21K: Half crazy is still crazy

To be honest, I was ready for it all to be over before the race even started. About four months into my training, and just two weeks before the big day, I got tired. I was tired of counting kilometers, tired of canceling happy hour, tired of skipping late night social events and tired of waking up before the sun. I was tired, so very tired, of running.

I kept at it, but even after running 20-30 miles (32-48 kilometers) a week for months, I still didn’t feel like it was enough. Race day came, though, and I was as ready as I was going to get for the 21 long kilometers, the 13.1 miles of crazy that I told myself I’d never do again.

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Before. Here we go!

The half marathon wound up a picturesque parkway in Kansas City, Missouri, where my extended family lined up to cheer me on. Knowing my family would be at the end of the race was one of the greatest motivations after having to cross the finish lines to my other races nearly alone, so far from home.

Up, up, up...

Up, up, up…

Despite earlier forecasts of a cold thunderstorm on race day, the weather couldn’t have been better. Low 60s (Fahrenheit) set the perfect temperature for a brisk start up a 3-mile hill. It leveled out and I just about matched my earlier 10K race pace of 10 and 1/2-minute miles despite the initial climb. I felt good rounding the halfway mark until I hit another hill, this one unexpected from what I had seen on the route map.

That Mile 7 felt like an eternity as my legs slowed to such a slow pace, I felt as though I might as well stop and walk. I didn’t though, even as nearly everyone around me did. The terrain finally leveled out and I picked it up a bit, although still not able to keep up with my first-half pace.

Ahhhhh. Just keep running, just keep running.

Ahhhhh. Just keep running, just keep running.

Some of my favorite signs that kept me smiling along the way were:

“If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can make it through 13.1 miles!”

“I bet you thought this was a good idea four months ago!”

and “a tally of beers drunk” as a group of spectators guzzled down one after the next.

Just after Mile 11, a runner lay unconscious on the grass and paramedics who had just arrived attended to her. It was a bit unsettling , but I pressed on, grateful that I was still on course. I slowed a bit, though, fearful that I too could tire out and end up being the next on a gurney. A bit further though, and I knew that  just wouldn’t be the case. I still felt strong and wanted to finish that way.

I picked it up in time to see my uncles, aunt, grandparents and a few of my cousins hollering for me at about 12.5 miles. They wore matching T-shirts donning my name: “You rocked it Jess!” It gave me the extra push to the line where my mom and more cousins cheered for me as I finally finished at 2:31:37.

Happy to see my cheering section.

Happy to see my cheering section.

2:31:37 finish.

2:31:37 finish.

The time was a bit slower than I wanted, but who cares!

On April 12, 2014, I ran A HALF MARATHON, 21 kilometers, 13.1 miles, however you measure it, A HALF MARATHON! Me — the girl who hated PE her whole life and couldn’t run a single mile just a year ago — finished a half marathon without walking. Wahoo!

All smiles!

All smiles!

I had started out telling myself I’d never have to run another half marathon, and finished ready to sign up for my next. I love the encouragement and camaraderie of race days that inspire so many to push themselves to the limit. I’ve grown so much since starting out on this journey to a healthier lifestyle, and I’m proud to say that this is not the end.

The best part of the day was inspiring two of my cousins to start their own journey to healthier living. They have now started the Couch to 5K program, which got me up and running one year ago, and I can’t wait to see their progress.

A few members of the family who came to support me (many not pictured!)

A few members of the family who came to support me (many not pictured!)

Running has truly changed my life.

It motivated me to eat healthier and I’ve lost weight. It’s allowed me to actually start enjoying outdoor activities, which led me to see some of the world’s most beautiful places on foot. I haven’t been sick and have had far fewer asthma issues. I have become a morning person, am less tired, more productive and less stressed. I am more optimistic and I’ve eliminated “I CAN’T” from my vocabulary.

21!

21 strong!

I challenge each of you to commit to healthy living and share what positive change it brings to your life!

–JDF