secret society membership card. All these warrior angels in purple shirts kept running up to us to see how we were feeling, if we needed any gu or bio-freeze or 9-1-1. They were so cheerful and awesome! I swear, it was like being surrounded by purple-shirted angels! Every quarter mile someone would see Jessica's jersey and shout "Go Team" or something like that. Let me tell you, there is nothing like being part of a community joined for a cause!

Did I mention Jessica?
During the last 3 miles I really started struggling (you know, the whole "running in place" sensation really started settling in). I was hurting physically, but the worst part was that we scaled the highest elevation in those last few miles and my lungs wore out (remember, the longest distance I've ever run continuously was 11 miles before yesterday). Around mile 12 she said "What feels the best on you right now?" I said, "My body feels fine! My lungs are giving up on me though." And they were. I think they just wanted to close and put me out of business (I need to practice breathing!). Jess said to me "Focus on your body and use it to get you to the finish." I took her advice as much as possible and tried to relax my breathing. I never started seeing stars, so I guess it worked!

This is going to sound stupid, but for a few minutes there between 12.5 and 13.1, I really, truly believed that the run was never going to end. All rational thought left me. I thought, "This is it. I am going to be running breathless for the rest of my earthly existence. Great." Then someone shouted, "The Finish Line is right around the corner!!" and I found it in my heart to believe him even though I still couldn't see it. Suddenly, there it was. And we crossed the finish line, still running. I remember hugging Jessica, and then I remember all these strangers swarming us with big metal canopies advertising Metro PCS (heat blankets). 

We did it! I achieved my own Personal Record! We didn't fall or sprain or break anything or pass out or turn blue. I was thanking God and thanking my body for working with me. It was amazing to walk into the Runners Tent and hear people from the TX Scottish Rites Hospital for Children start thanking us from their hearts, thanking us for running that day! "We estimate you guys raised about half a million dollars for our hospital today, thank you so much." He guided me to the granola and bananas. "Thank you for running today." I didn't expect to hear that. I didn't expect to want to break down in tears.  I didn't think I could ever finish a half marathon. All of it really happened!

I could not have done it without my friends, my family and my God. Thank you ALL!

"28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God,

   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
29He gives power to the faint,
   and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall exhausted;
31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;

   they shall walk and not faint."
(See Isaiah 40.)

12/5/2010 Dallas White Rock Half Marathon
RunKeeper Live Recorded time: 13.15mi, 2:24:01


DRB said...

Is it too late to cheer? YOU DID IT!!! WOO HOOO!!!

DRB said...

I loved this post! It had everything: it made me laugh (out loud--for real), it made me cry, it made me love God better, it made me so proud of and thankful for who you are, it made me want to be more like you...

I'm still cheering!!

Dudley said...

Thank you for sharing this with me/us; I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Isn't it fun to do or accomplish something for the first time?!!? You have so many more of these blessings in your future.

Peace out sweetie!

Ricardo said...

Beautiful, inspiring, thoughtful, personal -- like running next to you.

James said...

Proud of you, SJB.