Phew. I survived. This morning I ran in the Pittsburgh half-marathon – a lovely 13.1 mile jaunt through the city of bridges. The rain began about 5 minutes after the start and lasted through the finish – at least it wasn’t severe thunderstorms as had been earlier predicted. I was soaked through relatively quickly – after a while, I didn’t even notice it was raining. Sadly, I think my iPod died (not battery died, but died-died) during the race. We’ll see. I achieved a time better than my goal. I consider the day a success.
From the moment I stepped foot in the city last night, I was nervous. I made my way to the Westin, settled in to my room and headed over to the Convention Center to register and pick up my “runner’s bag of goodies”. After catching wind that this had all turned into a solo affair, my parents made the trek to the city to support me. My dad arrived with a beautiful tulip in hand – a nice little taste of home. Mom, Dad and I ventured to the Sonoma Grille for dinner. It was divine. We enjoyed wine, delectable cuisine, and a relaxing evening together. I was thankful to have their company and encouragement.
After they had departed for their Pittsburgh apartment, I began to ready myself for the race. I turned in early, hoping to get a good night’s sleep before the big day. I was fully awake at 4:00 a.m. The nerves became too much to ignore. I was overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, self-doubt, and fear. What had I gotten myself into? As I laced my shoes, I took a deep breath and fought back tears. I trusted that my training had prepared me for this day. And I hoped to God that I would have the strength to persevere through this challenge.
I arrived at the start line about 30 minutes before the official start. At moments, I fought to keep my composure. This race had turned into a best/worst experience of my life. I was terrified. I was wishing I had a friendly face to see me off. I was feeling nauseous. But at the same time, I was pleased with my progress, thankful for the ability to run, and hopeful that the day would be enjoyable. Part of the pre-race celebration included a tribute to the brave men and women who serve our country in the military. This is when I came the closest to completely losing it (thankfully, I didn’t.). Of course, I thought of Ben, and how very much I miss him. He encouraged me to do this race, and although he couldn’t be here to help me train or cheer me on in person, he has been encouraging me from afar throughout the entire process.
As the miles went by, I gained confidence. The first half went relatively quickly. Miles 10-12 were a bit brutal – this stretch was pretty quiet. When mile markers 12 and 13 came to view, I felt an extra burst in my step. Almost home. As I crossed the finish line, I was met with a sense of relief. I did it. I survived.
I returned to my hotel room to see I had missed several calls from Benjamin. So sad – I hadn’t talked to him in a week and a half. He left a sweet, encouraging message (tears again…I was a bit emotional this weekend.) and promised to call later. It felt good to stretch, to clean up, to realize that I had accomplished my goal.
It took nearly an hour to get out of downtown Pittsburgh – traffic was a mess. Ben called while I was in line to exit the parking garage. It was so good to hear his voice. I filled him in on the race. He gushed over me for a while (and I didn’t stop him…). He choked up a bit (this never happens.). What a softy. He’s doing well and appreciates his new class and drill instructor. This group seems to be a bit more team-oriented and disciplined. We’re both so ready to be reunited. Each day makes us more sure of that.
Before heading home, I met my parents and wonderful friends Rachel and Steve for a post-race celebration meal at Chipotle. We had met up after the race in the city and decided to eat a bit closer to everyone’s afternoon activities. I’m thankful for their support – and the emails and text messages that have been coming in throughout the weekend. I appreciate it – your support has meant so much to me.