Half marathon number three is in the books, made even more special because my husband, Doug, joined me to make it his first one! While completing the distance gives me a sense of accomplishment, it's what happens along the way that makes it all the more satisfying.
The Run for a Reason benefits the YWCA of Topeka's Girls on the Run program. The program puts volunteers in area schools to introduce girls to the joy of running and all the self confidence and life lessons that go along with it. Waiting at the starting line Saturday morning, a father asked if his daughter could take a picture with me. Turns out, she takes part in the program and was getting ready to take part in the 5K run, big smile on her face as she proudly displayed her race number on her shirt. Later, a 14-year-old who started running through the program would be the top female finisher in the 5K. Go, girl!
Back on the half marathon route, we were greeted by smiling, enthusiastic volunteers. About one mile in, we hopped on the Landon Trail behind the Brown v. Board site and soon came to a round-about where it intersected with the Shunga Trail. Yes, even walking/biking trails have round-abouts! Who knew?! The funny thing here was the volunteer offering tissues because, after all, it was a chilly morning and our noses might be running along with our legs!
It was our first time running the Landon Trail and I was impressed. Most sections have tall trees lining both sides, so it feels quiet and peaceful, even though you're in the city. It was disappointing, though, to see about a mile section heavily marked with graffitti.
Part of the joy of the course we followed was how it doubled back, so you were passing the runners either ahead of you or following behind you. The comraderie the meetings inspired really provided a boost, everyone offering encouragement, offering assurance you were doing well and staying strong. It kept a pep in my step - at least for a while!
At about mile eight, we were back at the round-about and swung onto the Shunga Trail. Just past mile nine, the lovely Anita and Steve Fry were the volunteers directing us through an intersection. Their enthusiasm provided a much needed pick me up - for about two blocks! That's when I started thinking in my head, "That 10-mile marker has be coming up sometime!" Still, we kept going. Shortly after the turnaround to head the last two miles to the finish line, a nice man named Bob who I see at many local runs passed us. You know who Bob is by his big bushy beard! Shortly after mile 11, we came upon Bob walking a few steps. He started running again but, at about the mile 12 sign, we came upon him pausing again. I called out, "You're almost done!" as we passed, to which he responded, "You mean I'm not done yet?!" We all chuckled and, soon, Bob was running with us - then passing us! - again.
Nearing Williams Magnet School to make the turn to the final few blocks to the finish line, another man caught up with us and we, too, exchanged a few words. Both he and Bob arrived at the finish a few paces ahead of us, but they, along with my husband Doug, really saw me through to the end. (There also was our co-worker and friend Eric - who finished in a PR - yelling to not let up over that final block!) I never wanted to quit, but, thanks to them, I resisted the temptation to maybe stop for a few minutes! Doug even crossed the finish line with a smile on his face!
The final splits will show the first eight miles in all about the same time and those last three a full minute slower than the steady pace we held for so long. In the end, that's not really what matters. What matters is I pushed myself to reach a goal and kept at it until I got there. Many others did the same thing. The lessons from those two-plus hours on the trails can translate to so much else in life - and that's what Girls on the Run is all about!
(thanks to www.seekcrun.com for the photo!)