Holly’s Half

In less than 2 weeks, I turn 40….mid-life….half way to oblivion.  Before I have this momentous occasion, I really, really wanted to run a half marathon.  Why?  Because I’m weird like that.

Last fall, I signed up to run a half in Bangor, but hurt my foot quite badly about three weeks beforehand, after a 10 mile run.  I couldn’t run the race and although they offered me my t-shirt and medal, I had no desire for them.  I wanted to earn those things, you know?  A few months later, I wanted to run a half in my town, mostly just as “training”, but again, after a 10 mile run, my foot was hurting and I couldn’t run again.  At this point, I really thought that my body would never be able to run past 10 miles (or 10.4 to be precise).  Maybe that’s all I could do.  Maybe a half marathon was just not in my cards.

But….a half marathon was what I wanted to run.  It’s what I wanted to do and so, so many others have done them, so why the hell can’t I?!?  So I started training again this past spring.  Unfortunately I had to have surgery just 2 days after my 10 mile run, but maybe this would be ok.  Maybe having this major blip in my training would actually “help” my body go the distance since there would have to be several weeks of rest before I could run again.  So I adjusted my training, re-ran a few weeks of the schedule again, including the 10 miler, and my body was really feeling great.

Then….my damn back muscles kept getting tighter and tighter when I ran.  I used to have lower back issues when I was fat, but haven’t had as many in the past few years.  And when my back has been tight, running would loosen it up and I felt great by the time I was done.  But for the past 2 weeks, my back just won’t cooperate.  Would I postpone this half AGAIN?!?


I refused.

I didn’t give a damn if my back is sore. I had to do this.  I know it doesn’t make much sense and I’m pretty sure some of my friends think I’m really, really stupid for running with a bad back, but mentally?  I had to do this….and I had to do it today.

My husband took this just as I was about to walk out the door.  I took so happy and alert and not sweaty.

My husband took this just as I was about to walk out the door. I look so happy and alert and not sweaty.

I’ve been planning this half marathon for several months now.  Originally, I thought I would invite a bunch of my friends to come and run it with me.  Many of us are turning 40 this year, and I figured we could all do this then drink and eat afterwards. But the more I thought about it, the more I just wanted to run it by myself.  Running has always been a very solitary activity for me and I really like it that way. I get to be inside my head and not chit chat and just go my own pace.   Then I thought I’d invite folks to be at the finish line…but I really didn’t want that either. I’d be a sweaty, aching mess, and no one needs to see that.  So instead, my husband and son drove the route and became my “helpers” at the planned “stations.”  These are the two people that I sacrifice my time with to run and train….and they are also the two people I run to get away from.  🙂  It’s fitting that they were there for this very long morning.

Before the day began, I already knew it would be a really, really difficult run.  We’re having a bit of a heat wave here in Maine this weekend. Temps have been near or at 90 degrees with high humidity.  It feels like mid-July instead of June 2.  And I was wearing a winter hat and gloves on my early morning runs less than 3 weeks ago.  I haven’t run in any temperature above 60 degrees since last fall.  My back was also still very tight.  My husband rubbed Icy Hot into my lower back before I started the run and I took some ibuprofren.  I needed all the help I could get.

The first 3 miles were pretty yucky.  I was trying to get used to the temperature and humidity and ignore my tightening back. But I actually felt good for the next 4 miles.  It was hot, but I kept trying to find shade to run in and I gulped Gatorade the entire time.   At mile 5 though, I started to get concerned.  My husband and son were not there.  My body still felt good but I was almost out of Gatorade and really wanted water.  When he hadn’t showed up at mile 6, I figured I’d turn around at mile 7 and hoof it for home.  Was my son hurt?  Did my husband have a heart attack? (Yes, I really thought that.)  I was feeling a lot of anxiety, yet I didn’t want to turn around yet.  The route I had chosen was taking me through 3 towns (originally it was 4, but the heat changed a few things).  Once I got to mile 7, I would be in unknown running territory for me.  I was excited and thrilled at the prospect of not only running in a different area, but being able to run to my dad’s house.  I’d be passing places I’ve known since I was a kid, but had never run past before.  It really is a different experience.  BUT, I needed to make sure my family was ok.  And just as I passed the halfway mark at 6.6 miles, my husband and son come cruising up behind me.

“My god, honey, slow down!  You’re going too fast!!  I was so worried about you!” my husband yells from the car.  I slow down and walk and as he gets out of the car to give me water and energy beans, we discuss that I’m actually going just the right speed for me to finish this without dying (12 minute mile at this point), and he just read my directions incorrectly.  At other times this might have irritated me since we actually WENT OVER THE DIRECTIONS prior to the run, but since I was so happy that no one was hurt or dead and I now had cold water to drink, I just laughed and smiled.

Much of the rest of the run, though, was pretty difficult.  I had to stop and walk after each mile. Most of the time the heat was actually ok, but my back would tighten so badly that I had to keep slowing down.  Amazingly, that never frustrated me.  I was over the halfway point, I kept getting Gatorade and water refills every so often, and I loved being able to run (or walk) on new roads.

And then….mile 11.  This was unchartered territory for me. And at this point I really was just so, so hot.  I was on Durham Bridge Road at this point—my dad’s road.  I wanted to be excited to finally be at this point, but for a while I just couldn’t.  I started walking at about 11.2 miles and walked for at least a mile.  I was losing every bit of “oomph” I had.  Mentally, I kept marking places, “Ok, you can start running again at that point.”  Then I’d walk past that point and find another one.  Finally I got closer to the actual Durham Bridge.  It’s no Golden Gate, but this was a bridge I had fished off from at a very young age with my dad and my grandfather….and there was no way I was walking over this bridge.  I ran it and the breeze from the lake lifted my spirits.  I walked again shortly after the end of the bridge, but this was the home stretch.  I finally picked my sore feet up and ran the last quarter mile or so, ending in my dad’s driveway.

It took me nearly 3 hours to finish 13.1 miles. There were no medals, no fanfare. Just a cold glass of water and chocolate milk from my husband and son.  This was how I wanted my “race” to end.  Typically I LOVE lots of attention and goodie bags, but I wanted to feel good about myself after this run. I didn’t want to compare myself to anyone else and in turn, make me feel bad about myself.  I know this is something I have to work on and it’s no one’s problem but my own.  But today?  Today I just wanted to run a half marathon.

There’s no doubt that I’ll be hurting the next few days.  My back is nearly “out” and I have a hard time sitting or laying down or standing for any length of time.  (I’m actually writing this after taking a pain pill, so if it doesn’t make sense, please forgive me.)  So I guess the big questions are, “Was it worth it?” and “Will do you another half?”  It was most definitely worth it.  The pain will eventually pass, but I’ll always be able to say I ran a half marathon.

Now….will I do another one?  I hope so.  When I said to my husband, “You know, as I was running down Durham Bridge Rd, I really tried to forget about the heat and enjoy the fact I was running and walking on this road that I’ve known my whole life, and try to see things I wouldn’t normally see in a car. It might be the only time I’ll run this far.”   He looked at me and said, “So….maybe try again this fall?”  I laughed.  “Yeah…maybe.”

Post-half and post-shower. :)

Post-half and post-shower. 🙂

7 thoughts on “Holly’s Half

  1. Holly……..you rock. I would have never guessed you would be pushing yourself like this when I knew you “back in the day”. You are truely an inspiration. I wish we were a lil closer as my focus at work is treating people with back pain. Hope to see you again sometime soon!

  2. I fished there with my grandfather too what a coincidence. And i never about this run til today. geesh. i love you and could never be prouder

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