Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is it November, Yet??

I am so excited! A new-to-me half-marathon...one designed, organized, and staged just for women! And a late fall half-marathon, at that, in St. Petersburg FL. Road trip!! Can you tell I'm excited?

Now, I have nothing against men who run, but I'm thinking a race by women just for women is a really cool thing. Being a short person (my son calls me 'midget mom'), I've lined up in the crush of the starting line at other races, fending off the elbows of men who are pressed in on all sides. So, lining up at the start with my running "sisters" will definitely be a pleasant experience! The enthusiastic gals staffing the WHM booth at a Fitness Expo in May assured me of this. Then there's that really gorgeous finisher's medal!

Flash back to a year ago. I was looking for an end-of-year race event in a different city, one that would be fun to visit, not only as a runner, but as a tourist, too. Good weather would be important that time of year, naturally. So would a runner-friendly course...my way of saying a course that isn't too hilly. And a loop course would be nice, a loop that is scenic. Oh, and hotels within walking distance of the start and finish. Some really nice race swag. Am I asking for too much? Yeah, it does sound like I'm being kinda picky. But, what's this? My internet search uncovered the Women's Half Marathon in St. Petersburg, FL. Now, how perfect is this?! Other events and budget constraints nudged it off my calendar for 2010, but I sure did file that WHM race information away, promising myself I'd take another look at it for 2011. When registration opened for this year's event, I was there, online, signing up.

So here it is, early August, and the WHM in St. Petersburg FL is just three and a half months away. That sounds like eons of time to train and get ready, but I have learned the hard way how time can slip away in a heartbeat. I really dislike that feeling when I realize there's a race looming and my long run mileage isn't even close to sufficient. Maybe there are more stressful things in life (broken air conditioners or burst water pipes come to mind) but not feeling like I'm ready on race day morning - at the moment I'm standing on the start line - is going to "peg" mighty high on my stress-o-meter.

In self-defense, therefore, I've taken the proverbial "bull by the horns" this summer and am trying to stick to a schedule. As dreadfully hot as it's been, I'm rewarding myself with little gold stars (well, maybe a little bit of extra chocolate, too) for getting out there and running in the mornings. My runs may not be elegant and my pace may be agonizingly slow but, by golly, I'm (more or less) getting it done.


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How did I ever get into this madness called running in the first place? I call it madness because, well, some of my non-running friends really do think I'm mad. But that's another story. So, here's how it happened... Ten years ago a good friend gently pushed me into a spectator role at the marathon here in town. He was running in it and thought I'd enjoy cheering him on. Actually, I think he enjoyed the "one woman cheering section" as much as I did being there for him. In all seriousness, though, it was an eye-opener for me. Not being a runner at all - not even the occasional jogger - I watched in amazement as runners of all sizes, shapes, and ages ran past me, having the times of their lives. Many were using the event as a fund raiser for their favorite charity, others were running in memory of loved ones. Well, I had recently lost my husband to cancer and saw this as my new raison d'ĂȘtre.

After the race was over, when my friend and I re-connected, I sought his help in getting started on what has become the journey of a lifetime for me. He was my mentor and trainer. From being a total non-runner, I ever-so-slowly gained stamina and experience, entering some local 5K races, then a 10K race, then enrolling in a marathon-training program in our city. I had no idea what I was doing; I just followed the "program" and took my friend's advice. I kept putting one foot in front of the other until one day I realized, "Hey, I'm a runner!" When enrollment opened for the next year's marathon, I signed up and, at the same time, signed up with one of the charities to raise money for cancer research.

One year later, after that fateful Sunday morning standing on the sidelines, I was running in my first marathon along that very same street where I stood the year before. I couldn't believe I was actually there, doing this, doing what seemed improbable to me 12 months earlier. I raised a few hundred dollars that first year, but vowed to triple that amount next time. Now it's 10 years later and I confess that the "feel good" part of raising money to fight cancer is trumped only by the euphoria of crossing that finish line!

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