i ran a half marathon, you guys.
actually, WE ran a half marathon:
team finding my feet.
i want to tell you every single detail of our amazing weekend, but it's just too much. so i am just going to focus on the race. (raechel's account is already up)
rest assured that our team rocks. meeting internet friends in real life is surreal and a tad scary. you never know when you're going to run into an organ harvester instead of just a pal. but this bunch was 100% pals and we all had way much fun getting to know each other, hanging out and bonding over this shared trial/accomplishment.
the running of the miles was really just a small part of the weekend of bonding and laughing and hijinks, and all that stuff will stick with me and with our group for a long time.
we spent the summer training together in our home towns and only communicating over email and nike plus, so getting everyone in the same room was a lot like finally giving birth and getting to meet your baby face to face after growing along with it, sight unseen, for months. this team is my baby. and bonus: it includes my baby daddy.
this half-marathon-as-having-a-baby metaphor was rampant the entire time.
team FMF: i heart yall. i will run many minutes behind you all any day of the week.
after carbing up with the team on friday night, our hotel room had lights out (except for my headlamp because i have to read before sleep) at about 9 pm to be ready for our 5:45 am wake up time. it was me, jesse, ryan and raechel sharing a room. ryan is a gold medalist in snoring so he nobly took the couch in the adjoining living room to let the runners get some sleep.
ryan completed the chicago FULL marathon in october so he was just there to support raechel and the team this time. it was great to have his experience, and as an added bonus pretend like he was a running snob every time he would say, "well for the full..." or "in chicago..." i actually did get a lot of helpful tips from him all the while still rolling my eyes and saying, "yeah, you ran a full, we get it. come down off your high horse, richy."
despite the worst night of sleep EVER thanks to some soccer tournament that was also in town (i think it was the juvenile delinquent loud and disruptive cup 2011), we heard the alarm and were not tempted to sleep more. funy how 13.1 miles looming over you makes your heart pump.
we got dressed in our running stuff, complete with cheap accessories we could just throw down on the course and not miss once it warmed up and our hearts got pumping (god bless the target dollar section).
we choked down smoothies, clif bars and bananas as we rode through the dark streets of memphis towards the starting line. we were all predicting how emotional we would be by the time we finished.
we parked and walked to the starting line. we met up with everyone, posed for some pictures from official race photographers, ryan and our own cell phones (all the pics in this post come from one of those sources...the official photos are just screen shots of the proofs that i grabbed until i decide which to buy), pinned on race bibs, found where our starting corrals would be (based on desired pace/finish times), and got our gear situated and ready.
making an uproariously hilarious joke to katie vick when she asked me to pin on her bib. i said, "now you know, i am kind of a professional sew-er, so dont be surprised if i pin this on really awesomely." i also showed her how to look your most intelligent in a photo. youre welcome, and youre welcome!
let the record show that i jumped ON three and he took the picture on, like, five. i was on my way down. i've still got hops, dont you worry. also, jesse is amazing a million
like adorable happy criminals showing our numbers off
oh, i like her lots and lots. even though we kind of hate how adorable and tiny she is, we mostly just need to love her because of awesome.
ok, my mom specifically requested this post so that she could, as she put it: "put it on the refrigerator in the kitchen next to where judah eats when he is at my house so that he can see how wholesome foods will make him big and strong and lean and mean." my question: is this picture the motivational carrot or the stick? is the caption on her fridge beneath it, "reach for the stars!" or "chickfila: a cautionary tale?"
also: not pregnant. trick of the light.
jesse and i had to check our bags for the the race and saying goodbye to my georgia tech sweatpants was HARD. not only because it exposed my ample, ultrawhite thighs amdist a sea of runners' legs and mostly long-pants, but also because it was eerily familiar to when i had to take them off when i checked into the hospital to have layla. just like then, i knew i wouldn't be reunited with my friendly, beloved pants until i had gone through the fire and was on the other side again.
my special christmas burglar elf bandit
jesse and i took one last potty break and the great wall of port-a-potties (ashley kirnan texted me to see where i was since we thought we'd be in the same starting corral since i am slow and she has a a million almost-stress fractures and had strep that day, and i texted her back, "i'm bunnying." thank you judah for years of poop humor).
we took one last pic, said goodbye-- him heading to his 9 minute mile pace group and me heading to my 13 minute mile one.
we arent equally yoked in the running department. i'm at peace with it.
farewell, hottie, see you on the other side!
i headed way, way way, back in the throng of people to my corral. i spotted my pace team leader hold his sign. i had looked him up online a few days prior by putting in my desired finish time (under 3 hours) and was pleased to find a group for we the turtles.
his bio listed him at 63 (whatEVER!!!) and when asked why someone should run in his pace group, his answer was, "to experience the fun of racewalking!"
what in the HAY-UHL!?!?!? my pace leader is a geriatric walker!!! and i am going the same speed at my fastest run. i dropped a few pounds in ego weight at that point which i figured would make me more aerodynamic.
since we were so so so far back from the actual starting line, i had a long time to wait by myself. this is where my emotions got the better of me.
when i signed up for this race, i must admit that it was more because it was near-ish and convenient and to do it with rae and friends, and not because i was crazy passionate about the cause. OBVIOUSLY i detest childhood cancer, but it isnt super, extra-personal to me.
i do happily know two amazing survivors: my sister in law elena who kicked leukemia's ass over 20 years ago and audrey, the daughter of our mentors, who was the flower girl in our wedding, who finished treatment almost a year ago and is cancer free right now. i knew i wanted to take them along with me during the run so jesse and i both wrote their names on our arms in sharpie to honor their battles in our own teensy way.
repping those chicas!
me and audrey at some event...cant quite place it (please remember that i looked like this once in my life...it will help you get through the rest of the pics)
just getting a taste of what a shit-bomb cancer was for these familes--hearing about it from jesse and his parents, and visiting and talking with audrey and her family in 2010 and this year as she went through her battle-- was enough to really make me believe that childhood cancer is one of the yuckiest visible stains that the brokenness and carnage of sin and the fall have left on this earth. but even still, audrey and elena's stories have happy endings.
they got hit with the bomb, but the nuclear payload didnt detonate.
i have never seen or experienced firsthand the very worst of what this disease can do to happy healthy children who werent born "cancer kids" but whose lives end that way.
my place in the corral. the starting line if left down that intersection
in the corral, all alone as i looked ahead and saw the backs of thousands, i started to see and read the shirts that everyone was wearing. lots of them were funny, "dear god, please let there be someone behind me to read this, " and "if found, please drag across the finish line."
but the first one that grabbed me was a full color picture of a little boy with the dates October 11, 2008-March 13, 2011 underneath.
it was like getting punched in the stomach. this gorgeous two and half year old boy had died, had been snatched from his parents arms because of this disgusting disease. he was judah's age.
i looked at the pavement as the tears built.
it got real at that point. i knew st. jude already had my money and that my actual running of the race didnt really do anything for the families affected by cancer, but the two became linked at that point.
i looked around some more, praying every time as i saw a birthdate listed that it wouldn't be bracketed by deathdate; praying for an open hyphen but not finding lots of them:
"running for my 6 year old son elijah: 11 surgeries, 7 brain surgeries, wheelchair bound, completely blind due to tumors"
"missing our angel" with a picture of an infant girl about layla's age, looking miserable in a hospital bed.
i was a mess. even the st. jude logo on people's shirts was getting me: a little child with his hands together and head bowed in prayer.
around 8:15 (the start for the #1 corral of elite racers was at 8) we starting moving forward. i could hear music playing and the announcer talking up ahead.
we turned left onto the actual street that the starting line was on--yes i was so far back that i was on a different street to begin with--and i could finally make out the starting line way up ahead.
see the start waaaaaaaaay off in the distance?
they were releasing the corrals a few minutes apart to spread out the crowd. so we fell into a nervous shuffle rhythm of walk. wait. walk. wait.
as i heard #8 and #9 released, i knew jesse was on his way. godspeed, my man!
i looked up and could finally make out that the starting line said "get ready to run for THEIR lives." more tears.
10, 11, 12, and finally 13 (there were actually 16 total corrals). we came up and waited for our countdown.
i checked my ipod and my laces one last time and savored my final moments of no exertion or movement. for the next 3-ish hours i would be running or walking or limping or crawling.
blammo. we were off.
i knew that ryan would be taking pictures at .5 miles and again at 3 miles and he would also be available to grab any clothes we didnt need anymore as we warmed up. my peasant hat and gloves i didnt care about and bought them cheap to be disposable, but so help me, i wasnt going to lose my long sleeved 15k shirt. i worked hard for that mess and if i had to wear it as a sassy belt for 13 miles, i would, but i would prefer to leave it with a friend (who would hopefully not sniff it).
at maybe a quarter or a mile, i was rounding the basketball arena where the grizzlies play (or dont play, as it were, thanks NBA players, you are heroes fighting for the little guy!). there were parking decks and garages nearby to support the arena. hilariously, as i am just getting my rhythm sorted out and finally getting some space, i see a blinking red sign flashing, "SLOW SLOW SLOW."
it was calling me out! i thought it was a practical joke, then realized that is was for cars entering the garage so they didnt scrape their bottoms on the incline. ha. in my head it had been green and said "FAST" for the first corrals of runners and then gradually faded to red and SLOW for the rest of us.
at .5 miles i was still pretty chilly so i still had on my hat and gloves and was obviously feeling fine. i spotted ryan and broke stride momentarily to flash an adorable julia roberts-esque smile and cute little jumping wave to the camera. or so i thought:
what i actually gave was: drunken feudal serf/mime doing a star jump and deranged albino performing a breast self-exam and enjoying it a little too much.
clearly there is some disparity between what i actually look like versus how i picture myself in my head. going to need to work on merging those.
just after i passed ryan and ryan (ashley k's husband who was also amazing support staff) i started to have a stomach cramp- like a stitch. i have never had one of these ever. ruh-roh. i hadnt even gone a mile yet! i tried to lean to the opposite side and stretch it out but it was still pretty uncomfy.
i felt my palms break out in panic sweat, picturing my result: "Reight Dullees-DNF withdrawn after .75 miles due to tummy ouchie." that's what it would say, yall! oh the shame.
luckily, just as i passed the 1 mile marker, a fit of horrified laughter blasted the stitch away. this middle aged man was running with a female companion in the most inappropriate shorts. they were SO SO SO short and also breezy and slit up the sides. i was getting an eyeful of rear man-thigh. hairy, pale, in-motion man thigh.
he was talking really loud and was kind of a goober to me. his friend coughed and he turns around to her and says in a horrified voice, "oh that's a WET cough!" something about that was so yuck and intimate (paired with his man thighs) that i just bust out laughing. awesome. stitch gone.
mile 2 was GORGEOUS! we wended our way down a hairpin turn and all of a sudden there was the mighty mississip' sprawled out before us with bridges and barges and boats. it was really freaking huge and surprisingly gorgeous. on the other side was a steep hill, at the top of which were really pretty riverfront houses.
i ditched my gloves and hat at this point and started to resemble a female again.
mile 2 highlight: the spectator holding a sign that said, "run fast: i farted." i laughed, because, joke's on you, i did too!
mile 3 and i was feeling good. i was warming up and doing a great pace. 9 minutes running, 1 minute walking. i wont lie, even at this tiny distance, i was looking forward to those walk intervals every time.
i took off my long sleeves, made my sassy belt and started to look out for the ryans. we headed into the famed beale street area and there were TONS of people and bands and signs and photographers. it was awesome.
warning: if you flash a peace sign behind me to a camera man, i will make fun of you a little bit on my blog. consider yourself warned
my pony was having a BLAST! after it was set free from it's feudal serf cap of bald-dom
swear i wasnt walking here. also i dont remember ever being this friendly looking in my life, much less at the race.
"ahahahaha, we're having so much fun!"
ryan was supposed to be at the turn, but i didnt see him. then at the last moment, the other ryan sees me and pops out offering to take my shirt. glory!
no more special accessories. just me like i had been on all of my runs through the evil heat of georgia summer and fall: shirt, shorts, shoes, socks and ipod. oh yeah, plus some energy chews i had in my bra.
running full out.
just before mile 4 i had another emotional whomp. in one intersection there was a group of about twenty kids doing a choreographed dance in matching shirts. the tears came when i realized that they all had down syndrome, just like our sister elena.
i am in love with them
elena LOVES to dance and perform, so seeing these gorgeous, beaming faces dancing their hearts out totally reminded me of elena, and made me think of how i am SO blessed to have her in my life and that cancer didnt steal a single one of her dances.
i cheered and clapped (and cried happy love tears) with the rest of the runners who had instantly become the cheerleaders rather than the cheered on for this group of kids with a magical 47th chromosome.
at mile 4 the fanfare of the really touristy district of memphis was behind us and at some weird glass pyramid that i assume is not the tennessee branch of the louvre, we were making the turn to put the river behind us.
still not a walk
i had been seeing full color signs inserted in ground beside the course every now and then that said "run for jake" and had a picture of a really cute 2 or 3 year old little boy who had lost his hair from chemo on them. it was a total motivator. during this mile i saw another one, in the same purple and yellow colors, with his picture on it, a picture of him with all of his hair, clearly from before his diagnosis, that said, "run to remember jake." tears. fuck cancer.
at that point we entered the actual st. jude campus. there were people everywhere cheering like mad. i happened to be listening to coldplay's "paradise" at that point and it was like a slow motion montage.
this could be para, para, paradise
signs being held with names, birth- and death- dates of children who went from childhood to heaven because of cancer, of the huge buildings containing children going through disgusting, horrific pain, of the scenes that must unfold inside pretty regularly: parents watching their child take a final breath, holding them for the last time, knowing their beloved child's life, but also their pain, is over. sobbing and praying them into the arms of jesus.
this could be para, para, paradise
i honestly didnt see a lot of what was going on here because my eyes were flooded. i just ran on, looking down at the pavement. i wanted to hold my kids so hard right then. i wanted to hold those parents through the unimaginable. to say, screw cancer, screw the devil, it WILL be paradise one day, jesus has overcome even this.
and thinking that, this lyric hits me: