Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Half-Marathon 2011

A few weeks ago, I ran in the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon for the second time. My goal was to run the race in under two hours and I am proud to say that I accomplished my goal! I ran the race in 1 hour and 56 minutes at an 8:50 mile pace. This exceeded what I had intended to accomplish in reducing my time by cutting my mile pace by 40 seconds! Two things certainly contributed to this success--a longer, established running base before ramping up the weekly mileage and the hill workouts.

In addition, I think this race was important because this year I ran it by myself. In someways I think it represents how far I have come in rebuilding my life. Last year, I ran it with my friend, Michele, and we were a great team. We supported each other through some tough things and we were each other's cheerleader. As we ran, Michele did a great job navigating between runners to keep our pace, while I kept an eye on the time as we passed each mile marker. This year, Michele was not able to sign up for the race in time. So, I ran solo on the course. I think this was good for me because I could prove to myself that I am very capable of accomplishing my goals independently.

And while I may have been running the race by myself, I was far from alone. I had several other friends who were running in the race and we didn't run together for various reasons--pace, corral assignments, and personal running style. But we sent each other a flurry of texts before the race and it felt like we would all be running together in spirit. It was funny because at one point during the race, I passed my friend, Heidi, who was running a leg in the Relay. It was great to see her and continue in our individual journeys.

Then RJ and his friend also came to cheer me on along the sidewalk next to the course. I was so touched because he postponed a fishing trip just to be sure to see me run. RJ asked me where I thought I might most need an extra boost of support, I gave him the map and told him at Mile 6, just before the West End Bridge. As I was reaching that point in the race, I grew more excited because this year I had someone out there cheering for me! RJ was wildly ringing his cow bell and waving the sign he made for me. His friend snapped a picture as I passed by them. They later told me that they had a ton of people comment on their cow bell playing and would yell all sorts of references to the Will Ferrel SNL skit. It really did raise the energy level. And that is what is great about this race is that there are so many people in the crowd to cheer on the runners. Not only do they support the person they know, but then they extend that enthusiasm to all who run in the race. RJ and his friend then found a spot near the end of the race to give me that last hurrah before sprinting to the finish line. RJ's parents and uncle were there, too, as they came to watch his aunt run in the race.

After the race, I tried to look for RJ and his friend, but there were just so many people. I think we just missed each other, so I headed back to my neighborhood. It was a long walk to my car, but I had so much fun. I loved the crowd support with their cheering, costumes and signs. I loved the music all along the course with a variety of bands. It was great to hear other runners comment on their experiences as we were running. I think this kind of race is great for me because it really brings me into the space of living in the moment--to be aware of what is going on internally and externally and embracing every bit of it.

Once I was back to my neighborhood, I met up with RJ and his friend and we cheered on the Marathon runners along Mile 22. After a quick shower and a change of clothes, it was great to revel in my own accomplishments and to continue to offer support for those still running in the longer race. Yeah, I wore my finisher's medal. What other day can you do that and not look obnoxious? :)

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