Two months ago, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the start line of this race. As I got ready to go, I was nervous. The crisp morning in Springfield, IL did nothing to calm my nerves.
I didn’t share my trepidation with my wife because she had enough to worry about with me out there and our almost two-year-old to keep her busy. I kept it all inside as I ate a bagel and had a glass of water. Then, I decided to look at my phone.
There were words of encouragement from my new friends in the Sub-30 Club, including Dawn who said she would see me during the race. There was a text from my brother. And it started to click – I can do this and I will get to see that smiling little face a few times while I pounded the pavement around Springfield.
I decided to go with shorts and a short-sleeved shirt with a ball cap from the get go, despite the 38-degree temps. The sun was shining and I’m a big dude, so any extra layers wouldn’t be on long anyway. Besides my hands freezing, it was a great decision because I was plenty warm by mile 2.
The race started out really well for me. I had no pain, which is unusual for me in the first couple miles and I felt great. The podcast I was listening to (Ten Junk Miles) was doing the job of keeping my mind off things. I hit my rhythm around mile 5 and put in my two fastest miles.
I decided to have a GU and that may have been a mistake. My stomach, for the first time with this stuff, got a bit angry. The timing could not have been worse as the first of the hills hit and mile 7 was rough. My back had a twinge and the doubts started to creep in. When I saw my wife and little one at mile 7, I told her I wasn’t sure if I would make it.
I kept going. My mind started to do math and that is never good on a run like this, so I looked at my phone. Don’t know why but there was a message from Ted that simply said, DO IT!!!!! I smiled because I knew that the Sub-30 Club, my family, my kids, my friends – they were with me.
This helped as I encountered more hills. Who knew Springfield, IL had so many hills? The one just outside the Oak Ridge Cemetery, with Lincoln’s tomb, almost had me thinking they wouldn’t have to move me very far at least. Then another reminder that I wasn’t alone occurred as I went to cross a street and I heard a woman shouting, “Go, Pete!” Seriously? Who even knows I’m out here?
Oh right, Dawn from the Sub-30 Club! She’d never met me but I’ve got a distinct enough look that she recognized me from a distance. First Ted, now Dawn. These people were with me.
It’s not easy when you are a back-of-the-pack runner who is out there solo. I needed to know I wasn’t alone. Seeing my wife and baby girl four times on the course, the messages, the shout-out – that was what I needed.
The hills took a ton out of me. I was exhausted and afraid to take fuel, so only water for me. My goal was to finish. I knew that would happen now. My secondary goal was to beat three hours. I pushed myself a much as I could and I did it, finishing at 2:57:50.
Even though that could well be my brother’s time when he runs Boston in two weeks, no shame. Even though I was 61st out of 64 in my age group, no shame. Even though I was 501st out of 522 in my gender, no shame. Even though I was 1,126th out of 1,220 runners, NO SHAME.
In the past, I would have beat myself up for these numbers. In the last year, and especially the last couple of months, I have learned to celebrate every step. I did the miles and finished the distance. DNS and DNF did not happen and that is a victory. If I was DFL, so what?
The race wasn’t about beating others. The race was about beating my personal demons and putting them in an unbreakable cage to wither and die.
I could have made this race recap very short, something like – I had doubts. I went out there and figured out I wasn’t alone. I did the miles and finished the race. I did have fun. And I cannot wait to do it again. I’ll see you October 22nd in Naperville for another half-marathon. In the meantime, I have some work to do…