When you tell people who don’t enjoy running that you are training for and running a race, you usually get one of two reactions: A response of total disdain for running, or someone who thinks it’s great that you do it, even if it’s not their cup of tea. I did not start running until I was in my late thirties, so to see my daughter, Erin tackling training for a half marathon at her age brings out my Momma Pride. Before I started running, I couldn’t imagine how people managed to trudge through that first mile, let alone three miles for a 5K. Erin completed her first half marathon last week at the tender age of 14 at the GO! Half Marathon/Marathon in St. Louis. She runs faster than I do, so other than being at the starting corral together, I did not get to run the 13.1 miles with her, but as I lagged behind, running those same streets in St. Louis, I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about during those miles. Personally, besides realizing Left Knee was not happy this run, I was worried we were going to get caught in a nasty thunderstorm.
Running those long training runs, there is a special magic that happens to your body and your mind. Scientifically, we know there are endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones, released that give us a “runner’s high” and help us cope with stress. When I run with a friend or running group, the magic factor is boosted even more. My running partner, who is also one of my best friends, has said we solve all the world’s problems on our long runs. We also say that we could probably increase our speed if we’d shut up a bit, but then it wouldn’t be as much for us—such a trade-off. Our training with Erin allowed her to always get a few more miles in than we did, as she’d run ahead at a faster pace and needed to circle back to meet up with us. Thankfully, she has some friends to run with who challenge her to up her pace on the shorter runs.
Running this half was bittersweet. My running partner, the one who solves all the world’s problems with me while we run together, had a family tragedy happen the week before the race that shook us all to our very core. The event is too raw and too personal to share here on a blog, but she was not able to run with us. We chose to run in honor of her loved one, which made this run very personal for Erin and the other runners in our group, and she was on our mind and in our hearts the entire way.
Erin and I both agreed that when you first start a long race, the excitement and the crowd gets us in the mindset that could keep up the running for hours. Conversation flows easily, in spite of all that heavy breathing, as you check off the miles. At The GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis, runners get to run over the bridge into Illinois, and the view of the Arch as you come back into Missouri is stunning. Many people stop to take selfies with the Arch in the background. I chose to just lift up my camera and shoot a picture, minus my sweaty face. I thought it turned out great, considering I didn’t come to a stop to take it.
Normally it’s around Mile 8 that I start to ask myself, “How much longer?” This race, it was closer to halfway through Mile 9, which is the part of the race that goes through the Anheuser-Busch brewery area. We trudged on through past Soulard Market and onto Mile 11, where they were handing out little chocolate candies from Crown Candy Restaurant (another longstanding St. Louis landmark). As my friend, Tina, and I approached Mile 12, I kept thinking about how the end of the race was so close, and the hills seemed especially steep. The crowds cheering along the side of the course gave us words of encouragement about the end being “just around the corner”. It was more like around a corner, and another and another. Then a really long straight stretch. In other words, the last mile kind of felt like five miles. But the finish felt fantastic and miraculously the rain held off until we had walked back to our hotel.
There are times when I feel like a snail running these longer races—if a snail had creaky knees—and wonder what keeps me motivated to do another one. One look at my daughter and I am reminded of our talks during our training runs over toenails, running shoes and how good it feels after you’ve accomplished a goal you’ve set your mind to. I see her excited about meeting up with her running pals, and her determination to improve and finish what she starts. So I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving it up any time soon, even if I am riding in her tailwind.