The Running Circle of Life

In October of 2010, I decided I was going to run a half-marathon every month of the calendar year. I only managed to pull-off three out of 12 halves because I found out I was pregnant in December of 2010. However, at eleven weeks, I had a miscarriage. This is the first time I mention this on my blog because I’ve not been ready to put down in writing what the experience was like. When I initially discovered I was pregnant, I was unhappy because a part of me thought the pregnancy would interfere with my running goals. Of course my ego-centric attitude dissipated within a couple of days, and I embraced the growing baby inside of me. So when I noticed heavy bleeding on the eleventh week of my pregnancy, and my fears were confirmed by the Ob/Gyn, I immediately felt guilt and believed it was a punishment. It was confusing and hard to grasp why the baby’s heart stopped beating. I had done everything right. I even stopped running.

Half Marathon Number two - Silver Falls Half-Marathon - November 2010

Half Marathon #2 – Silver Falls Half-Marathon – November 2010

I did not know how to mourn the loss of my baby. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. There wasn’t a burial. And I didn’t know how to tell people I was no longer having a baby (I announced I was expecting at eight weeks, assuming it was a safe time). A miscarriage was something that I never thought would happen to me. Apparently, miscarriages are more common than I thought. I’d like to give you the statistics, but I find them to be unpleasant statistics, so I’m leaving my statement without citing the numbers.

I ran again approximately four weeks after my body did what nature is designed to do once it discovers there is no more life within you. Each and every stride I took was painful. I wanted to enjoy running, but all I felt was a piercing of liquid guilt in my heart. The negative forces within me wanted to blame me and prevent me from finding the joy running had always given me. But I understood right there and then that was the exact same reason why I needed to run. I wanted to run for my baby. I knew I’d meet my Angel at some point in the spectrum of life (or thereafter) and I wanted my baby to know the eleven weeks that its beating heart was within me were weeks full of joy. I wanted my baby to know despite the fact I could not understand why we didn’t get to meet on Earth, I had to continue living in order to keep its memory alive. And so, I ran to celebrate life, the life that was once in sync within mine. Regardless of how short the life of my Angel was, I wanted to show that its life made my life worth living. Most importantly, I ran to heal, to wash away the guilt that would no longer consume me and replaced it with gratitude.

The Pursuit of Happiness: Second to Last leg of the Hood To Coast Relay - August 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness: Second to Last leg of the Hood To Coast Relay – August 2011

In May of 2011, I completed the Hippie Chick Half-Marathon to celebrate my baby. And yes, that Hippie Chick Half-Marathon was the same half I completed this year while I tried to pursue my sub-2. It’s held during Mother’s Day weekend, so 2011’s half was in memory of the baby I did not get to meet, and 2014 was in honor of the daughter I gave birth to two years after I had miscarried.

On October of 2011, I once again pursued the goal I did not complete the year before. This time though, I wanted to run one of those halves in under two hours. And as you may know by now, in January of 2012 I found out I was pregnant. Once again, I managed to complete 3 consecutive half-marathons from November to January. I also walked the Corvallis Half in April and the Eugene Half in May, but I don’t count those.

Half Marathon #2 - Reindeer Half - December 2011

Half Marathon #2 – Reindeer Half – December 2011

This third time around, I am once again making an attempt to run 12 halves in 12 months. Seems like the odds of completing the goal this time around are in my favor, given I’ve completed four (I’m starting with the month of May) and that’s one more half than the previous two attempts.

March:
The Riverton Half-Marathon

May:
Hippie Chick Half-Marathon

June:
Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Half-Marathon

July:
Tutu Run Half-Marathon

August:
Catherine Creek Classic Half-Marathon

Here’s what the tentative schedule looks like for the remaining eight halves:

September:
Bridge of the Goddess Half-Marathon

October:
Columbia River Gorge Half-Marathon

November:
Zeitgeist Half-Marathon

December:
Holiday Half (weather permitting, may do virtual half)

January:
Cascade Half Marathon (only half available in Oregon & it’s quite a distance, might have to do a virtual)

February:
Heartbreaker Half

March:
McKenzie River Half-Marathon

April:
Race to Robie Creek

I don’t know what life has in store for me from now until next April, but the running circle of life will continue regardless of how many times I have to start from mile one again. How many times have you had to start from mile one in pursuit of your personal goals?

Catherine Creek Classic Half Marathon Recap

It was a “Sub-2 or Bust” approach. I told myself if I my 5K was over 25 minutes, I’d just enjoy the half and not race the rest of the race.

Catherine Creek is in Union Oregon. The race is a point to point race. We were to meet at Union High School, where the race director is the coach and where the $15 entry race fee (what a steal) benefits the track team. The half marathon was capped to a total of 60 runners (the max amount of people the bus can hold) and we would all park at the finish point and be bussed to the starting point.

My hubby and I woke at 6:00. We ate breakfast and made an attempt to empty our stomachs (didn’t happen). I was under the impression there were no restrooms at the finish line (which is where we all had to meet) so I was immediately worried because I really needed to use the bathroom. Much to my fortune, we were able to use the school’s restrooms.

I don’t know if all 60 registrants showed up or not, but we loaded onto the bus and headed to the starting point. There were all sorts of happy and nervous conversations happening all around me. I was thinking positive thoughts (you can do this) and knocked every single negative thought out-of-the-way.

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En route to the starting line. I was really tired and my eyes give it away.

Halfway before arriving to the starting point, the bus stopped at a State Park (Catherine Creek). Runners were given the opportunity to use the restrooms before our final destination. Some runners took advantage of the offer and others got up to stretch. I remained on the bus and chatted with my husband. I continued to repeat positive affirmations, and when a negative one managed to seep through, I sent it off with, “I’ve been given the opportunity to race again and I’m only using the past as a learning tool.”

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Bus stop halfway to the starting point for a final restroom call at the State Park.

We arrived to the starting point and I felt a rush of adrenaline surge from the top of my head to the end of my toes. There was a flow of positive energy and gratitude running through my veins. In past races, I looked around and categorized myself as either “faster” or “slower” than “so and so” runner. This time, I was not worried about “so and so” runners. I was there to write my own story, and my race, much like my life, is completely distinct from each of the runners at the starting line. And I understood that each runner was also there to write their own story from experiences completely separate from mine.

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Thumbs up and ready to race in my Oiselle singlet. This was my first time running as part of the Oiselle Flock Team.

The race director (who ran the course with us and even greeted us personally) informed us there would be water stations every two miles (that’s exceptional), that the roads were not closed, so we had to run single file on certain stretches, and that we had to make two lefts during the entire race. After that, the bus driver started the watch, and we took off.

In case I haven’t mentioned, the course has a net decline of 1100′! Yes, a net decline of more than 1100 feet! The temperature was PERFECT (70 degrees), and there was a slight wind that turned into a headwind. The first three miles were totally downhill. And when I mean downhill, I mean, you are going pretty fast downhill. Some people use the word “steep” to describe the descent. but I thought otherwise. I felt the descent was ideal for running with speed and without it hurting your quads or knees (at least for me it was). My husband advised me to pace myself, but I knew I had to take advantage of the first three miles in order to give myself enough of a head start at the beginning of the race and avoid trying to make it up at the end of the race. After all, my last half-marathon was seven minutes over the two-hour mark, and seven minutes was a big gap to shave off.

The moment of truth came at 3.1. If it wasn’t under 25 minutes, I knew it would be too much of a struggle the rest of the way and I did not want to battle it out for another 10 miles. At 3.1 miles, I looked at my watch: 25:20! My immediate thought when I saw that time was, “F*%k it! I’m not giving up! I’m going for it.”

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Keeping a positive attitude and going the distance.

This time around, I was going to fight tooth and nail for a sub-2. I was not going to allow anything to get in the way. I had been granted 3 miles of easy running, and I was going to remain committed to my goal and not expect anything less of myself!

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Running along side Catherine Creek.

At the six-mile mark, I consumed a bag of Extreme Sports Jelly Beans and gulped a cup of water (perfect timing for a water station). My 10k time read 53:02, and while I had slowed down now that the course was no longer downhill, I knew sub-2 was still within my reach. In fact, a sub-2 was mine to lose at this point. I kept pushing myself mentally and visualizing crossing the finish line in under two.

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I kept a positive attitude by giving thanks to all of my blessings. I particularly thought about all the chaos in the Middle East and my aches, fears, and even my goal of a sub-2 seemed so trivial.

My stomach cramped around mile 8, and I remembered how my stomach cramped around this same mile during the Riverton Half-Marathon back in March. I kept on running, telling myself the cramp would leave like the way it did on the same half. This time around, I did not stop. I used that moment as a learning experience. I used that memory to help me keep going.

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The horses gave us their undivided attention and cheered us on. It was so neat to run past them. I wondered what they thought of us.

The cramping went away. With a 5k left, I still had a two and a half-minute surplus before going over two hours. I told myself that I had to push myself and not allow my pace to get past a 9:50 minute mile. The finish line was so close and my goal was within arms reach.

“Move your legs. Breathe in, breathe out. Relax your shoulders. Shake out your arms. You’ll rest once it’s over. Step outside of your comfort zone. Give it all you’ve got. Don’t quit. Keep pushing.”

I saw the white tent and people started clapping. At 13.00 miles, I crossed the finish line. I didn’t see the time on my watch because all I could focus on was the fact my Garmin read 13.00. I kept running past the finish line with a water bottle in hand a young man handed to me. And then, after my watched read 13.1, I stopped. 1:58:48!!! I was so mentally fatigued I could barely feel any excitement. My husband, who was using the MapMyRun got exactly 13.1 at the finish line, so I am assuming my Garmin may have shorted me.

I walked back to the starting line, and thought about what had just happened. I did it! I got the sub-2 I had been trying to chase down since 2012. This was before I got pregnant, and gained 47 pounds. And stopped running because my body could not sustain the weight. And gave birth three weeks early. And fought a post-pregnancy infection. And lost 47 pounds. And lost my grandmother the same week I had to return to work from my maternity leave. And left a career I worked so hard for to move to a small town, where I knew no one. And had to start running and begin a new life amongst strangers from scratch.

There was no pomp and circumstance playing at the end of the race. There were no medals, or awards. Nobody picked me up and carried me on their shoulders. My husband and two of his co-workers congratulated me. At that moment, only my husband knew what this meant to me. And you know what, I can’t think of a more and satisfying way to capture this moment. The reward was intrinsic, and did not need recognition from anybody but myself to make it priceless.

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Standing tall and feeling so proud of myself.