So, today was race day. I looked at this day, looming at the end of September, as my official return to long distance racing. After a year of laziness, followed by injury and recovery, I needed to return to the distances that I fell in love with a few years ago. My last long distance attempt was the Akron half marathon in September of 2011. I ran well for the first 9 miles in that race, keeping up with my brother-in-law Jon who was running his first full marathon. Around mile 10 my stomach staged a revolt and I spent the last three miles in agony, finishing with my slowest half time ever. I was hopeful for a course PR today, redeeming myself with an improved time.
The Akron course got re-tooled this year, losing the horrifying hill at mile 11 that killed me in both of my prior attempts. I looked forward to the new course and hoped it would help me shave significant time off my record. But, this morning began with reality, which we all know is served with a sore throat and runny nose on the morning of the race you are hoping to rock…….or maybe that’s just for me. I woke up feeling like a train had run through my sinuses and quickly realized that my dream time might not be in the cards. I got ready, picked up my brother-in-law and got to Akron with time to spare.
Race temps were low, peaking at 49 degrees during my time on the course. Cold or not, Akron put on quite the show this year, celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the race. They raised the bar, with an amazing fireworks show at the start, well-placed fluid tables, a well-organized course and fantastic schwag. I felt OK through the first 11 miles or so, and then faced pain in my left knee, a general feeling of exhaustion and fear that I couldn’t finish. The last half mile of this race is one of the most challenging legs I’ve ever run. I was thrilled to cross the finish line, dazed, sore and a little worried that I missed my shot at a personal record.
So why do I race? To run with breast cancer survivors, veterans, pregnant women, people raising money for amazing charities and other talented athletes. To run with family-I’m grateful for my brother-in-law who let me set the pace, never judged my tendency to become foul-mouthed after mile 9ish, laughed with me the whole way and drank cheap low-calorie beer with me to celebrate. I race to experience the roller coaster nerves, the moment of joy and gratitude I have at every starting line, the moment of disbelief I have at every finish. And I race to challenge myself…..I came home to a small and welcome surprise. My race time today is my course PR, but only by 20 seconds. I’ll take those 20 seconds and call it a victory.