“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

I woke up this past Tuesday morning and realized that I was registered to run a Half Marathon today.  I panicked, I worried, and I contemplated running the Quarter.  This week I struggled with knee pain while exerting minimal effort, personal dilemmas, and extremely light mileage.

I woke up this morning and ran the Emerald City Half Marathon.  I ran, ran some more, and kept running when I would have rather quit.  It was a personal best for me13.38 miles (so much for the .1) in 2 hours 54 minutes and 7 seconds with an average pace of 13 minutes and 1 second per mile.  Next week I will run with all the confidence in the world.

I woke up this morning, and it was just right.  I don’t know what I did differently last night, but eat a greasy cheeseburger, French fries, and $11 lobster macaroni and cheese.  I walked around the Short North art galleries, sampled high-end chocolate, and went to bed way too late to wake up at 4:45 a.m.  I did drink a lot of water, and my husband was kind enough to let me have the bed to myself so I could get some rest.

So, when my alarm was singing this morning before even God himself was awake – as my husband likes to say – I really wasn’t expecting to feel just right.  I got ready, laced up my shoes, drove to the gas station for bananas and chocolate milk (my pre-race staples) and printed out directions to the starting line.  I woke my husband up and we were off at 6:05 a.m.

We made it to the race site in plenty of time.  I used the port-a-potty, took a short walk around, stretched my calves and my hamstrings, found my MIT pace group (our Coaches Pru and Duane included!), hugged my husband goodbye (and wished him well in his search for caffeine), and we were off for a 7:00 a.m. start.

There was excitement in the air.  We chattered, laughed, compared notes on our training endeavors, and breezed through the first water station without breaking our pace.  I remember thinking someone around Mile 2, “This is great, this is how it is supposed to be, I hardly even feel like I am running.”  It didn’t matter that I had 11 more miles to go because I was with my team.

We got to the split where the Quarter Runners and the Half Runners parted ways.  Duane and I veered right into Glacier Ridge Metro Park as we waved goodbye to our teammates.  We were the only ones tackling the Half.  Duane said, “Boy, are we stupid or what?”  We laughed.  We were feeling great – only 10 more to go!

Me & Duane finishing.

I honestly don’t remember much from miles 4-5.  I remember feeling good.  I remember feeling like I was meant to be running.  I remember other runners passing us on their way back and telling us to “Keep it up, looking good.”  And I remember asking Duane, “Do we really look bad or something?”  But, I didn’t feel bad.  I remember Duane making me laugh as the miles flew by, “Just think, the slower we run, the more we get out of our money!”  We were clipping along at a pretty decent pace, 12:30 to 12:45 or so.  I remember feeling like I was flying.

Miles 5-6.5 started to get a little rougher.  We were in the sun and we were anxiously awaiting the turn-around.  We made it there, hydrated and re-fueled.  It was our turn to be the ones on the way back now.  I think the same medic circled around us about 19 times, asking if we were okay, Duane said he was “hovering, like a vulture, waiting for one of us to drop.”  I said, “You mean like drop dead?”  Duane was thinking, “More like drop injured.”  I laughed, but I was really hoping my knee would hold up for the last half of the race.

Duane & Me after the race.

Our conversation came sparingly now, as we chugged through miles 7, 8 and 9.  We started walking through the aid stations.  Everything started to matter.  My hair band was rubbing my head, my socks were rubbing my ankles, my bib was rustling, my water was sloshing, my shoulder was cramping, my knee was getting stiff (which always means pain), and my mind was starting to ask, “How much farther?”  It was still too early to think like that.

We struggled through mile 10 and made it to mile 11 at about a 13:43 pace – our slowest yet.  At mile 11 I wanted to quit, but I kept running somehow.  I didn’t want to let Duane down, and I didn’t want to let myself down – I was still hoping to make it a record and finish in less than 3 hours.

Somehow, mile 11 turned into 12.  I remember the last water station at mile 12.  We stopped, we drank, we limped along, and then we ran.  Mile 12 went pretty quick, but I felt every step in my knee.  My ankles were raw.  I knew they were bleeding.  I kept running – we kept running.  Mile 12 was gone and it was just mile 13…it took forever and it seemed like no matter how much we ran the hospital wasn’t getting any closer.  We were waiting for the .1, which turned into nearly .5 before we were done.

Me with my husband and Dad.

I saw my dad at the finish line first, and then my husband.  My dad was screaming, “You are at, “Two hours, 56 minutes – go!”  I remember thinking, “I am going!”  And then, somehow, we sprinted.  We crossed the finish line in 2 hours 54 minutes.  I made my time.  I was ecstatic, I think.  At least, I was when I reflected on the day.

There were pictures and laughing again and a retelling of all the miles gone by from Duane and I and our MIT friends.  I couldn’t have done it without them – Duane and my team.  I would not have made it by myself.  I might not have made it past mile 3.

I have to laugh when I look back and think about how I started my week in panic mode, unsure if I would be able to “pull-off” a Half today.  But I did more then pull it off, I soared, and I feel great.  I look back on just over one year ago when I ran my first half to the Emerald I ran today and I know great things are in store ahead of me.  And I think to myself as the day winds down and my eyes grow heavy, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

Emerald City Half 2010.


  1. “I ran, ran some more, and kept running when I would have rather quit. It was a personal best for me – 13.38 miles (so much for the .1) in 2 hours 54 minutes and 7 seconds with an average pace of 13 minutes and 1 second per mile. Next week I will run with all the confidence in the world.”

    Way to ROCK your half marathon! Wow! Loved the details and the commitment to finish strong. Well done!!

  2. I remember reading this when I first joined MIT and found out you had a blog. As I started reading it I thought – HEY, I was at that race! I ran part of a race with Sara already! I, of course, only did the quarter though. I’m glad you tagged this so that I could re-read it and comment without seeming like a creeper. 😉

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