On Saturday, Bob and I ran in the Star City Half Marathon in Roanoke.

Stats for me:
Total race time -- 2:13:59
Avg pace -- 10:14
For my age range -- 35 out of 62
For women -- 179 out of ?
Overall -- 379 out of 573

We both PRd, which means that we both hit personal records for our best time in the half marathon.  
This isn't a totally huge feat, since it is only our second race, but I have to say that it absolutely feels like a MAJOR accomplishment, and here's why: it was probably the best run of my life (to date).

Now, I know that, again, this should be such a big deal, since I've only been running for a short while, but it feels so huge to me.  When we ran the previous half marathon (our first ever!) in May, it was H-A-R-D.  I was in pain for a lot of the run.  It doesn't help that I got a side stitch about a mile and a half in, but seriously that whole run was so tough.  It felt like it lasted forever, and there was at least one point where my brain was begging me to just stop and walk.  I didn't feel like it was ever going to end.  I felt nauseous and my body felt like it was coming apart.  I should say, there were some moments where I did feel good, of course.  I felt elated when I began.  I felt overcome with emotion several times throughout the race, thinking of meeting the monumental goal, thinking of my kids, my family, my friends and loved ones.  But overall, it was very hard and there were points where I wasn't entirely sure I would finish.

This race, though, was totally different, and that's why, for me, it was my personal best -- my personal record.

Starting out, I was nervous...but eager.  We began, and I was trying to run super slow.  When we hit our first five minutes, my nike+ told me that we were running at a 10 minute pace, which is definitely fast for me.  But I felt great!  So I kept with it and heard 10 minute pace again as we hit our first mile.  I kept cruising and started to realize that I was *not* going to get a stomach cramp (which almost always hits me within the first two miles).  It is a big deal for me to not get a stomach cramp.  

As we kept running, I felt better and better.  I let myself relax and listen to my rockin' playlist.

Bob and I hit the hit the incline right before mile 6, and we started slowly but steadily making our way up the course's biggest hill.  Onward we went!  Bob was really moving at this point.  I started to fizzle out around the top of the hill, but I just kept picking my feet up and putting them back down again.

Once we started descending the hill, I thought, "This could be my best run yet!"

Miles 7-10ish were through a beautiful residential neighborhood that was just a joy to run through.  Then we headed back towards the finish line.  We actually passed the finish line and kept on running to finish out the last three miles of the course.  

Miles 10-12 were the hardest for me, both physically and mentally.  By this point, my body was starting to ache.  My arms were sore from holding them in position for so long.  I had been running for about 1:50 at that point.  My knees were sore (my right knee had started to get a little tender at about mile 4, so it was pretty achy by mile 10), my ankles, my glutes, oh lord my hip flexors were singing...you get the idea.  There wasn't much on my body that wasn't starting to make itself known.

So we started running through a park area that was actually part of the 5K course I ran last summer.  I recognized it and remembered that, oh yeah, 5K, 3.2 miles, that was a major endeavor for me.  It reminded me, mentally, that I still had a sizable distance to run.  So on we trucked.  I kept wondering how much more we would have to run before we could make the final turn towards the finish.  Finally, finally we made our last turn, and my spirits picked back up.

At mile 12, an awesome song came on and I started boogying as I ran.  I was super jazzed up!  Then I started thinking about sentimental things: all I had accomplished, how much I love my boys, how inspiring they are, how much I love Bob and what an inspiration he has been, how much I love my mother...just everything.  And I started crying (not the first time I cried during the race).  This left me feeling breathless, and I started worrying that I was running out of energy.

So I told myself to get focused and finish the damn race!

Bob and I started cruising pretty hard for the last half-to-quarter mile.  He really started to book it, and I could tell that he wanted to break free and turn on his speed.  I was pretty much running with all the energy I had left.  I started to worry that he might keep running hard and cross the finish significantly ahead of me.  Part of me wanted him to run his fastest and get his best time, and part of me wondered what I would do if we didn't do our usual thing and hold hands across the finish line.  At the last minute, he slowed down and I kept pushing hard, and we grabbed hands, and we ran across the line together!

With the race we did in May, I was so exhausted when we crossed the line, I was too tired to even let myself feel any emotion.  I thought I was going to puke and was just focusing on getting to a bathroom.

With this race, I was actually gulping back tears as we crossed the finish line.  We sat on the grass, and I let myself feel the sense of accomplishment that I felt like I really worked hard to earn.

It was such a great race!

I was very thankful that Bob got it into his head that he wanted to do another race, and that we ended up doing the Star City Half.  After the one we did in May, I wasn't sure I wanted to do another one, because it had ended up being so tough.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish one ever again.

Now I know I can, and I feel like I'm back on track.  I still think a full marathon is in the very distant future (meaning, not anytime soon!), but I do still think it's a tenable goal.  One day.

I also have to say that I truly believe the strength training I started doing this summer (with a lot of help from my personal trainer and a lot of support from Bob) made a HUGE difference in my ability and endurance.  I feel like I'm leaner and stronger.  I've got more confidence, and the power to back it up.

So, all in all, it was an amazing experience, from start to finish.  I've grumbled about the training, and I complain about running in the cold, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  

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