I am happy to report that I ran my third half-marathon under the Floridian sun and lived to tell the tale. I must start by stating that I am not a runner, I am a poser with willpower. No, I did not train and my finishing time well reflected that fact. I just kinda showed up for the race wondering why I had bothered to get out of bed.
Approaching the American Airlines Arena gave me a rush of adrenaline; seeing thousands of people hyped up about the race made me feel great about myself. –Yeah, I am poser, so what? this will be fun– I said to myself as I set camp in my corral.
Singing the national anthem and seeing the first runners cross the start line like gazelles got my heart pumping and excitement took over, after all the road ahead would lead me to make new friends and enjoy Miami in a very unusual way. I crossed the line and saw the real runners disappear in the distance while the profile of the crowd that would accompany me for the next three hours sunk in. They were no athletes, they were posers and underdogs.
I am not an experienced runner but have had the fortune (or misfortune) of completing three races; this has allowed me to gather some intel about those people who barely cross the finish line. First, the posers.
The posers like me, show up all pumped up thinking that walking 13.2 miles can’t be that hard, this thought is reinforced after scouting the crowd, all unlikely marathoners. The first three to four miles feel great, if the expected 15 min/mile rate is being maintained you feel on top of the world and even joke about picking up speed towards the end of the race. At about mile 6 reality starts to sink in. Some of those unlikely marathoners start passing you and as your legs start to cramp life starts leaving your body. At around mile 8 you start considering the possibility of dropping out but the gu starts kicking in and you gather the little bit of strength left in your muscles.
It was at about mile 8 when I bumped into a runner I recognized from the previous year; a beautiful 72 year old grandma who barely remembered me but reminded me she had been doing this all her life … then, she too vanished into the distance.
Mile 9: I used my life line, called my mom and asked her to encourage me; pathetic, I know, but it was either that or dropping out. The outlook around me was not that great. At this point some posers are discouraged, start puking, holding onto their friends. I simply offered the little bit of wisdom my two previous medals afforded me: don’t stop moving! Whatever you do, don’t stop moving!
Miles 10-12 were pure, miserable torture … it felt as I were chasing a mirage. My strength came from the misery of those around me and from the idea of seeing my hunnie at the end of the race. The last mile and a half were a pure miracle, I finished because of God’s mercy, and I mean that literally. I came through the finish line limping and on the brink of tears … but I did it.
The underdogs: there was another kind of walker in that race. The type who trained, weeks and months yet their pace was not fast enough to keep up with the real athletes. These people gave a whole new meaning to the race and I was so impressed by their inner strength and their stories. There was that 72 year old grandma who power-walks with beauty and grace to prove ‘she’s still got it’.
I met an older gentleman with weight issues who was happy to know he got as far as mile 6; I am sure he completed the race, just lost sight of him before saying bye. There were so many stories, and as people started wearing out others starting speaking up sharing the tough road that led them to the race. Their stories strengthened those whose faiths were fading … I benefited as well.
We laughed together and appreciated the support offered by random strangers in the city; specially that of a sassy transvesti wearing fishnet stockings in Ocean Drive. Random strangers giving high fives and words of encouragement; I felt like a free loader, surviving on the glory belonging to those unlikely marathoners, the underdogs who paid the price to participate in that race. I thank them all.
What I have to say for myself is that even though I did not train, I do deserve my medal and the honor that comes with it. Because, when my legs wanted to give in and my body felt powerless, my willpower got me to the finish line. It takes a special kind of slacker to complete such feat … a stubborn one like me.
ING Miami Half Marathon
January 28, 2013