A Runner’s High
I look at running races like a physical fitness test for me. I often wonder, that if I had the time or drive to really train for a race, how fast could I be? Two weekends ago, I ran a half marathon. This is my third year doing this particular race, after previously doing the full, and every year, it’s owned me. Everyone who has ever run Pittsburgh will tell you what a beast of a course it is. Even the elites who come here from all over the world say they underestimate Pittsburgh. It’s not so much the steepness of the hills, it’s the sheer volume of them. Every bridge is an incline, and we run over five. We go from being down at river level, to way above, where, if you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down.
I like to believe that I’m in pretty good overall physical shape. That said, I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for this race. I was running it solo, without a watch or GPS. I didn’t have anyone around me I knew. Frankly, I was more focused on Matt reaching his goals while running the full.
The way I looked at it, I ran the 10 miler in November keeping a 9:12 pace, I could probably do about that for a half marathon. That would put me in around the same finish as the previous year, 2:04.
I prepared the way I always do: got adjusted at the chiropractor, got my knees and IT band taped, drank water, ate the right things, and got enough sleep. My friend at the chiropractor’s office gave me this supplement that she called Runner’s Crack, and told me to take it every few miles.
So yah, I totally doped during the race.
But this stuff was amazing. Absolutely incredible. And it’s legal to use in the Olympics, so there’s that.
Anyhow, I had a great race. I ran most of it on the sidewalks where I could, because the first several miles were incredibly congested. I started in the second corral, and was passing more than being passed, so that felt really great. The hills didn’t feel like they slowed me down, the crowds amped me up, and every few miles I took a DMG supplement and felt great. I kept my head up, I read signs, I gave out high fives. At mile 6, my dad handed me a CLO sippy cup with some red wine in it. It tasted delicious. It was maybe a half a glass, and as I was running up the West End Bridge, a guy came up behind me and said, “This is a great day for a run!” I said, “It’s even better with wine!” He said, “Stop. Is that wine?” “Heck yes it is, want some?”
So I shared my wine with a super nice guy who was running his first half marathon after losing 140 pounds. I saw him at the very end of the race, when I was waiting for Matt to finish, and I said, “Did that wine help?” And he gave me a big sweaty hug and said, “Girl, you know it did!”
At mile 8, there was a sign that said, “Press here for power!” so I did and I actually felt better. The guy who handed out orange slices in the South Side was my hero, because it was getting hot, and that tasted so good.
At mile 11, I took a shot of ice cold beer, and powered up the steepest hill of the race.
For the last mile, I sprinted. According to the time clocks that I saw, my last mile was 7 minutes. I would agree. My feet had wings and I was flying. Something told me to do it, and I knew I could, so I did.
When I crossed the finish, I quick pulled out my phone and pulled up the Marathon app, and saw my finish time: 1:59:10.
My very first sub 2 hour marathon. At Pittsburgh, the hardest of all half marathons.
I was in a racing slump for quite some time. Three years ago, when I did the half, I was miserable. Every step I took was torture. I didn’t want to be there. Same for the 10 miler two years ago. Last year’s half was pretty good, because I ran with my friend Jen, but it still hurt.
Last November, I ran the 10 miler and it felt better. I finally felt like I was back into enjoying running. And now, after this half marathon, I feel like I remembered why I love running so much. Because I do.
So much, so, that I signed up for another half in July. I’m such a sucker. But it’s flat, and it’s on Presque Isle, so it’s scenic, and it’ll be nice and quiet. I’m really looking forward to it.
I have goals of becoming a running coach for kids. I figure if I say it out loud, I’ll be more driven to get it done. But, all honesty, I see myself becoming a cross country coach of sorts. I’ve been volunteering with the kids’ running club for two years now, and I just love to teach kids that running is more than an all out sprint. They see me outside of the club and shout, “Mrs. C! I see you!” (Mrs. C, for Cassie, not Conti. It was our compromise since they can’t just call me Miss Cassie.) I’ve worked with the third grade (now fourth grade) and just love them. While I know I could work with Claire or Luca’s grade, I don’t for two reasons: 1.) I’d have a hard time choosing which grade and 2.) they always have plenty of people willing to help with them. No one wants the older kids, and that’s a shame since they’re the most fun and eager to learn.
Who would have thought I’d enjoy working with kids so much? Especially since I say all the time how much I don’t like other people’s kids and I’m half serious when I say it. But man, something’s changed, and I can really relate to them, and they’re receptive to me, which is really cool, so I’m super happy.
Long story short, I’m so thankful to be in the shape I’m in, so that I can feel good doing things that are physically challenging. I’m so glad that I have worked as hard as I have, and haven’t quit just because it burns a little. That I can push others to strive to be stronger and better, and most of all, so that I can show my kids that exercise is not a thing you have to do, but rather, something you want to do.