December 3: Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)
When I first read this prompt, I have to admit I was a bit frustrated. How the heck was I going to remember anything that happened this year that fit this description when it's been crazy, and busy, and full of long hours of working. Then I remembered. I ran a half marathon this year. I ran 13.1 consecutive miles on a Sunday morning in September, without stopping except 1x to take a quick potty break. I had never run more than 9 miles at any one time, and that was only a few weeks prior. I have to say.. that was one of the most amazing days I've ever had. You can read about the pre-race here, but I never did come back and blog after the race.
We got to the H.S. early, so that the kids could help work with the band sponsored post race cookout, and I could pick up my registration. It was a chilly morning, and I must admit that I was nervous. I paced, and warmed up, and paced some more. I was really worried about my leg. That cranky calf muscle, and the problems I was having with my foot were enough to prevent me from finishing the race, and really, the calf pain I had the week prior could take me out in the first mile. There were only about 200 registered runners this year, and as we all walked to the starting line, it seemed more like a small group of friends going off for a group run instead of a race. I got to the starting line, and one of my co-workers husbands, who has been hugely supportive of my running said to me, "Congratulations.The race is half won already". I learned that if you start out at the end of the pack, and maintain your pace the whole time, you will finish pretty near the end of the pack. I wasn't in it to race, I was in it to finish, so pretty much I didn't care. The sun was out, the course was lovely, and my calf was a little tight. I pretty much bartered with God the entire time to just let me finish, and then whatever bad thing was going to happen to my leg could happen after.
I created a brand new play-list on my iPod the night before, using songs I had run to regularly, and some news ones, and they were all in a new order. I thought that having a different mix would help keep things fresh and new. We spent the first part of the run in a neighborhood I knew, then ran on the tracks for a bit, which I enjoyed immensely. My running career started out on these same tracks, but in my own town, so I had a few moments of nostalgia as we did that 1.1 mile section of the race.
I enjoyed not knowing the course before hand. It kept it new, and exciting. One of the covered bridges was closed for construction, and so we had to detour around another part of town, out where my friend Lars used to live. In fact, we passed right by her old street. We also did a bit of running on a more busy "highway road", and I have to say, I hate car exhaust when I am running. Along the whole route, were groups of teens who were there to point us in the right direction, offer us water, and cheer us on. Some of them didn't have their hearts in it, but the ones who did made me feel like a super hero. It was a hard race. Around mile 8, the course headed up and down a roller coaster or a road, that about kicked my arse. When I got down to mile 10, where it flatted back out into a part of the route I had run regularly all summer, a part that I could run with my eyes closed, I was just exhausted. Those last 3 miles were hard. My foot was killing, my leg was sore, I was tired to the core and I think it took me a good 40 minutes to finish from there. Not something I'm proud of, but by then, I was just trying to get to the end. Every step I took after 9 miles, was one more step then I'd ever run before in my life, and no matter what happened between then and then end, I felt like a winner.
I can't remember what my actual time was anymore, and I finished quite near the end of the group. I think there were maybe 20 or 30 people who finished after I did, but I don't care. I finished. I started out to run that race, and I did it without quitting, without stopping, and I felt awesome. I realized later, that I didn't train very well for the race, and next time I will do better. I learned the importance of getting the miles in, and running the long run a few weeks prior, and then tapering off before the race to let your body recover. I learned that I need to drink more the week before hand, and the week after, and that you need to loosen your laces before the race so that when your feet swell, you don't lose circulation in your foot. After the race we went to a Labor Day cookout at my brothers house, and the congratulations I got there were icing on the cake. It was an amazing day, that I will never forget. I plan to do it all over again next year.