Last weekend I completed my sixth half marathon. It was brutal. There were some accomplishments but it took me a while to see the positive through all the pain. But, let me start at the beginning of the weekend.
This was my 6th half with Team Challenge and even though I’ve been to event weekend with this Denver chapter six times before, I still had that exciting butterfly feeling. It doesn’t matter how many pasta parties you sit through, the weekend still generates electricity. It’s not just a time to reflect on my own accomplishments as a Crohn’s patient, but I get to reflect on all the new people I’ve met on their journey.
Some of them are patients. Some are caregivers. Some have no connection to the disease, at first. Those that join the team without a connection find they have at least twenty
connections to friends with the disease once the season is finished.
Some are experienced half marathoners. Some have even ran a full! Some have never walked more than a mile. Most don’t think they can accomplish such feats.
All are champions and athletes. Everyone ran the same 13.1 miles. Everyone crossed the same finish line. That’s what Team Challenge is all about.
We had our traditional pasta party the night before the race. This was probably one of my favorite pasta parties so far! Holly and her daughter were our honored speakers. It was so amazing to hear about IBD from both perspectives – as a young child with IBD and as a mother of an IBD patient. Her daughter was brilliant, but Holly stole the show. She was an amazing speaker and told a beautiful story. Her family is such an inspiration and I loved their moto – the power of one. It’s something that I’ve used in the past and I couldn’t agree more!
Our guest speaker blew my mind! None other than Meb Keflexighi told us his inspiring story, starting from his early days as a child. He used the term perseverance so many times. I love the power that word exudes. IBD patients are the epitome of perseverance. Many of us have struggled and triumphed through so many hardships, for many years. We are warriors!
The next day turned into a windy, cold Vegas evening for the race. I left Denver when it was 20 degrees so I was really looking forward to some dry Vegas heat! The weather was a let down. At the start we were huddled in small clumps trying to block the wind and use each other for body heat. I think such a cold start drained all of us a little bit.
I hadn’t trained well for this run and knew my chances of a PR were pretty slim so I decided to try for another accomplishment – run the entire distance. I had always used the run/walk method and had never ran through water stations or while eating my snacks. So I started out at a very comfortable pace. I decided to keep it slow through mile 8 or 9, crank it up through mile 12 and then just haul butt to the finish through that last mile. It would also be the first time I had negative splits in a race. If I could accomplish it.
Everything was going really well through about mile 6. The lights of Vegas were mesmerizing and I was enjoying people watching in the crowds and all the runners. With 42,000 fellow runners, the people watching is nothing short of epic. Around mile 6 I started to feel pain in my right IT band. This had happened on the 9 mile and 11 mile training runs so I knew I wasn’t in for a treat.
At mile 9 I wanted to quit. I really wanted to quit. I had never wanted to give up during a race. Well, not really. I’ve questioned myself A LOT, but never have I wanted to give up. I was in the random neighborhoods in Vegas so I decided that if I quit, there was a good chance something bad would happen back there in the dark so I moved on. At mile 10 I found a Team Challenge coach and asked her to run with me. The chat with her was great and it kept my mind off the pain that was searing through my leg. At this point, I was overcompensating for my right side so my left sciatic nerve was starting to ache.
I was ready to walk. I really, really wanted to walk. But I was so close to the finish and so very close to accomplishing my goal. So I did what I had to do. I started asking random strangers if they would chat with me. It made such a difference when i was able to stop thinking about my legs. At mile 11.5 or so I found another Team Challenge coach and asked if she would just ask me questions. I told her I was hurting so bad so of course her first question was, do you need to walk? AHHHHH! Wrong Question! I was so close and I basically screamed at her that I needed to keep going.
She left me around mile 12 and I turned on the heat. SOOO MUCH PAIN! I was cranking out 10 minute miles because I just wanted to be done. For me, that is lightening fast. At mile 13 I see my coach and needless to say, pleasantries aren’t exchanged. He chats with me for a few seconds, refocuses me on form and tells me to just keep moving but be careful.
I crossed the finish line with arms high and the relief! Such wonderful relief! People had to be worried about me because of the way I was gimping along the finish chute. I accepted my medal and that’s when I realized I did it. For the first time ever I ran an entire half marathon. PERSEVERANCE. I did what I needed to do to accomplish my goals. I grabbed a chocolate milk and let it all sink in. I had exceeded my own limits. I now had no excuses for not running entire distances. I had no excuses for giving up.
I didn’t beat my best time. I was 2:03 off my PR set earlier this year in Napa. I consider that amazing. The next day I checked my official time and my splits. I even had negative splits, just as I was hoping. It’s taken me years but I’m finally getting the hang up pacing myself.
Because I was in so much pain after the race, it was really hard to see the sunshine through the clouds. When people asked how my race went, I said okay. It was way better than okay! I’m incredibly proud of myself and I have even more fire to do better on the next one. And who knows, maybe there will be 26.2 miles in my future.
Stay tuned and I’ll share how we spent the rest of our time in Vegas. Hint – it involved a lot of stretching.