When I started running at the beginning of the year, I decided I needed to set a goal to work toward, so why not a half marathon? At the time I was struggling with running two to three mile runs, running 13.1 miles was starting to seem out of reach. I registered for the Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon, I figured if I paid my entry fee I was pretty much committed, so kept running. Then came COVID-19, the world was in crisis, work pretty much stopped, social distancing, and shelter in place became our new normal. And then like so many other events, my race was cancelled.
The old me would have used this opportunity to quit running, sit safely at home, eat junk food, and gain back all the weight I had lost over the last few years. But May was only a few months away and I was going to run a half marathon. I couldn't quit now, so I kept running. Almost overnight, I began to see an increase in walkers, runners, and families on bike rides along my usual running routes. I wasn't the only one struggling with the thought of being locking up at home. Most of the time keeping the designated 6 foot distance between others wasn't difficult, so I kept going and slowly started to increase my milage. As the miles added up and my long runs got longer my next goal was completing a double digit run, but once I reached mile 10 it was like I hit a wall and couldn't go any further. I tried again the next weekend and again as soon as I hit the 10 mile mark it was like I was stopped dead in my tracks.
I was only a week away from what was supposed to be the date of my half marathon. I had options, give up, keep training and try to break the ten mile mark, or just go for it and run the race I had been training for these last few months.
So on Sunday morning, May 3rd I walked up to the starting line of the first unofficial COVID-19 Avenue of the Giants half marathon with a hand full of other like minded individuals, and I began running. The Avenue of the Giants is a beautiful winding country road that travels through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and along scenic rivers and of course Redwood forests. The weather was absolutely perfect, I was entranced by the beautiful views, and the miles were slowly ticking off. By the time I hit the half way turn around I was feeling pretty good. Being mostly self supported on this run, it was very kind to have another groups support person offer water and some snacks along the way. As I approached mile 8 I started to fade, the trees, the river, the sounds of the forest around me were no longer distracting me from my sore feet and legs. I started to focus on the wall I knew was approaching. At mile 9 along the side of the road I found my wife with a sign she had made that said "almost there, finish strong." It was the perfect time for my greatest cheerleader to motivate me. As I passed she jumped back in her car and drove ahead, we played leap frog for awhile. The next time I passes her, I looked at my watch it and it said mile 10.5, I yelled out this is the farthest I have ever run! I had broken through the wall, I would love to say that the next few miles flew by and I set a record pace. But that didn't happen. It was a slow, grueling grind. But the miles began to fade and at mile 12, I sighed with relief. I was going to finish! And I did, no huge crowds of cheering supporters, giant time clocks, or even an actual finish line to run through. I wasn't disappointed, my wife, a few friends, and some random strangers were there to cheer me on as I finished.
This fitness journey is teaching me to embrace being uncomfortable, that being sore and tired doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop. When I think I hit a wall, or that I have no more energy to keep moving, I still have more to give. I still have more weight to lose, I still have more muscle to gain, I still have more endurance to build up. I might not be fast, I might not have great form, but I'm learning that if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, anything is possible.
I just ran 13.1 miles, I was tired, I was hungry, and I wanted more.