Monday, September 19, 2011


"How did I get here?" Angela thought to herself? "When did I sign up for this and why?" On mile 2 of 13.1, Angela wondered what could be wrong with her that she ever saw this as a good idea.

Angela and her best friend, Maggie, had decided six months ago to sign up for a half marathon in hopes that they'd be inspired to run more often. To give themselves credit, they had run far more then they had 6 months prior but this was borderline certifiable.

Angela was only on mile two and already she was bored and suffering. As she watched people pass her, she was sure she'd be the last person to finish. "There can't be that many people running this race,” she would think to herself.

The pain in her lungs was intense and she wasn't sure that she could suffer through it for eleven and a half more miles. Shaking out the stiffness in her arms, she pushed forward. Two miles was nothing. She ran that three to four times a week. Heck, ten miles wasn't that big a deal anymore. For the last three Saturdays they had run ten to twelve miles each. Now that it was race day, it seemed impossible.

Its not like she hadn't run a race before. She had run several in preparation for this one over the last 6 months. They were mostly three to six milers but they were still races. Each of those had been easier then the training runs. The adrenaline of running with thousands of runners around her was invigorating and motivating. But somehow this was different. The mental games were already in full swing.

Angela had created a play list on her iPod specifically for this race. Most of the songs had a motivating or exciting theme to them, to help push her to the next mile. Some were slower paced but motivating just the same. She had created the list based on the normal mental and physical patterns she had noticed in training. But somehow, this race had not taken any normal pattern. The songs meant to motivated and push her forward were only annoying and inappropriate. The songs that had been intended to calm her spirit where now just putting her to sleep.

Maggie had long passed her. Maggie had a one to two minute per mile lead on Angela. Though a good 4 to 5 inches shorter then Angela, Maggie had a longer stride. Even in walking, Angela could out walk Maggie in no time flat. They had made an agreement a long time ago that though they would run together, they wouldn't run next to each other. The freedom to run their own pace but still feel like they had an accountability partner was a great fit for them.

Before Angela realized it she was rounding out the fourth mile. She had gone somewhere mentally in the last two miles that allowed the distance to feel like it was nothing. As she saw the small sign read "Mile 4" she noticed the time underneath. "That can't be right," she thought. If she read that right, her mile had decreased by almost a minute and a half. She had never run a consistent nine-minute mile in her life. But according the time, she had to have at least run between an eight to nine minute mile for the last four miles to give her the time she had. She pulled up her iphone, which logged her statistics, and she had been right. She had been running an 8.5-minute mile the entire time.

At the realization of her time, Angela suddenly felt tired and drained again. The mental games were starting. Now that she was aware of her speed, her body was somehow aware as well. Allowing herself to blink a little longer, she clenched her fists and pushed forward. She had powered through four miles, two of which were effortless, surely she could do four more. She was allowing herself to see this race in smaller increments so that it didn't overwhelm her. She wasn't going to allow her brain to focus on the 13.1 but rather focus on shorter goals.

Mile 7 was beginning to be her favorite. The spectators were in greater numbers and allowed for a motivation she was slowly losing.

"Way to go, Angela." "So Proud of you, Angela." "You are more then half way, Girl" were some of the things she heard people yelling as she ran by. The name on her race bib allowed for spectators to cheer people on by name, also allowing for the runners to feel the mental push of the audience. The shear presence of these strangers was what was pushing her through. Her energy had begin to waver until she rounded the last hill at mile seven, where she saw hundreds of people holding signs and screaming out encouraging words.

After mile 7, every half a mile or so, she would see a pocket of spectators cheering people on. Each time she felt the push to move forward. As mile ten approached, the size of the crowds also increased. The pain that Angela felt at mile two was no longer gnawing at her. Adrenaline was her best friend and it was keeping her going. The euphoric feeling was coursing through her veins, making her feel like she wasn't even running, but floating through the race.

Just as Angela crossed the Mile 12 marker, a friend from school came out the crowd, running along side her. Mikael was a long distance runner and had been one of the key people who encouraged her to start running. Mikael was sitting this race out as she prepared for a marathon in a month, but she had decided to run the last mile with both Angela and Maggie. As her pace matched up to Angela's she slowly increased her pace until Angela was matching Mikael's pace. Angela wasn't sure she had it in her to increase her pace by that much for an entire mile but she pushed through using Mikael's energy to push her along.

"You are at the end, girlfriend. Put all you have into this last bit." Mikael said at mile thirteen, as she broke off into the crowd. Angela felt her stride increase, her breathing get stronger as she pushed forward. She sprinted through the last tenth of a mile, into the finish line. As she heard her name and time being announced, she began to cry. She had never done anything this hard before in her life. She was aware of the fact that hundreds, thousands, even millions of people run races every day. Most of those are much longer then her 13.1 but she had never trained for and completed something that required so much physical and emotional energy as this had for her. As she let the success of getting through the half marathon settle in, she became more aware of what she was actually capable of. If she could run a half marathon in a pace that was 2 minutes per mile under her training pace, then she could do anything. She never knew that running a race like this would inspire her as much as it was. She felt unstoppable!

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