Lucky Number Thirteen

I laughed to myself when I realized I’d be toeing the line of my thirteenth half marathon this weekend.  I laughed because I still can’t believe that distance running is a thing that I do, better yet, a thing that I enjoy.  In the moments following every finish line, I usually find myself wondering, “How did I pull this one off?”

Every race is challenging- some physically, some mentally, but many both.  Completing thirteen half marathons in the past four years and all of the training in between has unknowingly taught me a lot, specifically about enduring, persevering, adapting, and the importance of hard work.  It has also taught me how to effectively pop blisters, another valuable life skill.

Running certainly wasn’t easy at first, but now I feel free when I hit the road, and every worry on my mind, no matter the size, is kicked to the curb.  Running provides a window of opportunity to think, and better yet, time to not think.

During that window of time, it doesn’t matter that people haven’t answered your text messages, that you haven’t landed a job yet (keyword: yet), or even an interview for that matter, or that you didn’t write as many words for your dissertation today as you would have liked.  Sure, some of those worries slap you in the face when you stop your Garmin and slip off your sneakers, but for a brief moment in time, the worries, annoyances, and frustrations of the day cease.

Thirteen half marathons calls for a lot of training.  I’ve learned how to pass the miles in a variety of ways.  I’ve spent many a mile making pro-con lists about big decisions, thinking about lesson plans, chatting with friends, answering the occasional phone call, making up funny stories about people I pass on the street, and belting out the Hamilton soundtrack from start to finish (yes, runs can last that long).  I’ve spent many miles not thinking at all, laughing at the stories told by Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Rachel Dratch in their audiobooks, feeling like part of the action while trail running to the Hunger Games, absolutely jamming out to the Spice Girls, enjoying pure silence, and sometimes all I can focus on is the pounding of my rough-day elephant feet on the pavement.

No matter what I’m doing from mile to mile, it always ends up being enjoyable.  Sometimes the miles feel less than great, or the pace is frustratingly off what I know I’m capable of, but other days the miles feel fantastic and every step is effortless.

This weekend I crossed the finish line of the Skye Half Marathon with a new PR and asking the ever-burning question of, “How did I pull this one off?”  The (very) hilly course and pouring rain perfectly matched the dramatic landscape of Skye and made for an incredible race.  Most of the spectators were sheep, and there were plenty of friendly runners to keep morale high throughout the race.  The course didn’t mess around, as the first incline began right out of the gate, through the first mile, and continued to roll until another long and steady incline in the eighth mile.  From there it was uphill and into the wind through mile ten where the course then made way for a mostly downhill finish.  The final three miles were a mental challenge, but I caught that train and finished with a burst of speed and my head held high.

In amazement of pulling off another race, I was handed a local beer and medal for my efforts, which is the perfect ending to any race story, but only the beginning of a wonderful weekend touring the Isle of Skye.  The jaw-dropping landscape of Skye was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and made a post-race hike impossible to pass up, beating the tired legs into submission. One of my favorite destinations throughout my year of Scottish travels, I definitely recommend a visit.

Thank You Notes

  • Thank you to maple syrup for being excellent mid-race fuel.
  • Thank you to the group of nice gentlemen I spent the weekend with (many of whom were running their first ever half!!) for letting me crash their Skye Adventure.  Kudos on a race well run!
  • Thank you to my Sister/Best Friend for coming to visit last month.  I miss you tons, come back please.
  • Than you to my laptop for holding its own in its old age as we near the finish line of the Master’s degree.  Please keep it up.
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