Driving down I-55 with Panda, I tried to stay as cool and calm as possible. In two days, I will be running a half marathon. No wait, in two days, I’m going to die.
Looking back, I realized that this was a bad idea. 3 months later, it’s still a bad idea. But a promise is a promise. I just need to remember the next time I’m going to make a promise, I need to know what I’m getting myself into first. I mean, how was I suppose to that Panda’s first race would be a half marathon? One would think that for a non-runner, a first race would be a 5K or an 8K. That’s something I can do. Nope. A half marathon. Eff…
Arriving at Panda’s parent’s farm in southern Illinois, I met the rest of my teammates for the first time. Weggy, Besch, Lynners and Danimal; we all were training separately during the past twelve weeks. Tonight, two days before the race, we assembled as a team. The team that started it all.
The next morning, we headed into St. Louis to pick up our packets. Though this was not my first race, I was as excited and nervous as the rest of my team. Only Lynners had ran a half marathon prior to the next day’s race. The rest of us were newbies to the running world and half marathons. We were excited. We were nervous. And of course, we all had a gut feeling that we were all going to die. At least we would die together.
After hording all the free samples at the race expo, because we were all poor college or post-college students, we headed to mass to receive our last rites and then back to the farm for our final meal. The excitement, though still present, was being replaced by fear, nervousness and uncertainty. Lynners & Danimal were the best off among the team because they ran in high school. Besch and Weggy were focused and set on running with each other for the whole race. As for Panda and myself, we just want to live through it and finish.
It was just after 5 in the morning, the sky was pitch black and the temperature was in the low 30s, when we headed back to St. Louis for the race. Andy shouted aloud as he was getting into the red truck, “I made a huge mistake!”
Mistake or not, there was no turning back now. True, I could have backed out from the race, but I trained 12 weeks for this morning. I couldn’t run 2 blocks without stopping my first day. 12 weeks later, I’ve ran 9 miles. And this morning, I’m about to run 13.1 miles – a half marathon. I may not feel ready nor did I consider myself a runner, but I was going to do this. But I’ll be honest, I was terrified.
Panda’s dad dropped us off about a block from the starting line. The sun was beginning to break across the Mississippi river as it lit up the Gateway Arch and the American flag. Welcome to race day.
We all huddled together as a team in the starting corrals waiting for the race to start. Weggy, Danimal and Besch were cracking jokes. I was too nervous to say anything, not to mention pee. BANG! The race has begun. We slowly inched closer to the starting line, stopping and going and stopping, not knowing when the race would actually start for us. Danimal best explained the wait as a roller coaster ride. The ride has already begun, but we were inching along until we would reach the top. And then…
“Here we go!”
There was so much running through my mind, pun unintended, as I crossed the starting line. Here I was, running a half marathon. Never in my life did I ever thought I would do something crazy as this. But there I was, running along side Besch & Weggy as Lynners & Danimal broke off from us. I am doing this!
Making the first turn after about half a mile, you heard the groans of the runners. A hill. A huge hill. A huge hill right at the start of the race. I was not prepared for this. Chicago is a flat city and my whole training consisted of flat terrain. That moment, I rethought my decision in running a half marathon. Before I could regret it, the hill was over and I was greeted by another hill. It became a reoccurring theme that morning.
After taking a quick pit stop in the bushes, only to find that I was open view of someone’s living room and having someone walk into the room while I was relieving myself, I paced myself with the 9 minute runners. Slowly but surely, I was tackling a mile at a time. 1, 2, 3, 4 miles down and I was feeling good. I was doing it. 5 then 6 miles completed, I rounded back to the starting line to complete the second half of the course.
At mile 7, two things hit me: I’m already half way done and what the hell is that hill that I’m seeing ahead of me? 7 was all uphill. So was mile 8. At mile 9, I realized something. I have never ran more than 9 miles in my life. Every new step that I took, I was going further that I have ever gone before.
It was at mile 10 when I began to struggle. My feet was not use to the pounding and they started to feel red and raw. All the hills were catching up to me as I took my first break and decided to walk. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. But I persevered and continued to trod along. Then I broke the final hill of mile 12 and there before me was the Arch, the spangled banner and the final stretch which was all downhill.
One final turn, one final step and then the finish line. Seeing it, I knew that I had only one choice. I had to celebrate. And I celebrated by the most appropriate deed possible, I sprinted.
I finished at 1:56:52.
I was hoping that I would finish under 2 hours, but never did I though I could actually do it and do it in hilly St. Louis. But I did and I did it with my friends and teammates.
One by one, my teammates crossed. “We did it!” We all yelled as we greeted each other. We just completed the Spirit of St. Louis half marathon on April 15, 2007.
Winding down after the race, as the team congratulated each other, the unthinkable crossed my mind:
I think I want do another one.
Here’s the video of the 2007 Spirit of St. Louis Half Marathon. This video started it all.