Read part 1 here!
Although I acknowledge my status as a newbie runner, I admit I’ve been getting more confident lately.
However, every since returning from Sydney, I have always run alone. I haven’t had anyone to measure myself against. My concern isn’t speed, it’s distance. Thus, while I think I look like this…
…the reality is a little more like this.
A few weekends ago, I met up with some of my buddies for my school’s annual Holi festival. One friend is actually signed up for the same half-marathon as me. He’s been a long-time runner– a person who used to do cross-country and runs consistently in his free time. A real runner! But hey, aren’t I a runner too now?
As soon as I said it, I immediately regretted it.
Hey, I thought. Maybe this will be fine. I can handle running a little faster than usual, right? Sure, Vy. Keep on telling that to yourself.
Later that day, my friend and I met up and took off.
I ignored the feeling and kept on running.
But only a few miles had passed. We kept going.
Around the 7-mile mark…
My friend and I stopped for a few minutes, allowing me to drink some water and stop hyperventilating. My legs and lungs were burning. Man. How fast had we been running, anyway?
We couldn’t stop for long. My friend had a dinner date to get to that evening, and we had to make sure he got home on time.
My bravado was soon defeated, though.
By the end, I think my friend was seriously fearing for my health.
After what seemed like an eternity later, we reached his apartment.
Despite still being a few miles from my own apartment, I couldn’t run anymore. Instead, I stumbled home…
…and moped in bed for a while.
That day, I didn’t reach my target distance. How was I going to run the even longer half-marathon in only a few weeks? Despite all my training, I still lacked speed and endurance.
Just to make me feel worse, the Boston Marathon was two days later.
This Boston Marathon was going to be a big one. After last year’s bombings, people were determined to make this year a success. The number of participants increased to 36,000, 10,000 more than the previous year. Literally hundreds of thousands of people lined up along the route to cheer on the runners, alongside more police officers and security guards than usual.
I entered the marathon zone around the 25-mile mark, slowly walking my way towards the finish line. The closer I got, the more crowded it became. By the time I got to Boylston Street, it became difficult to see.
I arrived pretty early, around the conclusion of the wheelchair race. Only the fastest runners were nearing the finish line. I’m sure at that point, the runners must have been absolutely exhausted. Yet they pushed on.
Perhaps the crowd was helping them along. For some reason, the cheering seemed more tumultuous than usual. Every runner brought a new round of clapping and shouting.
A big screen set up by the finish line allowed people to view the runners’ struggle up close.
And, of course, their victories.
Regardless of the runner’s pace, they were all met by equal amounts of applause. Each one, as they crossed the finish line, had the same expression as well. Complete exhaustion. Utter relief. And– regardless if they placed first, third, or 1000th– an expression of personal victory.
People have knocked me for my super-slow running. They’ll first express disbelief, then smugness. Then they’ll sanctimoniously offer advice.
But when I watched the Boston Marathon, I remembered the words of one of my runner friends.
And as I watched those runners cross the finish line, I finally understood what she meant.
A week from now, I’ll be running my first half-marathon. I’ll be the out-of-place looking girl who has neither the lean body of a runner nor the fancy athletic gear to match. I’ll be the one running like a snail. And I’ll be the one who will still run proudly, because I’m going to finish. That’s all I want.
To prove to myself, and no one else, that I can do it.
The Oatmeal has a great post on long-distance running, which I have found more and more to be totally true.
Also, if you have any good workout songs, let me know! I need a playlist for the half-marathon, and using Pandora is getting old.