See part 1 of my Oakland Running Festival We Run the Town Challenge recap here.
Runners are a wonderfully crazy bunch, and I am one of those crazies who do things non-runners (and sometimes even fellow runners) don’t understand — or in some cases, things even I myself can’t quite explain. Case in point: seven months postpartum and just beginning to get back into a regular fitness routine, I decided it would be a good idea to run a 5K and a half marathon on the same day. Brilliance abounds when you’re sleep deprived.
After running an accidental PR in the 5K, I had a bit of waiting before the half started. I didn’t realize at the time that I had run a PR; all I knew was my legs felt not quite as fresh as I’d have liked, but I couldn’t figure out why. After grabbing my bag (as bag check at the Oakland Running Festival is phenomenal – it was so easy to get my bag checked, run, get it back, check it again – you get the picture) I settled in under a tree. Sweats on to keep warm, check, change of socks almost out of superstition, check, fuel… that’s where I failed. I couldn’t eat the protein bar I’d brought, but managed a banana and some Skratch Labs fruit drops. Thanks to social media, I met up with a coworker, which automatically put me more at ease. From there it just seemed folks were rolling in.
I met up with said coworker Lena, then flagged down fellow Represent Running ambassador Jason. I snapped a picture with rumored father of the We Run Social movement Brian, while meeting fellow PROCompression ambassador Natalie in person for the first time. (She later went on to crush the course. What a bad ass!) I even was able to meet up with my coworkers for a picture, just like we had planned.
One after the other, I saw more and more folks I knew, which should have brought me some comfort. Still, I was unsure. I made jokes. I knew I should’ve trained more for this half, but tried to relax and tell myself to let go and have fun. There was an uneasy, lingering negative voice in the back of my head saying “You’re going to walk so much of this. You can’t run the whole thing in the shape you’re in.”
What’s one to do to that voice other than to tell it to ever so kindly go fuck itself, as there’s 13.1 miles to be had — and they will be had?
So that’s what I did.
Well, at first.
Now I wish I could say that mindset stayed with me the entire time, but it didn’t. The truth is that sooner than I had anticipated, I was hurting. Not fueling as much as I probably should have in-between likely did not help, but I just couldn’t get much down that day. (Thank goodness I had Skratch Labs in my water because otherwise I’d have been running on nothing at all.) By mile 8 I was saying some horrible things like, “You guys should just go ahead,” or better yet, “I’m toast.” For whatever reason my mental game was weak, which allowed me to use the feeling of not so great legs (but really, not as bad as could be) to try to call it quits.
The crew wasn’t having it. Somehow I managed to get lucky have work with women who I also get to run with. I did quite a few training runs with Joy, who had never run a race before, and Jessica, who is an Ironman triathlete. Joy is a solid athlete indeed, one who I knew would have no trouble tacking a half marathon as her first event, and Jess most certainly knows how, for lack of a better term, get shit done.
Looking back, I see the positives. We laughed a lot. We made jokes. We counted cat calls as usual (a shout out from firefighters counts, right?) I took off my clothes (which, we joke, is something that has to happen on a run or it doesn’t count.) Even in moments when we were seemingly all quiet, focused on getting one foot in front of the other, none of us were alone. We felt in it together. When one lagged behind, you could sense the awareness of the other two. I was amazed that in the sea of people, we never lost one another.
By mile 11 both Jess and I were feeling some aches and pains, so while we stopped to stretch we finally kicked off Joy. As we watched her put a good half of a mile plus between us, we laughed, saying things like “I knew we were holding her back!” and “Look at our baby, all grown up and running half marathons.” She had a strong finish, we hear, which is awesome. I wish I had been there to witness it.
My tenth half marathon and 33rd event of my run103 mission may have not been a PR, the prettiest finish or one to brag about — unless we’re talking about bragging about the crew. This half reminded me that when I dig deep, I am capable of so much more than I sometimes allow myself to internalize. It reminded me that even when running sucks, running is awesome, that there is most definitely something to be said about running with a great partner or two instead of alone. There is fight in me yet, and at seven months postpartum, while there is work to be done yet I have come quite far. This wasn’t my most glorious 13-point-1, but it was one I will most definitely remember.
And I definitely couldn’t have done it without Joy and Jess. I joked heading into the race that they’d be “dragging my ass to the finish line.” While she physically didn’t have to pull me (thank goodness, that’d have been a lot to ask,) Jess most definitely helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other. As we headed up the hill to the chute where we’d finish, we heard cheering. Strangers cheered. Familiar voices cheered. Familiar faces smiled and clapped their hands as though it would help propel us forward– and it did.
I’d like to thank my coworker Patti (and her mister and dog!) for showing up in multiple spots on the course to cheer and take pictures. Thank you to Jess L. for dancing in front of her car and cheering as we passed. Thank you Joy for humoring us and pretending like you couldn’t have made it that far without us (you would’ve made it there faster, ha.) And, of course, clearly, thank you Jess. I’m so glad our paths crossed for so many reasons.
Half marathon ten is in the books. My legs have recovered. My spirit calmed, lessons learned. Now that I have run all three distances the Oakland Running Festival offers, 5K, half marathon, and marathon, I can definitely say it’s a race I would be likely to consider doing again, even with the overages on both the 5K and half.
Now? To cross train, keep running, keep improving and see what kind of work I can get done before the next race. As long as I am growing and learning, no event can be seen as a waste.
Did you run the Oakland Running Festival half marathon?
Garmin splits: 9:13.7, 9:51.3, 9:53.9, 9:33.9, 10:33, 10:12, 10:25, 10:21, 11:03, 11:06, 11:23 10:34, 10:54, 7:18.1
Garmin time, distance: 2:22:20, 13.72mi
Chip time: 2:22:15
Division place: 1644
Age place: 162
Gender place: 754
We Run the Town division place: 83
We Run the Town gender place: 33