My first GATE - that's what us runners call it. I call it the most amazing day of my life - so far!
It was cold - very cold. But no wind. Thank goodness! I left a little after 6am. I am so glad I did! I got downtown quickly and barely hit any traffic. There were going to be 17,000 runners out that day. Traffic was going to be worse than any Jaguars game! I wound thru the back streets and right up to the Sports Complex parking. Nice close spot, perfect! I sat in my car to keep warm until a little after 7am. It was time to meet up with everyone.
My group of friends all met up at the Jacksonville Track Club tent. We checked our bags. We gathered our stuff, Sports Beans, Ipods - discarded clothing and went to meet the larger group for warm ups. I was feeling good. We started to warm up and then went for a quick run - I had to stop, it hurt. The "injury" to my knee was acting up. But I could keep pace with my walking. I've always been told I walk too fast! ;-)
Soon it was time to head to the starting line. I was seeded and so all alone in my corral. No horses, but lots of runners. No one I really knew though. It was warming up fast. I was overdressed. I ran in shorts and a tank top in the cloudy 49 degree Beaches run and here I was in tights and long sleeves. Oh well, lesson learned!
We started a little late but I ran. I immediately hit my pace and kept it there. My body fought me. It complained. But it didn't get bad enough to quit. I was going to have to hurt bad to stop. We hit the Main Street Bridge and all the way up I kept thinking "this is nothing, I've done this a jillion times." Self-talk got me thru it all. I talk too much too - but in this case no one was bothered by it but me! :) We ran down the bridge and into San Marco. Donna Deegan came up behind me. I love her, but she is slower than me and my brain went "Oh no, she's not going to pass you is she?" I never saw her go by.Checked our times later, and she finished about 30 seconds after me! ;-)
When we entered the neighborhoods of San Marco, St. Nicholas and then Riverside, it was truly amazing. The people were all out of their homes in their front yards - tailgating and cheering. It was incredible and I've never seen anything like it. It reminded me of those lovely little SEC towns on football Saturdays in Fall. I loved it. Tree lined streets, beautiful homes and cheering crowds. We had lots of water stops and people were even giving out oranges and other snacks. As we got closer to the Hart Bridge and the end of the race there also seemed to be an increase in beer offerings!
I knew right where I was. I had never run it before but when I hit Mile 7, I knew the bridge was next. I Run For Life came on my Ipod. I was strong. I could do this.
I came out of the neighborhood and we wound around Atlantic Blvd. and up onto the exit ramp. I couldn't see the bridge yet. Our last water stop was there. I grabbed a quick sip and kept going. By the way, I was still running. I had a few aches but again, nothing worth stopping for.
Finally, I could see the Green Monster. It was a climb to get up to the actual bridge - but the Acosta, my training bridge, was worse! Dig a Little Deeper played in my ears. I dug. Suddenly I had a smile plastered on my face. I got up to the bridge and figured I was delirious because I ran right up to the side so I could look out over my city. I didn't think I could do that either. During my training I felt very uneasy looking out over the bridges. I enjoyed this view more than anything though! On the bridge they had a cadence from the Marines - must be my military family background, but I fell right into that and loved it. It helped to get me thru. I was still smiling! When I hit the flat top of the bridge, it felt like I was flying. Unstoppable by Rascal Flatts - the Olympic version - came on in my ears, I was unstoppable! There was no pain, no fatigue. I had made it. I was a mile from the finish line. I came down the bridge and when I got to the flat land, my legs took off. I can NEVER do that in 5ks. Alison will run with me and yell - but I always feel too spent. Not today. She would have been proud!!!
The finish line was outside the stadium and surrounded by cheering friends and family. It was amazing - I had done it. I had run all the way. All I wanted in the whole world was to run today - And I got it. My prayers - and many of my friends and family's prayers - were answered - in a BIG way!!! And I am so very grateful!
Official time: 1:37:44 - pretty good for semi-injured and lack of training the final 3 weeks! :-) Can't wait to beat it next year!!
Oh, and my Half-Marathon training - starts NOW! ;-) Wine & Dine Half Marathon, here I come!!!