Running a Mini

First, let me say that this is my second writing of this post.  I wrote over 2000 words, hit post, and it disappeared!  I had spent a lot of time on that one, so with any luck, this one will go through.  Anyway…here goes round two…

As I was lined up with 18,000 other runners awaiting the start of the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Marathon, I began to wonder how I could describe what it is like to run a mini marathon – 13.1 miles.  I know that a few short years ago, I would have wondered why any somewhat sane person would even want to run that far.  What fun could it possibly be to run that far?  Now that I have experienced it, I get it.

Even before the official race day, one can feel the energy building.  Gary and I arrived in Louisville Friday afternoon and checked into our hotel.  We immediately saw many other runners in our building.  We headed to the expo, and found that the city was filled with runners.  We were excited just to be a part of such a big race.  Race day morning we awoke before the crack of dawn, donned our running garb, and began the trek to the starting line.  The start of the race was 6:30 am our time.  I am never much for small talk the morning of any race.  My thoughts are on trivial things such as the weather and what exactly to wear, whether or not I will need my sunglasses, if my stomach is going to hold up, and did I pee enough before leaving the hotel room.  Gary has learned just to let me be.  Despite my obsession over, well, everything, I still took in all the runners around me.  The anticipation was building as we marched closer to the starting line.

Lining up in my designated corral, I kissed Gary and we wished one another a great run, and then I was on my own.  With 18,000 other people.  It was crowded!  I kept my crowd anxiety in check, and scanned the runners around me.  Runners come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and abilities, but we all had one thing in common – we all wanted to run our best race that day.  For some running their best race meant just enjoying time with friends and checking another race off their lists; for others it meant breaking a personal record; and for those elite runners, it meant winning.  There were people running for charities or in memory of loved ones.  Some were celebrating recent weight loss.  I even saw a few who were celebrating weddings.

Once the national anthem began the crowd quieted.  We were all enthralled by the emotion of the moment.  It was almost time.  Our time.  A time we had trained for for months.  The weather was perfect, the runners excited, and the crowd supportive.  The energy of all involved provided the boost I needed to start strong.  The gun finally sounded, and the fast runners were off.  Me, well I had to wait about five minutes for the not-so-fast runners to begin.  And so it began.  I embarked upon my journey.  I started off fast <for me>, but had decided I would just listen to my body and run fast if I could, and slow down if I needed to.

There are many things that inspire and encourage runners along the way.  The crowd support in Louisville is incredible.  Many spectators hold signs, and I try to read most of them as I run by.  My favorite sign of the day was ‘Your training lasted longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage’.  Another thing that kept me going was bible passages.  Many runners had scriptures on the back of their shirts, and I seemed to come upon them at just the right times.  One of my favorites, which I not only saw a few times during the race, but my friend Amy also sent me before the race, was ‘They that hope in the Lord shall renew their Strength, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.’  Isaiah 40:31.  How inspiring that was just when I was feeling weak.  I do thank God every run.  I am so grateful to Him for the strength, endurance, and good health to complete every run.

Along with God, Elvis also provided some much-needed inspiration.  And not just one Elvis, but five.  I was just running along, when suddenly I spied the five Elvises running ahead.  They looked awesome!  I ran beside them for a few seconds just so I could say I ran with Elvis.  There were also some young ladies who wore small versions of the fancy derby hats, and two female spectators who had put a table on the sidewalk, complete with a tablecloth and a vase with flowers.  They were enjoying tea while watching the race.  There were small children cheering on parents, and senior citizens reminiscing about their youth.  There were also DJs and bands spaced out perfectly.  Nothing like a little music to put some pep in your step!

After running through Churchill Downs, which is amazing, the marathoners break right, and the mini marathoner head back toward downtown.  That’s when it started getting hard.  Really hard.  I was getting tired, and I was starting to hurt.  Thankfully, it was about that time that the police yelled at us to move over…the first of the marathoners was coming through!  These two men, presumably Kenyans, were running at about a 6 minute pace – they were flat-out flying!  It was just an extraordinary moment when as they passed us, everyone started clapping and cheering them on.  I still get teary just thinking about it.  The energy from that sight carried me a bit further.

It took some serious effort to run the last three miles.  I had to keep reminding myself to look up and hold my shoulders back.  I kept staring at the ground in front of me, which would cause me to slump.  Slumping isn’t good.  One cannot breathe properly when slumped over trying to drag her body along.  As we ran toward downtown, the crowds grew.  I hope they know how much their cheering helps the runners.  Whether it’s true or not (in my case it most certainly was not), someone yelling, “You’re looking strong!” makes a runner feel just a little stronger.

We finally turned right onto Main Street.  Only one half mile to go!  I was so tired, and I wanted it to be over.  At that point I no longer cared about my time; I just wanted it to end.  I pushed hard, and finally crossed the finish line.  I had done it!  And, of course, I immediately checked my watch – I had beaten last year’s time by over a minute!  I was excited, but I also had an overwhelming urge to puke.  Really.  I didn’t, but it was surely questionable.  I grabbed a water, got my token race photo taken, and bypassed the food.  No way could I have stomached a bagel or banana at that point.  And beer?  No way.  They had beer at the post-race party.  I don’t like beer on a good day, but just the thought of it after the race was nauseating.  Apparently I was in the minority because the beer line was terribly long.  Gross!

My race time was 2:04:11, which is an 9:29 pace.  Last year I ran a 9:37 pace.  I was beyond thrilled.  I placed 94 out of 602 in my age group – woo hoo!!!  I was 1534 out of 6939 total females, and 4074 out of 12,104 total runners.  Maybe 4000th isn’t anything to brag about, but I beat 8000 people!  Considering I am not an athlete, and I just started running three years ago, I think I rocked it!

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that someone accused him of boasting because he posted about his recent weight loss.  Really?  I’d hate to hear what they’d say about me.  Why shouldn’t we all be proud of our accomplishments?  I think he should announce his weight loss from his roof top!  He worked hard to reach a goal and to become healthier.  Yeah!   I believe that by sharing when we meet goals, whether it be weight loss, career goals, earning a diploma or degree, or running a race, we can inspire others to continue to reach for dreams and to tackle that which intimidates them.  I would much rather read about achievements than read complaints and harsh words about others.  We should take pride in living life to its fullest, and continuing to set goals even in later years.  We should celebrate with one another and be happy for our friends!  I am certainly happy for all who saw their dreams come true in Louisville!

I must also ‘boast’ on my husband, who continues to inspire me to lace up.  His goal in the mini marathon was to finish in less than three hours.  His time:  3:00:02!  He was not happy – at all – about those 2 seconds, but he did it!  He knocked three minutes off his previous half marathon time.  We were both happy with our performances, but gosh, we were sore and tired!  We treated ourselves to a steak lunch after checking out of our hotel, and then headed home to hold down the couch the rest of the day.  Today we managed to limp into church, and as the day went on, we began to loosen up.  Was it worth it? Absolutely.  I wish I could etch every special moment along the course into my mind so I could share it with my friends, but there are simply too many of those moments to try to remember.  There really is nothing like the camaraderie of running.

So what’s it like to run a mini?  It’s tiring.  It’s envigorating.  It’s exhausting.  It’s inspiring.  It’s painful.  It’s fulfilling.  It is life-changing.

Nana’s Gonna Run 13.1!

The weekend is upon us.  The weekend of the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon, that is.  Gary and I have been planning this weekend for months, and I am thrilled it is finally here, but with it comes apprehension.  I am pretty certain I can bust out 13.1 miles.  The adrenaline rush from the other 17,999 runners and the amazing crowd support will make up for my aging legs and nervous thoughts.  The issue is that I ran this race last year, so I have something to live up to.  I have a time to beat, or at the very least match.  I am working hard to not get too caught up in times, but I know come Saturday morning at 6:30 am, I will take out too fast trying to keep up with runners I have no business trying to keep pace with.  It just happens.

We are taking off at noon tomorrow so we can check into our hotel – the Galt House 🙂 (which just happens to be an extraordinary hotel on the riverfront) – and then hit the expo.  That is where we will gather our race bibs and race t-shirts, and then browse the vendor booths.  Dinner will likely be in the Fourth Street Live area, and will consist of some type of pasta.  Hopefully whatever I eat won’t haunt me during the race.  That would suck.  I am concerned about the weather.  The temps should be okay, but there is a chance of rain all day.  I can run in the rain, but for a race I much prefer sunshine.  It is difficult for Gary to run in the rain because of his glasses.

Last year we had some friends who were also running the race, and one friend, Jen, who was there to support us, but because of an injury two weeks before the marathon, she was unable to run.  Although I will miss our friends being with us, I am looking forward to a weekend away with my husband.  It will go quickly as we are heading home after the run, but we will savor those rare moments when only we matter (sorry, kids!).

I will most certainly blog about the race no matter how it turns out.  My students, who are from 8 to 10 years old, still don’t understand why I would run a race and not plan to win.  I have explained OFTEN, but they still don’t get it.  Today they told me that if I can’t win the race, they hope that I at least get 3rd or 4th.  Sure.  It makes no sense to a third grader that I would be happy to place 9000th.  Actually, my goal is to place in the top 25% of my division.  Top 20% would be awesome.  One advantage I have is that I moved up an age group this year.  Only in running is aging an advantage!

Below I am including a picture of us from last year’s race: Tony Hollinden, Jennifer Land, me, Gary, and Kick-Ass Runner Kim Strobel.  It is the race the Kim qualified for the Boston Marathon, and consequently landed a big spread in today’s Perry County News!  What wonderful memories of that day!  Now the focus is on making wonderful memories at this year’s Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon!  Run On, Rock Star!


Run On, Friends

I cannot believe it’s been a month since I even looked at my blog.  Spring is always incredibly busy for our family; Addison is on the tennis team, academic teams, and in We the Youth (a leadership program).  Gary and I have been training for the Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon that takes place next weekend, and in the past two weeks, have decided to put our house on the market.  So we’ve added ‘Operation Sell Our House’ to our already packed spring.  You know how we all learn to live with things in our houses that need to be fixed, painted, or removed?  Then you decide to sell that house, and suddenly you’re inundated with an endless to-do list.  That’s where we are – fixing and planting and painting and decluttering.  I have to say that last weekend, when we had a couple coming to look at our house, we worked our tails off, and the place was cleaner than it had ever been, and it was all clean at one time – even my teenager’s room and closet!  What a great feeling.  Too bad it doesn’t stay that way for long.

Anyway, enough on our house (unless you are interested in a lovely home surrounded by 54 acres of woods, then I can provide all the details you want!).  The Kentucky Derby Mini Marathon (13.1 miles).  I ran it last year 12 weeks after having a hysterectomy, and for me, I ran it very well: 2:05, which was a 9:37 pace.  It was one of those rare races when the stars aligned perfectly.  I felt great; the weather was perfect; my friends were there; and my legs didn’t disappoint me.  As this year’s race approaches, I can feel the anxiety building.  I want to be able to run it as well as last year, but maybe the stars will be out of wack that day.  Maybe my stomach will not cooperate.  Maybe the weather will suck.  I have trained well, and have had some strong runs, so I will have to accept that I did what I could, and take whatever time I get.  I know that the energy of the other runners – all 17,999 of them – will provide a major boost, and the fan support at this race is amazing.  There is entertainment along the way, and my husband will also be running.  And I will say lots of prayers this week!  God, give me strength…

Tomorrow I am going to Clarksville, Tennessee to become certified to teach Zumba.  I have been going to Zumba classes in Hawesville since last summer, and have thought about teaching for awhile.  I finally decided to take the plunge.  It sounded reasonable a couple months ago when I registered; now I am wondering if I am just too old for it.  I love the classes, but can I lead them?  I am almost certain I will be the only grandmother at the training.  And then there is the fear that I will injure myself and be unable to run next weekend.  That would not be good.  I am sure that I will have much to write about the training; I just hope it isn’t from the ER!

This past Monday was the Boston Marathon – the most prestigious marathon in the world.  IN THE WORLD!  And my friend, Kim Strobel, ran it.  What an amazing accomplishment to be a part of that race.  My third graders tracked Kim’s progress on BM maps, and were so excited each time we got an update on her run.  This year the temperature in Boston hit a record high, the upper 80s.  This is not good for runners whose bodies have not had a chance to adjust to running in the heat.  In fact, it’s downright dangerous.  The marathon officials even recommended that unless runners were in the elite category, or very marathon-experienced, they should consider not running.  After training for months, flying to Boston, and spending money on accommodations, do you think many backed out?  I don’t think so.  Kim didn’t.  She ran Boston, and she ran it like a gazelle!  Her time:  3:43:12.  Her pace:  8:30.  WOW.  For us average runners, that’s super fast.   Yet I also know that had the temperature been lower, she would have run faster.  Kim spoke with several runners afterward, and all said their times were much slower than previous races.  As I told Kim before she left, running Boston is a huge feat in itself.  Whether she ran it fast or crawled across the finish line, I am so proud of her.  What a great inspiration and a wonderful representative of Tell City.

I hope that you are meeting your goals and taking time for yourself.  Sometimes it takes some creative scheduling, but it’s worth the effort.  Running has gotten me through some extremely stressful days, and has given me time to process my days.  Take the time – you’re worth it!