It’s time to write something about Sunday’s OBX half marathon. As I sit here thinking about it this afternoon, I keep thinking of the lessons inherent in such an event. Is that the school teacher part of me? Can’t I ever just enjoy something without trying to turn it into a lesson? Apparently not!
Lisa, one of my sisters-in-law, drove us to the race start. She’s a trooper, a stalwart supporter, and had gotten up and dressed to make sure that we arrived before the 7:00 a.m. gun sounded. Once we got out of the car and sauntered (yep, we were taking it easy then) to the start, we were inundated with the noises that accompany pre-race excitement. And the music. Wow! It was loud and energizing. Plus, there was the beautiful Atlantic Ocean on our right. What a feast for the senses!
Almost immediately, the three of us separated, and I went to the back of the pack with the other slow folks (walkers).Interestingly, it was called “F.” While that didn’t make me too happy, I came up with lesson #1. It’s crazy to start in a category for which you are unprepared. You’ll soon find yourself out of your league and floundering as you realize that you’re being passed by those with more experience.
That brings me to lesson #2. It’s closely aligned with the first one and has to do with preparation. A person who doesn’t put in the time and miles is not going to make it. Sure, he or she might finish the course but will suffer consequences of serious soreness, all over fatigue, strained muscles, and so forth. Preparation is key in most life events.
The gun sounded for us, and people took off running. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be walkers in Category F! I jogged along beside them, letting the crowd surge push me forward. That was another important lesson, #3. Sometimes, for better or worse, the crowd mentality can get a person stoked and involved. I slowed down after about a mile, however, because I knew I’d be in trouble otherwise.
After a few miles on the highway, we branched off into a nice neighborhood, and I took a few pictures. Soon I saw a child wrapped up in a sleeping bag in a driveway. He had a pot over his face and head, and his father reminded him that he was supposed to be making noise with it. All along the route, people were ringing cow bells, playing music, shouting encouragement, and blowing horns. I could hear all this despite the fact that I was listening to Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life on my iPhone. It was awesome to walk/jog in this beautiful setting and listen to a great Southern author read his book about the effect that reading had on his life.
We rounded a curve, and there I saw a person dressed like an old lady who kept running out in the street yelling at people. I think she was shouting good stuff, but I’m not sure. It was a little bizarre. I also saw some water in the bay and some beautiful homes. Breathtaking. Lesson # 4 There are always some unexpected treats along the way of a journey. It might be something like the bubble gum that a woman was offering the walkers and runners or it might be some of the beauties of nature.
We walked and jogged on the highway some more and then through another neighborhood. I’d like to say, “THANKS!” to all of the people who came out of their homes to cheer us on that morning. It’s amazing how much difference encouragement and an occasional, “You can do it!” can make. Oh, and the people providing water and Gatorade were wonderful too. That was some of the coldest, most refreshing water that I’ve ever tasted. Some tables offered power gel, but I relied on my power bar for energy bursts. Lesson # 5. People need people.
Soon I found myself looking at the bridge signaling that I was about to leave Nag’s Head and enter Manteo. One of my brothers had told me that the bridge was the ten mile mark so I was feeling encouraged. Hmmm. Did he say that the beginning of the bridge marked ten miles or was it the end? This was a major question because that bridge was daunting! Long, steep, and noisy (because of the cars passing and the wind from the sound), I just had to know. There was no sign, however, so I just basically took off thinking, “I can do it…I can, I can, I can, I will, I will….”
People on all sides seemed to be struggling just as much as I was. Some were in even worse shape. Still, I trudged on, knowing that it was the only way to Manteo and the race finish. Lesson # 6. Crossing a bridge will take you from one destination to another, in “real life” and in a half marathon.
Bridge behind me, I turned right towards Manteo. I needed a potty break, and since I hadn’t heeded Lisa’s warning about the perils of wearing new shoes on race day, my feet were hurting. I was tired and running out of “juice.” Then Elizabeth called asking for my location and told me that my brother Dave and his son Chris were stationed along the way looking for me. That was something to look forward to. I soon spotted them, sights for sore eyes, and a signal that I was within a half mile of the finish.
Lesson #7. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. By this time, my left shoe had come untied, but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to cross that line!! I rounded the corner of the last leg and spotted Becky, my other sister-in-law, smiling and waving me on. Just before crossing the finish, I saw the rest of my support group: Elizabeth, Sarah Beth, Lisa, and Mike. Someone put a medal around my neck, and then off I went in search of my free barbeque sandwich.
The eight of us walked around gawking at the sights and taking pictures. It had been an arduous trek, but the sights, sounds, and feelings afterwards made it worthwhile. Will I do it again? No doubt about it! Lesson #8: Setting a difficult and then accomplishing it is sweet.