To be honest, I stopped running for a really long time. Or at least, I stopped being consistent about it. After the Disney Princess Half, I was having a hard time at my job (which I soon quit), and I had moved back in with my parents. Unemployed. Listless. I would make attempts to run, but I wasn’t dedicated to it anymore. When I got a job that involved a lot of walking, I felt like I didn’t need the physicality of running anymore.
Then I left that job for a better job, but it was less physical and more desk sitting. I gained so much weight. It was awful and uncomfortable and the worst. When I took walking breaks with coworkers, it was often a struggle to keep up. The worst part is that I was somehow still so confident and cocky in my own physical abilities. Then I did a fun run 5k thing without training and truly realized how much I’d let myself go.
So I signed up for another half.
When I was training for DPHM, I was making an effort to eat (a little) better and I was following a training plan. I don’t remember if I lost weight, but I had improved my stamina by a lot.
I didn’t. There was no training. There were half-hearted attempts to start, but then I’d think, I’ll start next week. I’ll start on Monday. I’ll find a plan and start it later. I thought, I was able to run a half three years ago; I’ll be fine. I even made jokes about it to people.
The Run the Bluegrass course goes through thoroughbred farms. It’s so scenic. When they advertise it as America’s prettiest half marathon, I can’t imagine anything trumping it. Even though the race was happening on a cloudy, rainy day, those farms were gorgeous.
It also has thirty-three* hills. A “technical” course, the website calls it.
I kept this information pushed to the very back of my thought. I just assumed I would be capable of doing it. I even did some warm-up jogging before the start and thought, Wow, I totally got this.
Even at mile 1, I was thinking, Oh, boy, my body totally remembers how to do this.
Y’all. I was not prepared. The split between the 7-milers and the half marathoners was at 3.5 miles. As I was approaching it, I was seriously considering whether or not I should just break off and do the shorter run. No shame in admitting you aren’t ready for something.
But when the time came, I turned left instead and continued on.
It was awful. My legs were in so much pain. I walked a significant amount. I had all the splints. Even with horses running alongside us on their side of the fence — even with people stepping outside their homes to cheer us on — even with so much lovely to look at — I didn’t think of much but, Just finish. It hurts, but just finish. Your time doesn’t matter. Just finish.
There were times I just had to stop and rest. I would use these moments to take photos of the course. Partly because the clouds had parted enough to not be dreary and partly because it seemed like the photos were the reason I was stopping.
At mile 9 or 10, I was checking my time and foolishly thought I might be able to PR. Oh, how silly I was. So so silly. Because then I got to the biggest hill and did my best to stagger along.
Eventually, I crossed the finish line with some kind of parody of a run, smiling. I was done. I had made it.
I gratefully took my finisher medal and bag and somehow made my way to my car, to the highway, to home. My entire body was stiff for a week and a half.
But I knew that I was going to sign up for another half, and I was going to be better.
*Okay, this number comes from someone’s review of the race and not the race info itself (that I could find). But having run it, I believe it. Kentucky is not a flat state, and this is a very hilly course.