After all, every medal tells a story.
Following emergency surgery in June 2017, I had to take a 3-month sabbatical from all things running and racing. I also had to DNS a few races that I'd been looking forward to running that summer. Needless to say, I was eager to make 2018 a memorable year.
Here are my 2018 racing highlights, the medals earned and the lessons learned.
St. Paddy's Half Marathon (recap), Des Moines, IA, March 17th.
Although I had done a few races prior, this was the first 2018 medal brought home. Ironically, it wasn't that great of an event. The course was boring. There was ZERO crowd support. Very few water stations. Minimal communication prior to the race itself. And the weather was miserable (cold, wet and rainy). A total once-and-done endeavor as far as I'm concerned. But, I did learn that my body can hang in there and persevere to the finish line, even when my mind has given up.
A favorite event, this was my sixth consecutive year taking it to the stairs in downtown Des Moines. Affiliated with the American Lung Association, the Climb is a national event with numerous local venues. The Des Moines event featured four buildings, 85 total flights of stairs and 1,796 steps. I climb in honor of friends and family members who have successfully kicked butt (and quit smoking). I climb in memory of my late mother-in-law who was a lifelong smoker and suffered from COPD in her final years. And I climb in tribute to those who are struggling with lung disease. Bottom line, it's not about me, and I look forward to this event every year.
Not quite sure how I pulled this one off. I had been up (literally) most of the night before, volunteering at our high school's prom and post-prom party. I had maybe 90 minutes of slumber to call my own. The course was hilly and my body (and mind) were tired. Apparently, I had a healthy dose of adrenaline working in my favor because I was able to run this in 2:08 (and change), which was my fasted 13.1 finish in a long time, and that even included a good 2-minute potty break near the 10-mile mark. Again, my body carried me when my mind was on the verge of shutting down from exhaustion.
Two days later, I returned to run the Grand Blue Mile, as part of the Bull Dog Double. This is an evening event, and always draws a huge crowd....elites, local high school and college standouts, and oodles of "common folk" runners (and some walkers as well). Having never raced a 1-mile event before, I had no idea how to actually run it. My goal was to run it strong, but not too hard, so I would have a little left for a final kick across the finish line. I'm not sure how I pulled this off, either...but I crossed the finish line in 7:53, which gave me a 3rd-place finish in a field of 76 gals in my age group. Don't be too impressed...the gal who finished first overall ran that same mile in 4:35, so yeah. None the less, for a middle-of-the packer, this felt like winning the Olympics (or, at the very least, a bronze medal).
My absolute favorite event of all time, this was my 11th consecutive year running Dam to Dam. After a 39-year run, this was to be the final year for this famous race in Des Moines. It had been my first-ever distance race (back in 2008). This year, my youngest daughter ran it as well. The weather was crazy...hurricane-like wind and rain at the start, then full-on sunshine at the finish. Throughout the entire race, I had a mix of emotions. I ran it strong, but I also did my best to cherish every step along the route. I didn't finish with a PR, but I was able to cross the finish line, hand-in-hand, with my daughter....at HER first-ever race. Talk about a proud parenting moment!
I had run this race three previous times, each time getting 2nd place in my age division. Not a big deal, but still a slight buzz kill. I'd had to DNS this event in 2017 (during my week-long hospital vacay post-surgery). Finally, in 2018, I was able to claim that coveted 1st-place medal (and my friend, Barb, also got 1st place in her age group). The lesson from this race is to never give up and keep showing up.
I had run the 5K portion of the MM 15K in 2016, but had to DNS after the first mile of the 10K. To say I was seeking redemption would be a major understatement. This was another evening race, and the temps were hot and extremely humid. The 5K went alright, and the 10K began about 30 minutes later. A mentally tough endeavor, we essentially ran the same 5K route three times. Imagine my surprise when I learned I'd finished 3rd place in my age group for the 10K! Redemption, indeed!
After another 2017 DNS (due to that surgery), I was excited to head back to the Windy City and finish what I had not been able to start the year prior. It was also a blogger meet-up weekend like you couldn't believe, and there was a lot of fun to be had. We also had plenty of rain. Both of these races we were run with no music (via my iPod) and no Garmin. Much to my surprise, I learned that I didn't need those gadgets to survive a race. The 5K was especially crowded and the half marathon had almost continuous rain. Surprisingly, I had decent finish times for both races, without the distraction (or aid?) of technology.
This race was meant to be kind of a last hurrah attempt at a sub-2:00 half (before the final long training runs for my marathon). Ha! Thankfully, we didn't get the storms that were forecast, but we did get plenty of heat and humidity. We also had some unexpected hills and my hamstrings (BOTH!) decided it was not gonna be their day to play nice. I have run many half marathons (this was my 42nd), so I'm well aware of the distance and the work involved in getting to the finish line. On this particular day, though, the work felt tenfold to what it should have been. My finish time was alright, but for the amount of effort it took to keep my head in the game and my body in motion...it should have been a good 20 minutes faster than what the results showed. None the less, I was able to persevere and finish.
My first-ever trip to Philadelphia! I loved all the beautiful architecture in the first four miles of the race course. The remaining route took us on a tranquil journey along a river and back. The morning began with heavy fog, but that all burned off after the first few miles, giving us full sun and a rather warm morning. The medal is one of my favorites...showcasing the Liberty Bell and Love Park.
How about a quick, fast-paced 5K near the very college campus where the hubby and I met? Although a 5K is a relatively short distance, when the race course is crowded with numerous walkers (walking in groups) and wayward kids, it can seem like circus gone wild. This event, though, benefits the fundraising efforts of the University of Iowa Dance Marathon and their work with children afflicted with cancer. Somehow dodging all the walkers (up until the final mile) is less annoying knowing this event is for such a great cause. And this year's medal is actually a belt buckle, kind of cool.
Bottom line, marathons are tough. Throw in 26.2 miles of continuous hills, and they get even tougher. I knew there would be hills, but I didn't know they would be non-stop on this particular race course. The first half of the race was through a park and very scenic. The back half...not so much. Open highways, limited signage, no crowd support, yadda yadda yadda. Thankfully, we were blessed with near-perfect weather. This race gave my mental mojo a major run for its money. My hamstrings were totally shot by mile 18, and I let myself walk a lot more than I wanted to because the hills were just so evil. But, within minutes (instead of hours or days) of crossing the finish line, I was overcome with an intoxicating dose of endorphins...my reward for what I'd just accomplished. Yet again, my body had come through for me and gotten me to another finish line.
A week later, I ventured back to Des Moines to run another favorite race. I had kept things on the down-low all week, so my body had a little time to recover from the marathon. I had no intentions of running fast on race day, but I knew I could I run a good race if I ran it by feel and took it easy. No PR, but my fastest 13.1 finish time in over a year. Mission accomplished.
And my last racing hurrah for the year happened on a rather cold, rainy and windy day. Truthfully, I think the icky weather kept a lot of racers away. I had run this race a year ago, but under much nicer conditions. None the less, I don't believe in DNS'ing a race just because Momma N dishes out her wrath. Besides, this race is affiliated with the Arthritis Foundation, a worthwhile cause. I figure it's the least I can do to show up and give it my best shot. Well, my best shot wasn't even close to a PR, but it did get me a 2nd place age group award. My friend, Barb, took first place. We fought the weather and came out victorious.
Also, having spent three months sidelined (in 2017) reinforced how valuable the gift of running truly is. Not every run (or race) is gonna be fun, or pain-free, or fulfilling. But, every time I lace up my shoes, I appreciate the experience and I don't take any run or race for granted.
Anyways, that's a quick walk down memory lane for 2018. Do you ever look over your racing medals and relive the experiences?
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