Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Baby, We Were Born to Run?

As Bruce Springsteen's "Baby, We Were Born to Run" blares from speakers at the annual Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon and Half Marathon, I have a moment of exceptional gratitude. I am confident enough to believe I can actually complete my first half marathon, I am physically healthy enough to be standing at the starting line on my own two feet, I am surrounded by some of my best friends, and I am in the company of over 18,000 people who helped raise over three million dollars for pediatric care.  The feeling of gratitude and awe is intense.

That moment of gratitude and awe will soon be replaced by the pain and suffering that can only come from running 13.1 consecutive miles.  As for those running the full marathon?  I am not worthy of their company!

Of course, I didn't wake up that crisp October morning and just decide to go for a long, long run.  Nooooo, I spent 12 weeks preparing for that morning's run.

It all started with a well-intentioned friend.

We all have that one friend who is smart, organized, and level-headed. When that friend speaks, people listen.  My friend who is smart, organized, and level-headed suggested we train for and run a half marathon.  Turns out she's not as level-headed as everybody thought!

Here's the thing about running a half marathon:  as you train, you learn quite a few things about yourself and your dear, sweet running buddies.

For example, some ideas sound really good in a hypothetical sense.  Ever sign up for something months in advance and then regret it when the time comes to actually run 13.1 miles without stopping do it?  Yeah, me, too!  During the half marathon, I most appreciated the sign that read, "This sounded like a good idea 3 months ago!"

I totally and 100% blame my good friend for this, too.  I refuse to take any responsibility for signing up to run 13.1 miles because everybody knows I would normally travel this distance by car.  Clearly, the peer pressure was too much for me.

Another important lesson you learn while training with friends is that your body is completely and utterly unpredictable.  For starters, you will become keenly focused on your bladder and bowels.  What do you do if Mother Nature calls while you're in the midst of one of your long runs in the middle of nowhere?  As I learned from more than one running buddy, you should never trust a fart.  Never ever.

Ladies, you also need to take care of your boobies.  Yes, sports bras are dangerous contraptions.  Many a friend has nearly suffered strangulation in the process of putting one on or freeing oneself from it, but a good bra is the difference between happy boobies and chaffed and bleeding boobies.  Nobody likes bloody boobies.

As for your toes, well, somebody in the group is gonna lose a toenail.  Check out your toes prior to training, and bid farewell to at least one toenail.  Odds are, it's gonna happen.  Incidentally, a shoe half a size bigger can be the difference between keeping all your toenails happy and losing one to the cause.

The night before the half marathon is nothing short of incredible. Everyone knows carb loading is a key component to race preparation.  I may not be happy with my overall half-marathon performance, but I can carb load with the best of them. I would go as far as to say I am an elite carb loader.  Truly, one of the best.  Those who witnessed it would have to agree.

In the course of training, injuries can and will happen. Not everyone you train with will make it to the starting line with you on race day. You may have that one friend who will suffer an "injury" during training.  She will opt out of the race and instead volunteer to cheer you on and take pictures from the sidelines.  This is a clear sign of her higher intelligence.  Make note of this, and vow to suffer an "injury" next time, too, so you can hold hilarious signs like the one that read, "Remember....You paid money to do this Dumbass" or "My New Year's resolution was to hold a funny sign during a marathon."  These people are clearly smarter than the ones pounding the pavement!

The most amazing thing you will see and learn, however, is something so precious it may catch you by surprise like a double rainbow on a Fall day.

You will see compassion.  You will see the human spirit at its absolute best.

I passed a man dressed in full fireman gear. He had to be sweating while running in long protective gear with an oxygen tank on his back and a helmet on his head.  He ran on behalf of a fallen brother.

I saw countless participants running with signs on their shirts stating they were running on behalf of someone who could not run.

Each mile of the Nationwide Children's Hospital Columbus Marathon & Half Marathon is devoted to a child who has or is battling a medical condition. These young patients and their families line sections of their assigned mile and provide inspiration and perspective to weary runners.  Their stories are amazing and their smiles are infectious.

Mile 11 is Angel Mile, and this mile recognizes the young patient warriors who lost their battle.  This mile is lined by the loved ones who miss them so dearly. This mile is the longest and hardest mile, but this mile reminds runners of the privilege to run and the honor in running.

Eventually, and to your sheer delight, all the mile markers will fall away and the finish line will approach.

When you finish you will know, Baby, you were born to run.

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