This past weekend, I was in Augusta, Georgia, supporting my friend who completed his first half distance triathlon (70.3 miles = 1.2 Swim, 56 Bike, 13.1 Run). On our way down to Augusta, you could feel the anticipation and nervous energy running through his veins.
Once in Georgia, we had to take care of all the necessary to-do’s before the race. It was awesome for me to witness first hand what it was like for someone to go through a first-time experience. It made me quickly realize that the marathon is going to be a first-time experience for me—it's a challenge that I have put on myself, not a challenge that was put upon me by someone else (like on The Biggest Loser). This realization made me very nervous because if I fail, I am only failing myself, which to me is the biggest let down.
The entire day, I couldn’t stop thinking of whether I was prepared or not. Random questions would pop into my head. What am I going to wear? When should I eat? How often should I drink? Will I hit the 20 mile roadblock? How many layers should I have on? Should I wear a visor or hat? Do I even have the proper sneakers? (Right now, I alternate between three pairs of sneakers and they are all different brands) Before I knew it, I was freaked out. In less than a month, I will be heading over to the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC to pick up my number! Do I have any idea what I have gotten myself into?
The next morning, I woke up worried about the marathon. I figured, I should just get up and run, as running helps me clear my thoughts. At the last second, I decided that it would be best for me to make it my long run (19 miles) of the week as I had more time. I headed out of the hotel a little after 6am (still dark out), with a GU (energy gels) and 16-ounce hand-held water bottle and just started running. Before I knew it, I was running the perimeter of a beautiful lake then wandered down a dirt path where I did scare myself into thinking that a big pile of broken branches were covering something up (I was too chicken to take a gander). At this point, I was getting a little concerned, as my water was running out and the area I was in would most likely not be considered very safe! I finally found a “bodega" style store and ran in, refilled my water bottle, ate my GU (chocolate fudge mint—quite tasty), asked the store owner if I was downtown and how far away the hotel was. He said I was about seven blocks from an area of town that I had been before! I was so relieved to hear this, as I knew that once I found the hotel I could definitely find my way. As I was approaching the sixth block, I noticed some people, all wearing yellow shirts lining the streets. They were race volunteers! I quickly apologized for being in the course and they told me I wasn’t late—the 10k was just about to start down the street. I ran down the street to find that the race just began, so I joined in. I had another nine miles to do anyway! It worked out perfectly; I kept my head down and tried to stay focused as it was the longest distance I was running by myself. As mile 18 was approaching, a new burst of energy came over me, and I wanted to keep going. I ran right past the finish line, the race director looked at me like I was crazy when I was waving my hands telling him, no, I’m wasn't a part of the race, but thanks for the course.
As I continued jogging, I saw two young women struggling to finish the 10K and I slowed up and started chatting. It was their first race and they were out of breath and felt some cramping coming on. One girl told me how she just wanted to prove all the people who doubted her wrong, so she would not stop. I told her when you cross the finish line you won’t be thinking about the people who doubted you, but relishing in the fact that she’s doing something that so many others can only dream of doing. And, she started and finished!
Before I knew it, I was at mile 20, and was pooped… and, nowhere near my hotel. I stopped and asked the police officers for directions. I was about six miles away. How convenient, but there was no way I was jogging another six to make it 26 miles! The deputy asked how long I was running for and I told him 20 miles. He looked at me like I had two heads, and said, “Dear lord child, lets get you home!” Thanks to true southern hospitality, I was taken back to my hotel in the back of a police car (I never knew the back seat of the cop car was plastic and that there were no door handles.) I pulled up as my friend was putting his bike on the rack, and he couldn’t believe what he was seeing—never a dull day in the life of Tara!
This week, I have realized that no matter the strength or ability of the athlete, everyone gets nervous the first time, no matter what the distance is. It is the act of doing something that we have never done before that makes it such a priceless experience! Lets go NY!
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