The Race That Makes Me Question My Life Choices

The Lynchburg Half Marathon
See this? This is me trying to smile halfway through what I like to call Lynchburg’s Annual Painfest.
Photo by Jay Proffitt
Half marathons are hard. I mean, not as hard as a full marathon or an ultra or childbirth, but they’re hard. 
But this one? There is something about the Lynchburg Half that makes me want to question my life choices. 
I’m pretty sure that last year I said never again. And then this year’s race opened up and I registered. Because that’s how runners do. Or, at least, this runner. We say never again and then jump at the chance to again. I think it’s faulty brain wiring.
The course for this half isn’t necessarily the hardest course, physically. I mean, there IS that stupid 15-mile hill a few miles in. But once you get past that, the rest of the course isn’t too terribly bad. 
The hard part of this race, for me, is the mental challenge. Of all the halves (halfs?) I do, this is the one that I have to talk myself through the most. Like, actually lecture myself to the point that I revert back to 16-year old eye-rolling me. 
It starts out fine. Fast and flat for the first four miles. There’s a nice little turn-around point that gives you the opportunity to cheer and high five your friends as you pass them. 
But then you hit the hill, or as I like to call it, the place where I lose my will to live every year. There are a few problems with this hill. 
First, it’s a hill. 
Second, it is misleading. Like, vastly misleading. Because halfway up, it levels out. So you think you’re done. You think everything after this will be cake. And then it starts going up again. Seriously, there are few things I despise more than a liar. And this hill is a liar. 
It’s also ridiculously long. It has GOT to be at least 20 miles long. Which is odd, since the race itself is only 13.1 miles. 
And then there are the cats. Every year, there are the adorable feral cats just chillin alongside the road watching us run past. Or walk. Maybe crawl. Maybe some of us are crawling. And you know they look so sweet and adorable and cuddly and they call to my inner crazy cat lady (Yes, my crazy is on the inside and not just out there for the world to see. No, it is. It really is. Inside. Not out.). I just want to sit with them and snuggle them and forget about the hill. But I know cats. I know how they do. They lure you in with their innocent adorableness and as soon as you’re close, let down your guard and allowed your vulnerability to be seen by every other person in the area, they say “ummmm nope. Don’t touch me, sad girl.” 
Fine. So, I continue my crawl up the 30-mile hill with every single other runner swooshing past me. (Seriously. Where are all of the other normal people walking up the hill? Why is EVERYONE still running????)
And then I make it to the top where a so-called “friend” is volunteering…with his camera phone…photographing this? Really, Blake???
Whatever. 
So, you get through that hell and hit the training center campus place. (It has an official name, but I never really pay attention to what Jeff is saying pre-race. I’m sure it’s all important stuff, but at that point I’m just focused on not crawling back to my car and driving to the nearest coffee shop.) You know, you’d think the hill would be the worst part, but it’s not. Because you have to run not one loop around the training campus place, but two. Two 50-mile loops around that campus place that I despise. I don’t know what kind of training they do there, but when I pass volunteer dude saying “If this is the first time you’re seeing me, you’ve got another loop to go,” I just want the training center place to not even exist. Plus volunteer dude. I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice guy, but I kinda want to punch him in his throat. 
Now, let me say that one of my fellow educators was running right with me this entire race. (Except for the point at which he swooshed past me going up that stupid 87-mile hill.) Normally I might even refer to him as a friend. But this man was congratulating and cheering and basically happy-making with Every Single human being he passed throughout the entirety of this race. And at this point in the race, I kinda just wanted to trip him. I mean, yeah, yay for all the people out here doing a thing. But seriously, I’m just trying to make it back home to my couch without giving up on life entirely. I need you to stop the positive stuff, Gibbs. Just stop it. Still, I’m wearing my Girls on the Run Solemate shirt, so I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t actually hurt anyone or start yelling obsenities. 
Ok. So, you get through your two loops and see volunteer dude saying, “If this is the second time you’re seeing me, go straight.” And I think I want to give volunteer dude a hug, except I can still remember the time that he told me I had to run another loop and that still hurts so nevermind. There is lingering resentment.
And then you get to your volunteering friend at the top of the 100-mile hill and he’s still there with his camera phone and so you’re a little happier now that you get to go back down the hill so you try to look cute and give a happy “I’ve totally got this” smile. (But when you see the pictures later, you realize you should probably never try to do that again.)
And then you find out that the 150-mile hill that you crawled up is really only about 3/4 of a mile when you go back down. I’m not sure how that happens. Apparently the basic laws of physics cease to exist in Lynchburg in August. 
And then you get to the last four miles. The last four flat miles. Flat should be easy, right? Except that your legs are done and your lungs are done and your mind was done three miles ago. This is the absolute worst part of this race. I spent those last four miles trying to convince myself that stopping and walking just for a half mile or so was NOT a good idea. I ran through the logic that I’m a grown woman and I can do what I want. I’m participating in this race voluntarily and if I want to stop and walk, I should be able to stop and walk. Running should be enjoyable. If I’m uncomfortable, I should just ease up a bit until it feels good again.
All of those things are true. 
But then I remembered the shirt I was wearing. Sometimes it’s important to do hard things, push through the discomfort and find your inner strong (mine hides inside there with my inner crazy). So I kept running. Because when my Girls on the Run season starts in a few weeks, I want to be able to push my girls to do the same. 
And when you cross the finish line to THE most beautiful and appropriate finisher’s medal you’ve ever earned, the pain and discomfort disappear.

Thank you to Jeff Fedorko and Riverside Runners, HUGE supporters of Girls on the Run of Central Virginia, for a race I love to hate. Truly one of my favorites every year. (But don’t come at me with that reminder this time next year.) And thank you for all you do for the community.
And I’m sorry for all the bad words I called you in my head during the race…

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