This weekend, I run my 4th half marathon. For me, this is a big deal, especially considering my running history. I know I’ve written about some of this before, but I’m feeling reflective, so I need to think about it again. Hope you don’t mind . . .
Nine years ago, I signed up for a 5K, not thinking much of it. I had run competitively throughout middle and high school and on my own in college, so 3 miles wasn’t a big deal. Little did I know, it would be one of the most excruciating runs of my life. About halfway through, I suddenly had a crushing pain in my knee. I toughed out the rest of the race, but not without a little walking and a lot of tears. A few days later, a doctor told me I couldn’t run anymore. The running I had done in the previous 10 years had taken its toll, and I had worn all the cartilage out of my knee. It was bone on bone, and there was nothing I could do. Oh, and it was going to happen to my other knee eventually, too.
I did physical therapy to get back to a point where I could at least walk comfortably, but I stayed away from running. For 6 years. The pain was enough to keep me from the sport that had defined me as an athlete for most of my life.
But then some co-workers started talking about an upcoming 10K they’d signed up for—and I was jealous. Really jealous. I needed to have running back in my life.
I started out slow—only running a mile or two as slowly as humanly possible. When I could do that without pain, I added in another mile. When my knees would hurt, I just slowed down or walked. Eventually, I strengthened my legs enough that I could run 4-6 miles without pain. I was in love with running again.
I didn’t do any races, though. I’m not sure why. I guess because I knew I had to run slow for my knees, and I didn’t want an official record of that. I didn’t really mind running slowly, but I’m also pretty competitive, if only with myself. So I stayed away from racing.
Then, I went through a horrible break up. And running was the ONLY thing that made me feel better. I ran and I ran and I ran. Mostly because I wanted to feel something other than sad, and it was the only place I could find my endorphins. Suddenly, I was ready to race. I signed up for a 10K and finished in 53:47. Not too shabby for the girl who thought she was slow.
I was hooked. Again. I ran every single day. Not fast, mind you, but I did run further—just to see if I could. A few months later, I was signed up for my first half. It wasn’t the best race ever—in fact, I had a lot of knee pain—but I did it!
A month later, I had the itch again. Luckily, I had just made a new friend who was just nuts enough to sign up to run my next half with me.
I trained more seriously for the McDonald’s Half Marathon in Richmond than I had for the first half I ran, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just ran 6 days a week, usually taking Fridays off and doing a longer run on Saturdays. I never ran more than 12 miles.
It was coooold that morning—in the low 40s.
I helped Danielle put her bib on because I am Mommy Melissa.
Then we sparred a little bit to stay warm. Totally normal, right?
Pretty soon, it was time to head to the start.
And we were off!
We stuck together for the first mile or so, but then we popped our headphones in and went for it. I cruised along for the first 10K feeling great. My split at the 10K was around 58 minutes. I was happy with that, and still felt good, so I decided to pick up the pace a bit. Why not, right? There were people EVERYWHERE cheering on the runners. I always find races so inspiring—not just the fact that thousands of people are all out there taking on this big challenge together, but also that so many people come out to support them. It’s the best atmosphere ever! Plus, in Richmond they let you put your name right on your bib, so people were calling out, “Go Melissa!” At one point, I was even smiling. Yep, running along with a giant grin on my face!
I knew I felt fast, but I didn’t know if I really was. I wasn’t keeping track of my time and hadn’t seen a clock since the 10K mark, but I pushed it for those last 7 miles. As I turned the corner coming into the last 400 meters, I saw a clock at the 13 mile mark—it was under 2 hours. Time for the kick!
I am one of those people blessed with the ability to have a strong kick at the finish. It was the only thing I was really good at in high school cross country. What can I say? I love running fast! And this time? I really wanted it. Finishing a half in under 2 hours? Beyond my wildest dreams, but there I was, steps from it. I crossed in 1:59 and change.
Why yes, my mouth is full of pizza in that picture.
Not only did I have a great race, but I was proud of myself. I had just done something I never thought I’d be able to do. I’d say that was the point when I was officially addicted. It was easily the best feeling I’d ever had after a race—and I wanted to feel it again and again!
A year later, I’m ready to take on Richmond again. This time around, I’ve really trained, and I’m beyond excited to get out there and see what I can do. But whether I run a new personal best or not, I remember how far I’ve come—from someone who could barely finish a mile without pain to someone who can rock a half marathon.
I AM PUMPED!!!!
Do you race? What’s been your best race to date?