I ran my first half-marathon a week ago. It was by far the worst run of my life. It was not at all what I expected.
In the week before the half-marathon two people asked me if I was excited or anxious about it. I wondered if they had misunderstood: I said that I was running the HALF-marathon. You know, 13.1 miles instead of 26.2. And, more importantly, it is the first half, not the second half of a marathon. I was pretty sure that while all of the marathoners were running their grueling second half, we half-marathoners would be sitting around eating specially formulated high-carbohydrate bonbons.
Sure, there is the scary word “marathon” in the name of the race, but I triple-checked and all of my sources confirmed that it really is only 13.1 miles. Back in the day, I once ran 15 miles through New Hampshire mountains on a hot summer day with only 16oz of water. This race, on the other hand, was scheduled for March–still winter!–with lots of nice people handing out bananas and beer along the comparably flat way.
It wasn’t that my long-lost victory made me over-confident. Oh no, I had a secret. I was not going to run a race. I was going to go for a 13.1 mile fun training run with the police keeping cars out of my way!
My resolution was further sealed when it became clear that DC has no idea how to do properly cool spring temperatures. I get a headache from running one mile in 70 degree weather, so there was no doubt that this would be a slow run, even if a bit less “fun” than previously planned.
So I filled up a huge hydration vest, took the nicest cheep skort I could find for a test-run, and packed my camera. This run was going to be a joke in terms of running, so I might as well get lots of pictures for a blog post! Josh got the picture-party started while we were waiting at the metro station…
And then informed me that the only bad thing about our nice little camera is that the battery indicator goes from full directly to empty. I had checked the night before to see if it needed charging, but apparently the full battery symbol meant nothing.
I decided that if I couldn’t use the camera I might as well leave everything behind. I wouldn’t take the hydration vest or any of the cellphone, candy etc. that I had planned on. Because what was the point of carrying all of my crazy stuff without the camera?!!
The race started off well. After not shedding any tears over not taking pictures of the awesome signs, costumes, and cute pregnant runner in front of me, I started off at the perfect pace. I identified two skinny-but-not-too-athletic-while-still-athletically-clad young women (clearly they’d read all the right running magazines) and pretended that they were my friends. I was quite motivated to keep up, because who wants to be left behind by their imaginary (but visible!) friends?
Unfortunately they failed me after a few miles and it would have been a little bit awkward to wait around for them to get back in the race, so I ran on alone. With only like 8,000 other slow runners to keep me company!
So yeah, maybe not ready for a marathon, but this was working. As the stupid running skirt worked on rubbing my thighs raw, I comforted myself with the fact that it wasn’t actually my body hurting me… all I’d have to do would be to dress differently in the future!
And then as I ran down the hill past mile nine I saw a man on a stretcher. He was wearing the same color shirt and shorts as Josh. He was about the same height and had the same hair color. But there was no moment of recognition, so I kept running. Just as I went past I decided to double-check. I couldn’t see his face clearly, but I could see his shoes. They were pale yellow. Josh, on the other hand, was wearing insanely bright yellow shoes. This wasn’t Josh.
As soon as I got around the corner and it was too late to turn back I wondered if they even make pale yellow shoes. What if they only looked pale because I wasn’t looking clearly, or they were covered with dust?
I’d never gotten a clear look at the guy’s face, and how many men could there be around Josh’s size with very similar clothing? And what was I expecting? That if my husband were hurt I’d have an intuitive knowledge that would draw me across a crowded racecourse without needing to really see his face?
What if it was Josh and I had just run away from him?
The problem was that I did have an instinctive knowledge that whoever this guy was, he was not okay. This wasn’t just a twisted ankle or hip strain. So maybe there was a low chance that it was Josh, but that low chance was paired with the possibility of Josh dying.
I was clearly the worst wife ever. I was listed as one of Josh’s emergency contacts, but my cell was checked in my bag with everything else. If that guy was Josh it wasn’t like he was conscious enough to need me, but I needed to know if it was him. I promised myself that if I got through this I would never, ever run a race with Josh again without keeping my phone on me.
The only thing to do now was to get to the end of the course and either find Josh or else find out where they had taken him.
And so I ran. Or, more correctly, I zigzagged. Apparently everyone else thought that the last third of the half was the perfect time to slow down! What?! And when I got to mile 12 I found that they had put the largest mountain there. Um, why on earth did people warn me about the joke hill at mile 6 but say nothing about the unending climb at 12?! Perhaps because it was such a huge mountain many people decided to randomly stop running. Right in my way!
By mile 13 I was worn out. Thankfully there was more space to run at any speed I liked, but I just looked for Josh and told myself to save my energy since I might need it to get to the hospital to be with Josh.
I couldn’t even figure out where the finish line was so I am not sure if I stopped running before or after it. But somewhere around the end I slowed to a walk and started making my way through the crowd.
And there was Josh.
He had hurt his hip when he and another runner both decided to pass a third runner at the same time, but he was fine. And it is not like I’m the sort of obsessive wife to care if her husband hurts his hip a little! Right? Right.
I grabbed a drink and calmly (tiredly) informed Josh that I had been concerned about him and was glad to find that he was well and not on a stretcher.
And then I came home and wrote a post about the most horrifically emotional run of my life. Please don’t tell Josh.
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