Friday, June 7, 2013

Your First is Always Special

Last year at the Women’s Half Marathon in Minnesota, I saw sisters cross the finish line holding hands.  I’m certain that I teared up in that moment and immediately texted my sister and asked her to run a half with me.  I knew it was something on her bucket it list to do someday.  She replied with something close to “sure”.  I’m almost positive she thought I would forget or let it go. 

I started looking for races for us to register for.  Sarah hates to run in the cold so I knew it would have to be a late spring or early summer race.  I bribed her with a race in California.  And made a case for it to be both a race and a long weekend they could see my brother in law’s family.  Really, how could she say no to race in San Diego?

We started training in March.  My sister and I have always been close.  She’s one of my favorite people to spend time with.  I really enjoyed all of our extra time together as we ran together on average twice a week.  Maybe it’s the big sister in me, but I also loved sharing my knowledge of running with her.  She trusted what I told and pretty much followed the plan I put together. 

I knew she wouldn’t have any trouble after our longest run of 12 miles.  She hardly complained and I was the one slowing us down.  I think there’s a sweet spot between well trained and over trained and I think she was in the perfect place.  I’m not sure she really got excited for the race until a few days before.  But the more excited she got, the more excited I got.

Sarah’s sister in law, Kim, was going to run the race with us.  She has children near the boys age and they all bonded during Sarah and Jeff’s wedding last spring.  It was great for us to all be together for a few days in San Diego. 

On race morning, we left super early to take the shuttle to the race start.  Imagine for a moment the most annoying people you can think of to ride in a shuttle with, and the group of women in our shuttle was worse.  They actually asked us to get out of the shuttle and onto a different one – we politely declined.  They were loud and obnoxious.  Sarah leaned over to me at one point and whispered that no matter how hard the race would be at least we wouldn’t be stuck with them. 

We had lots of time before the race to sit around and prepare for the race.  I’m not sure this was a good thing as it’s easy to overthink before a race.  One of my favorite things about this race was that it benefitted the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  There was a lot of Team in Training runners.  It was a great distraction and made me super proud to be a part of such a great organization.  In the last mile of the race, I saw a lady holding a sign that said, “Thank you from a Leukemia Survivor”.  Talk about powerful, and yes I might have had tears in my eyes.

We started in the corral behind the 2:30 pacer.  I was expecting us to finish with a time around 2:45.  Kim had missed some training and planned to run with us as long as possible.  Part of my running wisdom I had shared with Sarah was to start slow and then to slow down.  If you’ve ever run with me feel free to laugh here.  We walked more in the beginning than we did later in the race.  This was to warm up well and to finish stronger…oh and because the first 3 miles always suck.  We lost Kim somewhere around mile 4, probably because that’s also where I finally feel warmed up (sorry Kim).

Experiencing the race with my sister was like experiencing it for the first time all over again.  It was wonderful and a little magical.  San Diego was my 30th half marathon.  As you can imagine, I’ve seen almost every sign you can think of.  But I read them all again and laughed with Sarah.  I’ve often said how important spectators are during a race.  Until you’ve run a race, you really don’t understand how much holding a funny sign can help the runner going by.  I also really enjoy spectators who give out goodies during the race.  My favorite this race was a popice popsicle.  I made my sister dash from one side of the road to the other to get one.

There was a guy in front of us the last 8 miles or so with a 3:00 pace bib on.  Sarah kept saying she really wanted to run it in under 3 hours.  I purposely didn’t wear a watch or pay much attention to the timing clocks.  I didn’t want to add any extra pressure.  I was also aware of who was around us, and I knew the 2:45 pacer never passed us.  So every time she said she wanted to finish under 3, I just smiled and said we would. 

We finished in 2:34.  I’m so proud of Sarah!  It took me a long time to get to a finish that fast.  Waiting at the finish line, were our husbands (with signs, sweet guys) and other family and a few friends.  Sarah held it together through the entire race and through the finish.  As we were walking back to meet everyone else, she gave me a huge hug and said thank you and she had big tears in her eyes.  It was one of the moments you know immediately is so special you will cherish it forever.  We barely missed Kim finishing.  She finished in 2:51 – quite impressive since she didn’t get to get to train as much as she wanted.

At the race expo, Sarah and I registered for the Women’s half in Nashville.  It is my personal running philosophy that you should sign up for your second race before you run your first.  And there was a moment during the race where Sarah must have been on a runner’s high where she said maybe (You should know I take maybe as yes.) she would do one travel race a year with me. I never had any doubt that my sister would finish the race.  I was in a little surprised by how gracefully she did it.  I never heard her complain a single time.  We smiled, we laughed and we had a great time.  I couldn’t help but think we captured the spirit of the race perfectly.