Running High.

May 11, 2009


I was only 702 places behind the winner, but I still did it!

And then I fell down the stairs. But we’ll get to that.

I had contemplated signing up for half-marathons for a couple of years now, but I didn’t actually bite the bullet and register for one until this past February. May 10 sure did seem like a far way off back then. But you know what? It came!

I woke up Monday and Tuesday mornings with some pretty annoying pain in my right hip, so I was concerned this week. Not really that I’d have issues during the race, but that by completing the race, I was guaranteeing issues to pop up the next morning.

But the morning after can always wait. Until the morning after. I wasn’t going to sit out of this race.

I had other agonizing decisions to make though. One of my favorite bands, Bishop Allen, decided to give a free show in my town the night before my race. I’ve lived here since October, and it was the first time a band I truly cared about came all the way to Reading. And 2009 has 365 days in a year. What made them pick May 9 as the date to show up and play for us?

I went to their show in London on Thursday night (alone) so that I could skip the Saturday night show and not feel bad. But of course, seeing a band you like a lot live only makes you want to see them MORE.

So I decided to see them play. Goal: to be in bed by midnight. I called the venue to see what time they’d take the stage, and the guy who answered the phone was clueless. Even at 8 pm. I was really hoping he’d at least have answers by then. So Michael and I showed up at 9, figuring we’d catch the opening act and then BA. The opening act had been really good Thursday night, so I was hoping for more of the same.

Um, no. About 15 people took the stage, all crammed up on there, and they proceeded to assault my ears with nonsensical noise for OVER AN HOUR. Longest opening band set in my life. And they were so bad. Four violinists. Three horn players. TWO bass players. Come on, now. You don’t need two bass players. Two keyboardists. A drummer on a full set and then a guy on the other percussion style instruments. And just about everybody had a mic. Didn’t really understand a word they sang, except for the 5-6 minute song during which they repeated, “Don’t deny your heart,” throughout.

Nathan showed up in their second song, and poor guy really got the brunt of my complaints about the fools wasting my time on stage. I did apologize, and he said that he understood. He knew I wanted to get in bed at a reasonable hour, and he knew that my nerves were not really helping my mood. He also recognized that the band sounded like two separate bands competing for attention. Nothing meshed.

Michael asked Bishop Allen’s drummer what time they’d take the stage and he guessed 10:15. Openers didn’t quit till 10:30. THEN because it was such a small venue and the opening act had so many people, BA’s gear still had to be set up. And it took the (smelly) sound guy FOR.EV.ER. Oh, my, I was dying.

All this to say: they started. Their sound wasn’t mixed well. I loved them anyway. Darby waved to me during the set, then came up to me after the show to wish me luck on my race and apologize for a lackluster performance. Well, their performance was fine. The problem was all in the sound. And the fact that they had to cut the show short thanks to the openers hogging the stage. I did tell her that they didn’t sound as good Saturday night as they did on Thursday night, and I kind of feel bad about that. Because that can’t feel good to hear!

But I still left the show pretty excited to have had her seek me out and chat me up. And I made it in bed by 12:15. So pretty close to my goal.

Set my alarm for 6. Woke up at 5 and couldn’t really get back to sleep after that. My feet were killing me. I hadn’t planned on that when I made the decision to go to the show. I had only been concerned about sleeping. But standing on your feet for several hours the night before you’re going to run 13.1 miles is apparently not a good idea. TAKE NOTE.

But tired feet aren’t going to make it impossible to run. And the rest of me felt fine. Wired, but fine. Had my breakfast of porridge and banana, called a cab, and off we went.

Item forgotten: camera.
Items remembered: everything else.

So I can’t complain. Of all things I needed to remember, the camera was the least important. And we still had our phones. So we got pics. Just not very good ones. And there were several official photographers on the course. I waved and smiled for the one at mile 3. Didn’t acknowledge the one at mile 7. Kind of resented the one at mile 11.

We arrived at 7:30. For a 9 am start. But still, I’d rather sit there and stare at my watch not move AT the race site than at home, where there is the stress of having to get there still hanging over your heard.

I peed three times between arrival and the start. Michael thought it was out of control. I knew it was because I was downing water! It’s got to go someplace.

I had my banana chips, too. During training runs, I had been able to put them in the pocket of my water bottle, but I was just planning on drinking water at the stations along the course, so I was simply carrying a baggie of banana chips. Less annoying than a water bottle, actually. Sure, it made my hands sweat, but most of the time, I didn’t really notice the bag. Except to think about the next time I’d allow myself to eat. I planned on every three miles. And it’s nice to have something to focus on. Instead of thinking, “I can’t wait till mile 13.1 when this race is OVER,” I was able to think, “Ooh, I can’t wait till mile 6 when I get to eat again.” And really, anyone can make it till mile 6.

Okay, maybe not anyone. But I sure as hell can.

But back to the start. See how well I fake not being nervous?

I’m wearing a shirt that used to belong to Mallory. And shorts that belonged to Jonathan Malespin. No high tech running gear for me!

And aww, look at me go.

You can see a few of my race buddies in the pic. Well, you can see one person’s legs. Pink pants? Left side of the pic? Her name is Sarah. It was her first half-marathon, too. She talked about as much as I do. In FACT, she struck up our original conversation. Which is usually my job. I ran with her the first…3 miles, but then had to leave her behind.

The girl in the orange top to my left is named Sarah, too! She ran the Reading half back in March and finished in 2:09. I thought I might try to stick with her, but she took off early on, and I wasn’t able to catch her.

Till mile 9. We ran some of that mile together, but then I had to leave her behind as well.

The dude behind HER in the pic was right in front of me until the last mile. But then he apparently had kick that I didn’t! I have no idea where he finished, but it was in front of me.

The main person I chilled with during the race was actually an older woman who runs almost every half at about 2:10. I first noticed her when she passed me on a hill and was duly impressed. Most people are thinking about maintaining on uphills, and she’s blowing past people.

k, nothing at our slow speed should really be called “blowing past,” but it’s all relative.

Regardless, around the time I left the first Sarah, I noticed the older woman wasn’t that far ahead. So we started running together and she told me her life history of running, which sounds like a boring topic to anyone who doesn’t run, but I loved hearing about the different races she’s run. This was actually her first race back after three years off, and she really didn’t seem to be hurting for it.

Speaking of, I was absolutely shocked by how easy those first 5 miles were. On the way to the race, I had been asking Michael what exactly had made me sign up for two hours of misery (he didn’t have the answer, said he had been wondering that all along), but then I realized during the race that it wasn’t two hours of misery at all! The first 50 or so minutes just felt like I was out for a jog, a casual and pleasant one at that.

(I once heard a runner say that if you aren’t in pain during a race, you’re doing it wrong. I readily admit that I’m doing it wrong. I mean, yes, I’m in some pain, but I’m not very good at pushing myself to a speed that hurts. Only distances that hurt.)

But nothing really hurt in the first 5 miles. Except for my poor feet. That never really went away.

Starting around mile six though, the ease of it all started to…disappear. Evaporate. Completely fall apart.

Nothing (besides my feet) really hurt yet, but I could tell it was coming. And I still had so far to go!

I guess I wasn’t doing too horribly because it was around there that I finally left that older running buddy behind. But I did notice that one of those miles was run in 10:30. It was my only mile run in over 10 minutes. Scared me though because I had been so on course to beat 2:10, and if I started running 10:30s from that point forward, I was going to lose it. Ran the next mile in 9:30, then settled back down to somewhere between 9:45 and 9:50 for the rest of the race.

Quite possibly the lowest moment of the race: middle of mile 9, had been running on a gradual uphill for several hundred yards, took a right turn onto LONG HILL DRIVE. That was the name of the road! And it wasn’t a lie! We ran up a long hill! The grade went from gradual to steep and it wasn’t pretty. I was all alone at this point, so I couldn’t even try to crack jokes to distract myself. All I could think was, “Long Hill Drive, Long Hill Drive, Long Hill Drive, longhilldrivelonghilldrive.”

My race buddy had told me that miles 7-10 are pretty bad, but once you hit double digits, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Well…I didn’t see the light till mile 11. I mean, it’s not like I thought I’d die or collapse or not finish, but my mood didn’t lighten till then. And don’t ask me how my legs were functioning. My brain wasn’t really connected to them anymore.

I don’t think any part of my upper body was actually connected to them. Multiple spectators commented that I looked quite comfortable and not in pain at all. (I’m pretty sure at least one guy was implying that I needed to be running a whole hell of a lot faster. But the others said it in an encouraging manner.) So clearly, my face was in one world, and my legs another. Because nothing about them was comfortable.

Spectators are great though. Volunteers, too. Grabbing water from an outstretched hand is infinitely easier than picking it up off a table. (Does that sentence sound sarcastic? Because it very much isn’t. I would have been much more tempted to skip water each time if it hadn’t been so easy to accept.)

They do lie though. Spectators, I mean. I’m pretty sure they started saying, “Just around the corner,” about a half mile too soon. I didn’t actually buy into their lies because I knew my pace hadn’t magically skyrocketed, so it was easy to know where I was, but still, how I wanted to believe them.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t really have much kick, so it was nice that there was no one too close at the final stretch, otherwise they all would have passed me. (But let me just say that once the race got underway enough for us to spread out – so within the first couple of miles – I would say that the ratio of people I passed to people who passed me was like 9:1. If not higher.)

But here’s my finish:

PAY NO MIND to that clock! I started quite near the back. So let’s take a look at my chip time, shall we?

See? 2:08:44. I don’t lie.

And here’s the after shot:

I wanted to redo my hair before the picture, but Michael said it had to be authentic. I needed to look like I just ran a race.

Because I did!

Oh? And the falling down the stairs? I did that, too. Apparently, my legs were done for the day a little bit earlier than I expected them to be. So it may be a few weeks before planning my next race. But it’ll happen! The real question though: should that next race be an attempt at beating 2 hours or should it be an attempt at a full marathon?

Don’t they both sound perfectly miserable? I can’t wait!



  1. Congratulations, Melissa–that’s awesome. I hope you get some rest.

    I can run from my bed to the couch in 6 seconds flat.

  2. YAY!! So proud of you, Melissa!!

    I loved this post 🙂 So glad you started blogging again, as I do enjoy your writing so very much.

  3. You aren’t even sweating! And you are as skinny as a rail!

  4. […] played PeeWee soccer in. Same shorts I ran last year’s half marathon in, if you want to check them out. It was sometime around 1997 again that I got my hands on these, though the shorts were at least 10 […]

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