When I woke yesterday morning, the first thing I checked was the online weather report. I'm not sure why. I knew it was slated to be a cold day, after all, but somehow I thought I'd feel better knowing the specifics.
Turns out, knowing the specifics didn't make me feel much better. It did further solidify my plan to dress in excessive layers for my half marathon, however. To clarify, I don't play poker -- nor do I strip -- but had I been playing strip poker yesterday morning, I would have remained downright modest after a half dozen bad hands.
Here's what I looked like before leaving the house, donning one final layer, and adding a hat, ear warmers, and gloves for good measure. I thought that the all-black motif was a nice touch, like I was a ninja runner.
Because, obviously, ninjas are known for their distance running.
Nervousness began to descend during the drive to the race site. Not only do I question every bodily function before a race, but I also doubt my time management. Am I going to be late? Will I have time to register? Have I drunk enough water? Have I drunk too much water? Am I wearing enough clothes?
I was on time for registration, but apparently I dawdled getting in line for the women's restroom, which resulted in my fearless use of the men's restroom after shouting an all clear? inquiry from the door. (Ninjas are bold this way.) Then, because it was a mere minute before the gun sounding, I had to jog to the starting line, which seemed excessive.
Running just to get to the race? Overkill.
Still, I reached the back of the pack, and if you look closely, you'll see that I'm smiling in the picture below. (I'm the one in black, remember?) The smile stems from two reasons: one, it was taken early in the race when great hope still abounds, and two, I unexpectedly bumped into a friend from our campus group who had graduated several years ago. She had returned to run the event with her father, and being relatively evenly paced, we opted to run together.
Catching up on several years while running is harder than you'd imagine. We talked for the first few miles freely, but eventually our conversation deteriorated to periodically slurred one-liners like you-still-doing-okay? and occasional high fives when we crested a hill.
We paced ourselves well by starting slowly and picking up speed throughout the race. Physically and mentally, I've found that it's vastly better to pass other runners than to be passed.
The last stretch -- a rigorous uphill climb that spans an entire mile -- is preceded by one final water station and an enthusiastic group of supporters who boost morale by cheering and offering Dixie cups of beer for racers. (Knowing what still lay ahead almost drove me to drink, but I refrained.)
I don't have vivid recollections of that last mile, except for the fact that I despaired my decision to enter the race and realized that my face had frozen into a contorted grimace, but lo and behold, the finish line gloriously surfaced, a bottled water found its way into my hand, my face thawed so I once again was able to speak and smile, I congratulated (and was congratulated by) several other racers I knew, and a sensation of all being right with the world settled.
A verifiable runner's high after 13.1 miles, not even counting my preliminary dash to the starting line.
Once home, the rest of the day unfolded as usual: folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, grading a few more speeches, reading books and playing games with the kids, yet all day long I felt warm -- not merely from being inside after the morning's frigid run, but primarily from the glow of accomplishing what I set out to do.