Third Time’s the Charm… Maybe

Yesterday I completed the Austin Half Marathon for the third time. I’ve had a bit of a rough ride at this race, due entirely to my own fault.

The first time I was highly prepared. I’d run for months beforehand, including long runs of 10+ miles. And by run, I really mean walk/jog, because even with months of training, I was still not a great runner. I got the highly lucky (to me, anyway) race number of 13000.

It was my first half. My family came to cheer me on, including my grandma. It was awesome. I came in at 3:28:14 which is glacially slow for a real runner (the winner could’ve run it three times by the time I finished), but it beat my goal of 3:30, so I was super happy. So the first race went off without a hitch.

Later that year, I managed to get a stress fracture by doing nothing at all (really… I wasn’t even running when it happened) and decided I shouldn’t sign up for the race in 2013.

Or so I thought.

I guess attendance was down, because the race offered a two-for-one deal. Buy 2013 and your 2014 race was included. A friend offered to walk with me and so I signed up. Because why not. Thirteen miles is a long way, but it’s not impossible, and I’d done it before.

Except that I decided to do a “training walk” a week before the race. I hadn’t been exercising regularly thanks to my on-again-off-again achy foot, so I was somewhat concerned about the race. During the training walk, I gave myself quarter-sized blisters on the bottoms of both feet.

This is when a smart person would’ve pulled out of the race.

I am not a smart person.

I walked it anyway. At mile eight-ish, I stopped at an aid station and had them wrap my feet. My friend tried to get me to quit, but I’m damn stubborn and so I toughed it out. It was awful. It was so bad, that I vowed never again. We didn’t come in last, but we were close. It was that bad. It was 4:08:57 worth of bad, even though we had started at a 15:00/mile pace.

But pain and bad memories fade with time. So when 2014 registration came around and it was FREE thanks to the BOGO deal, I signed up.

And once again I didn’t train. My foot still bothers me occasionally and we were gone most of January. I was planning to walk it again, but this time I was walking it cold turkey. We had done quite a bit of hiking on vacation, and I’d been going to gym, so I wasn’t too worried. And I certainly wasn’t going to risk blisters by walking before the race. Even with new shoes and socks, I wasn’t risking it.

I was going to walk with the same friend from 2013. But she decided to cancel the day before, probably because she was having flashbacks to last year’s race. I don’t blame her.

Dustin volunteered to go cheer me on, but I told him to sleep in. Who wants to be up at 5:00AM? Nobody, that’s who. But I was anyway.

I drove myself downtown and headed to the start. I had a couple friends running, but we never managed to meet up. I saw five firefighters in full gear (pants, coats, tanks, and hats) with marathon bibs on. There were three men and two women. All I can say is hats off to them.

The humidity hovered around 100% for the whole race. It was foggy and misty until the sun came up, then it was misty and overcast. It was warm, which is nice for waiting for the start, but not great once you’re actually exercising.

I had a goal in mind, but really I just wanted to finish without hurting myself. I mostly walked, but I jogged down a few hills to change up the muscles I was using and gain a few extra seconds of pace. I listened to an audiobook of short stories by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman. I think his smooth British accent was one of the reasons the race wasn’t so bad this year.

Miles nine through eleven–always my worst miles–were still pretty terrible, but I didn’t get sick this year. I may have figured out my nutrition. I got a burst of energy at the twelve mile marker that lasted for maybe a half mile. But by then I was closing in on the finish.

I didn’t plan to run in, because really, that extra minute of time saved wasn’t going to help my overall time. But I’d been following a lady for a few miles and slowly closing in on her. I jogged down the final hill, as I had been doing the whole race.

I got to within twenty feet of her before the final turn.

So instead of walking to the finish (which is flat and not downhill) I kept running, determined to catch her. It helped that there was still a huge crowd at the finish. Yes, they were there for the marathoners, but cheering is cheering. I passed the lady maybe two feet before the finish. I gave myself a side stitch for the effort, but it was worth it. Thanks, nameless lady, for keeping me going at the end.

I got my medal, some food, and my finisher’s tee. Then I dragged myself back to the car and headed home. This is the first race I’ve done completely on my own. I drove myself there, walked it alone knowing no one was there cheering for me, and drove home. And it didn’t suck. And while my 3:55:43 didn’t break any records, I did it.

Today I’m pretty sore. Sitting is okay and moving isn’t bad once I get going. But the transition from sitting to standing is somewhat excruciating. But I only got one small blister, so the new shoes/socks combo worked out.

I think three is enough. I don’t know that I’ll do the race again next year.

But, then again, it’s a long time between now and August when registration opens…

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