The weather was calm and cool Sunday morning as I began my hour and a half drive to The Strand. I was imagining overcast or mostly cloudy skies and a sea breeze wind to cool my 13.1 mile run up and down the seawall. However--the weather of the last few days threatened rain, concerns of lightning might delay the start of the race, and I wondered what it would take to stop everything entirely—hoping that would not happen.
Mild drizzle turned to a moderate rain as I crossed the I-45 Bridge onto Galveston Island. I was glad I packed my running hat, but felt a little silly that I also brought my sunglasses. In my nervous hurry to find my bearings and locate the starting point, I forgot my iPod in the car. I would later realize I was probably better off without it.
The brisk 48 degree temperature I had felt at home had a new biting edge to it with the damp atmosphere. I wore a pink t-shirt and nylon pants with matching pink stripes down my legs. As I watched others huddled beneath hoodies and sweatshirts, I shortly considered my fleece jacket. However, I knew from living in wet-winter San Antonio for five years, that in the rain, warm layers quickly lose their charm.
We crowded under the covered “porch” of the Tollhouse Cookie Café waiting for race time. As this was my first race of any kind, I kept a watchful eye on what others were doing. I saw one girl about ten years old in pint-sized runner-wear and the knowledgeable look of a veteran racer. I imagine she has boxes of ribbons and medals at home and to her this is all old hat whereas I haven’t had a chance to earn a medal in more years than Chickadee’s been alive.
Oh—and I saw Elvis. The King’s looking a little thin these days.
7:30am approaches and we file out into the street. I’m bouncing around to keep warm and stretch out my calves. I find that my shoes may be a little loose and reach to re-tie them as a familiar tune is heard over the crowd. I hurry my very cold fingers to finish their task as “that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave” and after the time it takes for the crowd en masse to shuffle across the starting line—we’re off trotting into the grey morning rain.
I had come here with one specific, ambitious, yet achievable goal: do not walk. I had to consciously tell myself for the first hour that most everyone I saw who passed me with gusto –especially those I deemed of similar physical condition to myself—will be those I’ll be passing ten miles down the road.
We made our way south along the seawall with the Gulf to our left, veered through a residential neighborhood, then back to the seawall to retrace our steps and continue toward the northern-most point of the island. As the initial rain of predawn gave way to filtered sunlight of overcast skies, our new enemy was the wind. Not the cool sea breeze of my morning fancy, but a piercing, driving wind that turned raindrops into missiles. Miles 6 to 8 required my understanding that “the sooner I get this done, the sooner I can get dry.” I kept jogging and passed several women who let the wind get the better of them, they preferred to walk, but that wouldn’t get them any warmer any sooner. I kept jogging, against what felt like a wall of Jell-O—very cold Jell-O—pulling myself against the resistance of a parachute that wasn’t there. I passed a tall, stout man fighting the wind along with me, “HooRAH!” I chided. He smiled at me. I don’t remember whether he forged ahead or I did, as there was an aide station and I was more interested in Gatorade.
As we moved down a “country road” surrounded by sand dunes, the sky opened up—and not in a good way. The rain and wind both were challenging our resolve. I still had my hat, amazingly enough. It had flown off my head about three times by this point, but was desirable to keep the rain out of my eyes. I was tired of holding it so hooked it onto my arm for storage. A shot of pain went through my fingers. They had been numb. They were also swollen. I disturbed them. I pressed on.
Mile ten had me still in the dunes but I could see the tailfin of the Carnival Cruise ship which was at dock near the Finish line. Three more miles. Three miles ain't nuthin’. I run three miles on my lunch break. Easy-breezy. Now I was gauging the ideal time to ramp up my pace. Don’t want to get over-zealous and burn out just before the finish. At two miles out run it like you mean it. At one mile out, fly!
I was stupid-happy. An adrenaline-dopamine-serotonin cocktail saturated my cerebellum. I wanted someone to share my victory with so told the photographer taking Finisher photos. “I ran the whole thing!” He gave me a high-five. I gave him the goofiest, toothiest grin I have ever known myself to give.
I ran my first Half Marathon in about 3 hrs. I learned why people bring their own timer: if you’re not in the top tier of your age/gender group, they don’t post your time. Sucks. I have a computer chip, you have a data program. Automate it, Baby. There’s no excuse for that.
But never mind, I still got a kick-ass medal.
And I didn’t walk for it.
Best Mardi Gras Beads EVER!