The first time I ran a half marathon I finished in I believe 2:35. I was happy with that time, because your first race is always a PR! After a few more mediocre attempts and a year of sluggish training runs I logged a 2:18 at San Francisco. I will never forget the feeling of running across the Golden Gate bridge and realizing I was flying. The hills of San Francisco fought hard, but that day I won. I have steadily improved since then, taking time off as necessary for life, but last month when I ran in Las Vegas and clocked 2:05 I knew a sub-2 hour half was within my reach.
Last week I finished my 10 mile training run in 94 minutes, just 4 minutes shy of the pace I would need to sustain to reach my goal. When I set out this morning for another 10 miler I had only one goal in mind, to improve on last week's time. I knew I may not hit 90mn exactly, but as long as there was forward momentum I would be satisfied. I started out strong, clipping miles at exactly 9:00 and 18:00, but by mile 3 my old friend Side Stitch decided to tag along for the ride. I tried to fix my posture, my breathing, my form... but every time I sped up to the necessary 9mn per mile pace my side cramped until I was forced to slow down and wait for it to subside. At mile 3 my stopwatch was already past the 30mn mark, and I knew I was in for a long 10 miles. I always chant to myself as I run. Usually I say "Pain is weakness leaving the body," or if someone passes me I say "Run your own race." By mile 7 I was telling myself "Just do your best," and praying I would at least be able to hit a 10mn per mile pace. On the shaded parts of the trail I would begin to perk up, but that mid morning hot sun was stalking me and I found myself dragging across a blistering half mile stretch of heat. I finally reached the end of the run in 1:45 and trudged back to my van unsure of if I was capable of breaking 2 hours at Surf City in just 2 short weeks.
I wonder why I even do this to myself? The last 4 miles of that run were incredibly miserable, and my back is in a series of knots and pain that are only going to stiffen by morning. I could stop, quit, give up and give in. How different would life really be? Then I remember that feeling on the Golden Gate bridge, I remember looking at my watch in Vegas and realizing I had clipped my PR by 13 minutes, I remember when I "ran" the full marathon in Las Vegas and saw all of my family screaming for me at the finish, and my kids running on their little legs with huge smiles, ready to cross the finish line with me. I remember all the friends I have made on the NF Endurance Team, the pasta dinners, the expos, the photos and the medals. I remember every race morning, the anticipation while the Star Spangled Banner played, barefoot men covering their hearts next to war vets running in camo and soccer Moms in tutus. All of the amazing people I have seen on the course, people getting married while running in Las Vegas, an 80 year old man passing me in Long Beach, the Pacific ocean in Surf City. I remember every finish line, how it seemed so unattainable, but the harder I worked the closer it got. All of those final stretches, no matter how tired I was or how long I had been limping, at every race I reached down deep into my gut and ran like I stole something for a big finish. At every finish there was a smile on my face so big my cheeks hurt because no matter how many thousands of people had crossed over before me, I had won my own race. I had done my best and never given up.
I never will give up, I'll run until I can't run anymore, and nobody can stop me. Not a cramp, not a stop watch, not the heat, and not the back pain. For all of my chanting there is only one that really matters, "Never Give Up."