RACE 58: Salt Lake City Half Marathon

There are races for races sake and then there are defining races. This race was one of those defining races for me. It wasn’t because I PR’d or got that elusive sub-two goal (heck, I didn’t even get a sub-three time) nor did I reach some other running goal of mine. By all standards you probably could have said that I had a REALLY crappy run. But, I feel quite the opposite. This run changed my perspective on how I look at running. It gave me a deeper appreciation and love for the sport and it opened my eyes to the journeys of all those running the same course as myself.

I did go into the race with a time goal. I really felt that I could match last year’s time (2:28:28) if not exceed that, especially with the course change. I worked myself towards that lately with my speed work and training. Leading up to Friday I felt good about my chances. But, at the same time I was a bit nervous because I was working the Salt Lake Comic Con with my family during the day and then organizing ghost hunts on Thursday and Friday nights until almost nearly 2am. I knew I was going to be running on not that much sleep. But, I felt like I could push through it and do my best.

So coming off about two hours of sleep on Saturday morning, I headed out to run my race. I met up with Kasie, Becky and Nate her husband. We walked from their apartment to the starting line on the campus of the University of Utah. There we met up with a number of other RA group members before the race started. We were going to meet up for a group picture, but they moved the starting line at the last minute and that kind of messed it up. Either way, we’re always a fun crazy bunch that has made running fun for me.

Once we started the race it was apparent that it was going to be tough. We had to run up North Campus Drive into Federal Heights. It was a hill I don’t think anyone wanted to run up, especially that early into the race. But, adrenaline and a packed crowd of runners made it bearable. But, that wasn’t the only big hill we had to conquer within the first couple of miles. We had two others sizeable hills we had to run up. I sucked it them up for the most part, but on the last hill my legs were just not there. They were drained and I knew this was going to be a tough run.

After stopping for a minute to stretch and regroup I felt confident all was not lost and I just kept trudging along. I knew there was going to be the 800 South hill we’d have to conquer later, but I knew it wasn’t going to be that bad until then. So, I just ran. I actually started feeling better and by the mile three aid station I felt pretty good.

But, as I was taking off my jacket (that I stupidly wore) at the aid station I got this strong impression to stop, take out my headphones, find someone to run with and have fun. Fighting this impression I started back out. But, once I got down into Memory Grove got even louder. I tried to shut it up, but I just couldn’t ignore it. I couldn’t.

So I stepped aside on the path, took out my headphones and cheered on some runners as I scanned the crowd. Less than 30 seconds later I ran into my friend Nikki Harris. She and I go to the same gym and we are both consultants for Zeal. She is awesome and very much a go getter. This was her first half marathon after a LONG break from it. So I jumped right in and joined her and her little group.

In no time we ran into a soldier named Jessica from Seattle running with an American Flag. I asked her what she was running for because she had a sign pinned to her back that I couldn’t really read. She said she was running for deployed soldiers and their families. But, that wasn’t just it. She was also being deployed within two weeks for a year. She had family here in the Salt Lake area so she came down from Seattle to spend time with them and decided to run the half as well. A true hero. I was glad that I got to run with her for a couple of miles, something if I was too wrapped up in my music and goal.

Once we got to the 800 South hill I backed off and walked up the hill separating myself from both Nikki and Jessica. I took my time at the aid station. Like, really, I took my time. I packed my pockets with Chocolate Gu, checked my phone, posted some pictures on Facebook and Instagram and then scouted the course for someone else to run with. I was kind of hoping to run into my friend Jill at this point. I almost immediately spotted a couple of older women who were both Marathon Maniacs. So I jumped in with them and introduced myself as a Double Agent (meaning being both a Marathon Maniac and Half Fanatic). We talked for about a mile before the course split for the marathoners and halfers.

I was once alone again. Once I reached the aid station at about 8 mile mark I decided to stay for a while, because I really wanted to run with Jill. So, I hung out at the medical table and handed out bagels that were just laying there. BAGELS! I didn’t eat any, but there were a few runners that took up my offer. But, most looked at me like a crazy person running in a tie-dye cat shirt handing out bagels. Which I guess is a pretty good description.

But, within a few minutes of handing out bagels and stealing more Chocolate Gu I finally ran into Jill! She was running alongside our friend Shelley. I was so glad I got to run with Jill. She is a true inspiration to me. She has gone through a lot to get to this point in her life. Nearly four years ago she lost her first born, Isabel. I won’t recount her whole story, she does a wonderful job of that on her blog. But, Jill has had to work through a lot to come to terms with losing Isabel and running has helped her and her husband Mark find peace in that.

I remember seeing this running spark happen two years ago at the Salt Lake Marathon finish line. She, Mark and their daughter Addison were there cheering me and some other friends on. You could tell as we waited there for our other friends that Jill caught the bug. She didn’t necessarily believe she’d get there, but the possibility of a 5K was definitely in her mind. But, over the next year she started running. She ran her first 5K and then her first half marathon last May. She’s kept her running goals going even when she had to step aside for some short periods because of injuries.

But, she’s been working hard to get ready for this race, while also preparing for her first marathon in September. It hasn’t been easy for her. I’ve noticed that throughout her journey. But, she is carried by this immense feeling of being the mother that her daughter Isabel and Addison deserve. She wants to be an example to her girls and make them proud. Something I know they both see and know. Jill is a fighter. She’s prepared herself for these kind of moments. She’s fought for her happiness and I have the utmost respect for her. She is a true friend that inspires me to no end.

Once I ran into Jill you could tell that she was having a tough run. Her feet were hurting pretty bad from some of the early hills. But, we were both glad to see each other. So I ran the rest the remaining five miles with her. In all honesty it was some of the most fun five miles I’ve ever ran. We laughed, we cried, we cursed and sucked it up at times. We also made sure we stopped at each photograph along the way to pose. We did a jumping picture (naturally), a centerfold picture with me prostrate on the ground and Jill over my hips, a wheelbarrow, a “we’re dead tired” picture. But, my favorite was our last picture together crossing the finish line with Slurpees raised in victory.

Yes, you heard me right. Slurpees.

As we turned onto the home stretch on 200 West, there was a 7 Eleven on the corner. And, I knew we needed to get Slurpees before we finished. I’ve always joked about veering off course during a race to get a Slurpee. Well, today was the day. We weren’t going to get our sub-three time, so why not? We wandered into the store and were greeted by a lady who kind of laughed about our mission. She started talking about her son who runs all the Disney races and her experience walking a Disney 5K. It was actually kind of cool.

But, once we got back on course with our Slurpees in hand, we were greeted with spectators cheering us on with laughter and words of encouragement. Even the MC made a comment about our choice of beverage. It was a fun moment for both Jill and I. But, once we crossed the finish line we met up with Mark and the rest of our running friends who waited for us. These kind of moments are the moments I absolutely love about running. There is nothing better than enjoying the feat of finishing 13.1, 26.2 or whatever mileage with a group of friends that do nothing but encourage, uplift and motivate.

Not to mention laugh.

While my 3:06:46 might not be my best time. I don’t feel it properly measures the impact the race had on me. It wasn’t really my race. I knew fairly early on that I wasn’t going to PR and I felt this need to hold back really just enjoy the race, enjoy the people and enjoy the moment. Not to mention, I really wanted to run with my friend Jill. She’s worked so hard for this moment that I wanted to be a part of that with her.

I really felt that this race gave me a deeper appreciation for the gift of running. For some it’s pretty easy, for others it takes a lot of effort and then there are those that fight for it with everything they have. I know how it feels to fight to get what you want. And, I needed this reminder that there are fighters everywhere. Whether it’s a veteran running for active military or friends getting back into a sports after years away. Then there are those fighters that run because defeat is not an option.

I need this race. I need this reminder. I don’t feel like I took a step back in my goals. I still feel that I am on pace with my sub-two goal. With more speed work and more sleep I am sure that I will get that either this summer or fall. But, for now, I need this lesson, especially working up to my marathon this summer. It’s funny what you learn along the way to running 26.2.

But, I am proud with everyone that ran yesterday, but especially Jill who dedicated the run to her dear Isabel.

Now onto the Winter Circuit 30K this weekend in Ogden. I can’t wait to run it with Becky. It’s going to be a blast.