By Megan Cox
The race is over. The half-marathon I’ve been training for during the past eight months, ever since I had baby number two, took place this past weekend.
Along with almost 10,000 half-marathon runners, I crossed the finish line. But it wasn’t pretty.
Two weeks ago, I ran an eleven-mile training run under my goal of a nine-minute mile. I was psyched. For the Dallas Half Marathon, I didn’t think I’d achieve the 1:48:01 that I ran in 2007 in the Baltimore Half, but I had high hopes of keeping my time right at two hours.
But life doesn’t always cooperate with our plans, does it?
Everything started out well. My family and I made it from Oklahoma City to my cousin’s house in Frisco, Texas, without any major difficulties. Saturday afternoon, my husband and I had a chance to explore the Dallas Health and Fitness Expo without the kiddos.
We picked up my info package, bib, and the race T-shirt. All was well with the world.
But my life is not happy without some drama. Enter the stomach bug. Something got a hold of me by Saturday evening. I was up several times that night, puking my guts out, and again at four a.m., about an hour before I was to be picked up for the race by a friend of my cousin.
I tried to sip water and eat some bread before I left the house. I pulled out my brave face and put it on. But inside, I was really, really worried.
‘I Told Myself I’d Be Fine’
My cousin’s friend and I made it downtown without too much of a hassle, parked two blocks from the starting line (when does that happen?), and walked around the crowd. The weather was almost seventy, so I didn’t need the mittens, long pants, or hoodie I had packed.
The air was nice, although definitely sticky at 93 percent humidity. We hit a bathroom at a business instead of using the dreaded Porta potties, and I anxiously sipped more water and nibbled on a power bar.
I told myself I’d be fine. I just had to be! I had put so much tears, sweat, and pain into getting to this point.
As the race started with a bang, I soaked in all the positive energy and smiled. I was feeling energized. This was going to be awesome! As I hit the starting line, I kicked into gear, watching my pace closely and keeping things steady.
If my eleven-mile training run was any indication, I’d have energy to spare at the finish line.
At first, it was fun. The runners were so eclectic. There was the group of girls running in Santa lingerie, the lady with the “Can’t run over Grandma” shirt, and a girl with a “You can do it” written on the back of her calves. I was thrilled to be in the company of other excited runners such as myself.
I Couldn’t Let Myself Down
But, you can’t run a race on practically no calories. You can’t keep up your energy when your body is struggling with dehydration. And you definitely can’t keep up a steady pace when your stomach has launched its own rebellion.
By three miles, I was tired. By five, I was lagging on my pace already. By seven miles I texted my husband to say I was feeling sick and not sure I would make it. I was practically in tears. He offered encouragement, although it was implied that I not take any stupid risks.
Yet, I couldn’t let myself down! I kept going. I even walked a little (which I swore up and down I would not do). I cried a little. I drank Gatorade at every water station. I tried to soak in the fun views of Dallas. I texted each mile marker to my husband, knowing he would want keep tabs on me.
By twelve miles, my focus was pretty fuzzy. For the last half mile of the race, I could see the finish line. I ran faster. Spectators were doing what they do, ringing bells and shouting encouragement. I crossed the line at 2 hours, 13 minutes, and 47 seconds. I was disappointed but relieved.
And then I did something really stupid. After someone hung a medal around my neck, I went and sat on the concrete barrier so I could meet up with my ride.
I should have walked and drank more water, but I couldn’t even see straight. When my cousin’s friend found me, she tried to make conversation, but I couldn’t hear anything. As we made our way away from the finish area, I spotted the Dallas Fire and Rescue. I was looking for a medic, but any port in the storm would do.
I collapsed in a chair, begged for help, and had my vitals taken. I received oxygen while they encouraged me to drink and work through the cramps that were raking my entire body. The water bottle they handed me fell from my paralyzed fingers.
For a few minutes, I was pretty scared.
They talked about getting me to the medical station for an IV, but I wasn’t even listening. In a moment of panic, I ripped the oxygen mask from my face, asked for a bag, and promptly puked the rest of my guts out.
I really hope no one who reads this saw that display. It’s probably one of the most humiliating moments of my life. The guys who were helping me asked if this was my first race. From the looks of it, I’m not surprised they did.
But, as I said, all’s well that ends well. A few minutes later, I was feeling way, way better. I begged the medics not to take me inside, signed a paper that released them of liability, took a picture with my cousin’s friend—now my friend—and hobbled to the car with her. Obviously, I was far from one hundred percent, but the worst was over.
The Best Thing About the Race
What did I learn? So many things. I learned that mentally, you can push yourself past your physical capabilities. I learned that other runners and those who volunteer to help out at races are pretty darn compassionate.
I learned that running a race on an empty, queasy stomach is feasible, if not advisable. And I learned a lesson I already knew. My family—my awesome husband and two adorable kiddos—are worth more than anything. They’re worth more than a desired finish time, keeping up appearances, and yes, maybe even completing something I’ve been working toward for so long and hard.
I’m proud of me. Yesterday was one of the toughest days of my life. It wasn’t the race I envisioned, but I know I’m stronger from facing the challenge. And getting to come back and hug my loved ones, well, that is the best thing of all.