“Whatever you do, just don’t beat Coach.”
This was our Track Coaches directives. To my Cross Country runner.
I don’t get nervous for races. Ever.
Because I put no pressure on myself to perform. Or even finish.
I’m out there strictly to have fun. And find the post-race nourishment. And camaraderie.
But yesterday morning? I was nervous.
One of my cross country girls wanted to run her first half marathon.
And because she knows I routinely run whatever distance other people tell me to. She asked me to run it with her.
Actually, she asked me to find one first. And then asked me to run it with her.
A 16 year old cross country runner. Wanted me to run a half marathon with her.
You understand how fast these kids run, right?
They measure their 5k times in teens. Not twenties.
But she really wanted to do this.
So I found her the perfect first half marathon.
And then I trained for it.
…meaning I ran part of the route. Last weekend. And declared myself trained.
Star City Half takes place exclusively on the Roanoke Greenway now.
So it’s flat.
Just super flat.
And it’s pavement.
Just super hard pavement.
All the things a trail runner’s body just really loves. (👈🏼 sarcasm)
There are a couple of nice hills. Thrown into the middle. That I was looking forward to. Going into the race.
My hip flexors require elevation movements.
It was 27 degrees outside when I woke up. In my warm bed.
Any other time. I would have just rolled on over and gone back to sleep.
No need to go exist in that.
But my girl was so excited. For her first half marathon.
I couldn’t bail on her.
I can bail on the rest of y’all bad influences. But not on her.
So I pulled on all of my layers. And rolled on out to River’s Edge.
At 7:30. AM.
And explained to Rogue.
That it was because my girl will want to warm up first.
“She’s the runner we should have been a long time ago.”
And my girl rolled up with her own cheering section.
And. I mean. My parents. And even my kids. Used to come cheer me on at races.
But when you hit a certain point of ridiculousness. In my family. The cheering has to just start taking place from a distance.
So when her parents rolled out of the truck with a sign. With her name on one side. And my name on the other. And ribbons. And glitter.
Y’all. There was glitter.
I knew I was in for some hard core cheerleading support.
And her dad tried to ask me about the course. And where they could watch from.
And…well I answered him…
Luckily, he’s a smart guy. And managed to figure it out on his own.
Spent the time before race start introducing my girl to her new running community.
“You will ALWAYS have people at any race you attend.”
And then doing that warm up thing real runners like to do.
So ok. Things started out nice. We started out at a 9 – 9 1/2 minute pace. Something my body is no longer accustomed to.
But I felt good. Strong. Comfortable.
And my girl was just commenting on how exciting it all was. How most other people were still in bed. And we were out there running. And having fun.
And she wasn’t wrong.
And then we got to our first major hill. Around five miles in.
And she just trots right on up to the top. Like it ain’t nothing.
And I just crawled up. Trying desperately to keep my heart rate to a non-exploding point.
And then she ran back to me…
Which is always something you want someone to have to do. During a race.
But once we got to the top. I started feeling strong again.
We were on the section I run regularly. So I felt good about it.
Passed our cheering squad. About a mile from the turnaround. And told them we’d be back in a few minutes.
And the turnaround. Is where my body started to say. “Ok, so we’re good here. Let’s head on home.”
So I started opting for Poweraide at the aid stations. In a desperate attempt to maintain some power in my legs.
And let’s talk about the aid stations for a second. Specifically the volunteers.
I don’t know who the kids were. That were volunteering throughout the course.
But they were awesome.
There’s just something about having kids. High school kids. Cheer you on. That makes you a little more motivated to not be pissy and resentful. About being out in the cold. At 8am.
Anyway. We passed our cheer squad on our way back out. And mom offered us some water.
And my girl just keeps running. A 9 1/2 pace.
And I’m like…but there are muffins…
But I kept going. Trying to keep up with her.
Got to the twisty turny hill that I normally love. A few miles into my run. At a far more comfortable 11 minute pace.
But y’all. At mile 9. After a 9 1/2 minute pace. The entire time.
My legs were like, “Nope. We told you. To take us home.”
My heart wasn’t even speaking to me. Because it couldn’t. Because it was existing at its max rate.
So I crawled on up the twisty turny. While my girl happily ran up. Again. And came back for me. Again.
But once we got to the top. I said, the rest of this should be cake.
I only said it for her benefit.
Because I knew.
It was a lie.
My body had long ago reached its expiration point.
But I kept trying. To keep up with her 9 1/2 pace.
And we were urging on people we passed. And they were urging us on back.
And my girl says, “This is what’s so great about runners. We just really support each other.”
She is exactly right.
And every mile or so. About the time I was about to say, hey ima walk for a second. And then slowly lie down on the ground.
Our cheering squad showed up.
With mon cheering and waiving this poster around.
And dad yelling for my girl to not let me pass her.
But it was just enough. To keep me moving.
Because mom also had her phone camera out. And I couldn’t let my girl have a pic of me. Actively dying. To post on social media.
I have a reputation to maintain.
And I was just about ok.
Until we hit the last mile.
And dear sweet mother of all that is good. It took everything. Every last ounce of anything I’ve ever had. To get me to that finish line.
And my girl says, “Let’s go hard across the finish.”
And I said ok.
But what I meant was, you go on. Save yourself. Have your moment. Ima be back here just trying to will the finish line closer to me.
And then it was there.
And my god.
The immediate pain.
I stopped running. And every part of my body immediately began lodging complaints. With every other part of my body.
And I remembered a time. When I could run an 8 min half marathon. And not feel like my everything was falling apart.
Those days are gone.
But my girl got a third place age group award.
She would’ve gotten first if she hadn’t been pulling me through.
But she was so surprised. And excited. That she didn’t even seem to care.
So it was absolutely worth it.
And she wants to do more races together.
And I’m not sure I’ll survive it. But I’ll absolutely try.
Because I haven’t been that happy and excited and motivated at a race in a very long time.
I mean, my body is in a full system failure right now.
But it’ll probably manage to get a few systems back online soon. We need our legs to go get the coffee.
But she definitely beat coach. And coach is absolutely happy with that.