My alarm went off at 5:00am. I was already awake. I think I had been awake since 3:00. Our hotel room was right beside the elevators and I could hear them move up and down all night. Not that I would have slept anyway but still. I got dressed. Woke Jeff up. He got dressed. And we were off to meet everyone in the lobby. It was kind of a strange feeling. I knew I was about to do something big but it still seemed so far away. So unreal. I guess that’s good because I was extremely calm. No nerves. No anything really.
So we get to Fair Park. It’s freezing. I mean really freezing. We walk half a mile to the Start line and can hardly stand it. It is SO cold. I start to doubt my race day wear. I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to running. I don’t want layers. Or fuel belts. Or anything on me when I run. But there was NO WAY I would make it in the singlet and skirt I was wearing. NO WAY. So I decided to keep my favorite running jacket on and just toss it when I got to hot. Did I mention it was my favorite? Well it was and now it’s gone. Oh well.
At the start of the race each runner is placed in a corral according to their expected finish time. Dad, of course, was near the front so we said our goodbyes and good lucks and parted ways. I was way way way in the back. Way. When we finally made it back to my corral and it was time for Jeff to go, I kind of lost it. I don’t know why that particular moment was so hard but it was. He hugged me. Told me I would be great and how proud he was of me. All the while I was bawling like a baby. So I stood there alone in my corral crying. Not really alone considering I was surrounded by thousands of people but alone. Then it was 8:00 and the gun went off and we just stood there. We stood there for a while longer then we moved a few feet. Then we stood there some more. 50 minutes more to be exact. But then we were off! And I was good.
I felt great. The crowds were huge but not so huge that I was annoyed. The first couple of miles were incredibly slow because of it but that was probably for the better. Around the 3rd or 4th mile things opened up a bit and I was able to pace myself the way I needed too. Things were good. I felt good. This was my Team In Training event. I am telling you, there is NO other way to do it. When you have on that purple shirt with your name written in HUGE letters across the front, you will be cheered for from beginning to end. Every “GO TEAM” or “RUN JESSICA” I heard, I cried a little. I’m not even sure why. I think I was proud to be a part of something so great. And I think every time I heard my name out there, it solidified what I was doing. And why I was doing it.
My absolute favorite part of the race was seeing my family along the course – Jeff, Aunt D, and Kelly. I honestly don’t know how they did it but I saw them in 3 different places on the course and at the finish. Jeff was by himself. D and Kelly were together. That meant I had a personal cheering squad 6 times along the way. SIX TIMES. They have no idea how each of those sightings pushed me further along. Got me to the finish. I will be forever grateful.
Now on to the actual run…It’s all kind of a blur. What happened at what mile. But there are a few things I remember. I felt really great for the first 13 or so miles. The course was gorgeous. Great neighborhoods. Pretty surroundings. I was running the pace I wanted to run. Reading spectators’ signs along the way to pass time.
KEEP RUNNING CAUSE YOU’RE KICKING ASPHALT.
IN 15.8 MILES YOUR FACEBOOK STATUS WILL SAY FINISHER.
BECAUSE 26.2 WOULD BE CRAZY.
CHUCK NORRIS NEVER RAN THE ROCK.
BRAGGIN' RIGHTS FOREVER.
And then I hit White Rock Lake. The course around the lake isn’t hard. It’s just long. And boring. But then I saw my fabulous friend and TNT Coach Charlene! She was assigned to the lake (bummer for her) but YAY for me! She ran 14ish to 18ish with me and I’m pretty sure it saved me. I was moving slow by 18 but we talked, laughed, and generally kept my mind off what I was doing. She eventually had to turn around (I wasn’t the only TNT person out there? What?) and I was alone again. But I soon saw D and Kelly again! Oh happy day! OK, I was good for a little while longer. And then I saw Jeff! I made him run next to me while I cried and talked and I’m not sure what else. I knew that was the last time I would see him until the finish.
The last 7 were hard. Really hard. Mile 23 was the worst. My feet hurt and my legs didn’t want to go anymore. With every step. Every thought of wanting to stop, I repeated the words that one of TNT’s honored heroes, Frank, said at our inspirational dinner the night before. I actually wrote it down the moment he said it. It hit me like a ton of bricks. This amazing person was less than a year out of treatment - raising money, running races. Making a difference…
“There might be sometime when you want to walk and I know some people are bothered by that. About having to walk. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you never quit.”
What matters is that you never quit. Mile 24 went by. Then mile 25. And then I saw David and Meg and I stopped hurting. Seriously. Stopped hurting. I was so excited to see them, the pain was gone. I knew I had done it. I knew it was almost over. Meg literally ran me to the finish line. I am so grateful for both of them.
I have to say, it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. But also one of the most gratifying. Nothing will ever compare to that moment. Crossing the finish line. I am very happy and very proud.
26.2 miles - Done.