Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Run For Your Life

Kristine & me before the race

Nearly a month later, here is my post about the Des Moines Half Marathon....

The Des Moines Marathon/Half-Marathon was held Sunday, October 17. This was my first half-marathon and first big road race since Brian's death. On top of that, it immediately followed a busy weekend that included a family holiday celebration and a fundraiser for Animal Lifeline, Brian's pet cause (pun intended). On top of that, it was the 9 month anniversary of his death. Understandably, I had some apprehension and mixed feelings going into the race.

I had trained with my friends Kristine & Laura (who both ran a full marathon with me last summer), as well as Kristine's sister Jenny, her boyfriend Justin, and their bloodhound, LadyByrd. Training with my friends had made that part fun, and relatively easy. You'll recall that it was on a training run with Kristine & Laura that I found Mittons, my little orphan kitten.

The morning of the race, I picked up Kristine and we headed downtown. We were able to meet up with Jenny and Justin, who were running the full marathon. However, we never were able to find Laura. It is always a madhouse at the race start -- thousands of people crushed into the starting area, people jumping around to stay warm, checking bags of gear to retrieve post-race, waiting in 15-minute-lines for port-a-potties, etc. Kristine, Jenny, and I started the race together, between two pace groups that were the right speed for us. (FYI -- at most half- and full marathons, there are people who run while carrying a large sign that shows their approximate finish time; we lined up between the 2:15 and 2:30 pace groups.)

Kristine, Jenny, and I stayed together for about the first five miles, at which point the course split for those doing the full vs. the half. Jenny went on her way, and Kristine and I took the "short" course. We stayed together for all but about a mile, following a port-a-potty stop, and finished together. Kristine's husband, Bobby, and her mom, Sue, cheered us on and took pictures at multiple points along the race route. That was a nice thing to look forward to.

Kristine, Laura, and I had decided that we were going to dedicate each mile of the half-marathon to someone or something in our lives that had been an inspiration or that had helped us in running, in life, or both. Kristine and I had taped our "Gratitude Lists" to the back of our bibs (the number pinned to a runner's shirt). At each mile marker, we'd tell each other who that mile was for, and sometimes would talk about that person a little bit.

I am not going to share my whole gratitude list, but I will say that I felt blessed making it, because it was hard to choose just 13 people who meant so much to me. I will say I fudged it a little, as "Mom & Dad" got one mile, "Steve & Diane" (Brian's parents) also shared a mile, etc. One mile I dedicated to my law firm, Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. I told Kristine that without the support and understanding they have shown me, I think the entire trajectory of my life would be different and much worse. It was the freedom they gave me this year to take time off and figure out what is right for me that has: 1) given me the time to grieve and process, and 2) allowed me to take time to make decisions without caving to career pressures and worries.

My last two miles were for Kristine and then Brian. Those were hard emotional miles, and sometimes I didn't really think about those two people because I couldn't without tearing up. But I did make a point to think about them as much as I could. Kristine has been a rock this year -- she spent the night with me at times when I didn't want to be alone, she helped organize funeral arrangements, she came and ate lunch with me on a daily basis for a while, etc. I remember being out with some law school friends downtown one night in February or March, leaving the bar, and walking through the skywalk toward my car. I pulled out my cell phone...and realized I was getting it out to text Brian to tell him I was on my way home. It hurt so much to realize I had no one to check in with anymore, that I'd never have those communications with him again, that I was on my own. That night, I stopped at Kristine's and crawled into bed with her to cry. Beyond that, she's my running partner, and running has helped me so much this year. I welled up with tears of joy at the gratitude I have for her, this year more than ever. It was also fitting that Kristine's mile took place partly at Gray's Lake, which we've run countless laps around over the years.

At Gray's Lake -- about 2-3 miles left to go!

Then came the last 1.1 miles...Brian's mile (and a tenth). I felt really good, physically, and remembered how much harder this part of the race was the last time I ran it. It was a beautiful day, and I told Kristine that was Brian's way of helping out, that he pulled some strings for us to make that happen. Just then, a breeze kicked up and blew a bunch of dried leaves across our path. It was Brian cheering us on, I know. It was the only way he could make noise, and it was enough to get my attention! It was not a windy day, and I barely even noticed the wind, but the leaves scrambled over the road loudly and quickly. At one point in that mile, I saw a lone hawk flying above me.

I felt really good coming into the home stretch, once I saw the finish line. I felt better than I have at the end of any race in a long time, actually. I started looking for people I knew, as I had sent out a desperate plea via Facebook and e-mail to friends and family, hoping for support at the finish line. I knew I'd have a couple friends there, but didn't know if any family would make the trip. Then, I heard my mom call out my name. I saw her and my grandparents (Mommo & Poppo) cheering me on at the side of the road. I was elated, and so surprised!

As soon as I finished, my mom caught up to me and hugged me tightly and we cried and cried. It was amazing and I'm so grateful she was there, and Mommo & Poppo too. It meant so much to me. I also saw a couple of other friends, including a law school classmate, at the finish line. I got separated from Kristine, but met up with Joy (a dear friend of Brian's and of me, and "Aunt Joy" to our cats) and Pat (the former housesitter/roommate/co-worker and current good friend). My family, Joy, Pat, and I went out for lunch at Spaghetti Works. After that, Joy and I went back to the finish area and found Justin, who had finished the full marathon in 3:42:00 -- way to rock that first marathon, Justin Credible! (By the way, my time of 2:25:14 was not a PR, but it was a good time for me.) We then found Kristine, Bobby, and Sue, and we were all able to cheer Jenny on as she finished up the full marathon. It was a truly great day and I couldn't stop basking in the glory of it all.

By the way, there are a lot of great pictures at:

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