I can't even begin to describe the high that I'm still on from having completed my first half marathon this past weekend. I never imagined myself doing this but I can now look back and say that I DID IT!!! I ran the entire way except for stopping to give my coaches a huge, sweaty, much deserved hug along the course. "So how was it?" is the question that everyone has been asking. In one word...AMAZING! There are so many factors that contributed to making this such a positive experience.
I remember waking up Saturday morning thinking this is it...by this time tomorrow, I will have (hopefully) crossed the finish line. I woke up so nervous having had nightmares about my legs giving out on me, about people holding me back on the course, and all I remember saying in my dream was, "Please, I want to finish in under 2.5 hours, please, let me go!" I shook the bad dream and packed everything from sunscreen, various hats, energy drink powders, scented spray (for after), and even my favorite post-run snack some pretzels. I was ready to do this!!! We made our way to Downtown Disney where we had lunch at ESPN Zone and watched a little college football before it was time to get my official race packet. I met up with my fellow TNT'er Katie and off we went. WOW so much going on at one time. We were sent all over the Disneyland hotel in search of our packet and race T-shirt. Indeed we found them, checked out the expo, and picked up a few free goodies. Clif Bar's Shot Bloks...awesome! I also splurged and bought myself a hydration waist pack or as my boyfriend Shaun likes to tease and call it my 1980's fanny pack. I must say this Nathan Trail Mix Waist Pack was incredible. I only wished I had bought one with more than two slots for water.
That night we had our Team In Training Inspiration dinner where all the chapters got together to get a better idea of what to expect the next day. I don't remember much about what they said with regard to the course. It's not because I had not paid attention, it was because the story we heard about one woman's participation with TNT was so touching. She shared with us what motivated her to join TNT. It turned out her daughter had been diagnosed with Leukemia a few years ago. She told us the struggle that she, her family and her daughter had been through. Holding back the tears, I listened to this woman speak. Her attitude in all of this really made me think about my own life and how our attitude toward things makes all the difference in the world. At the end, she told us the story called The Attitude of the Three Hairs (I encourage you all to look it up). I left there thinking of why I had joined Team In Training and told myself, tomorrow, whenever I feel I just can't push anymore I am going to remember the WHY... for all those who battled through cancer, those who didn't make it, and of course for my cousin Sam! GO TEAM!
It was tough to fall asleep that night. I was nervous but also excited! I tossed and turned and by the time I knew it, it was 2:58 a.m. Just 17 more minutes till it was time to get ready. UGH! Really?!?! Katie's alarm went off shortly after that…time to get up. Hydration pack, check, watch, check, phone and camera, check, bib number, check, timing chip, check, okay let's head to the lobby to meet the other TNT'ers. So many of us who had embarked on this mission were all here in the lobby fighting being tired to go and run the race we had been waiting for all these months. We all walked to the start line only to see so many other people in purple Team In Training shirts. Not knowing many of them, the purple shirt united us all as one! What a feeling! GO TEAM!
I remember having to separate from the group I had come to know and love all these months through training. We hugged good bye and wished each other luck as we were in different corrals. I managed to find other TNT'ers from the LA chapter. I talked to them for a bit and then made my way to find Lauren AKA @Liloruns as we had planned to run together to make our goal of under 2.5. We waited as they dismissed each corral. I was still so tired! I had no idea how I was going to run when I kept yawning so much. Corral C was dismissed, ours was next….and then it was time! Corral D GO! And we were off!
They set a mile pacer in front of our corral. We were instructed that this person would be going for a 2:30 race time. I knew I HAD to get in front of this person if I wanted to make that time. Within the first mile, I caught up and before I knew it, I looked back and could no longer see the mile pacer. I was doing this!!!!
Miles one through six were a breeze. We went through the back lots of Disney’s California Adventure and right before we were about to enter the park I saw a familiar face, TNT Coach Joel! I was so excited!!! I ran and gave him a double high five and kept going! As we entered California Adventure, there were several characters along the way which people stopped to take photos with, but not me. I was on a mission, 2.5 or less!!!!!!
The next few miles came fast and fairly easy. I must give it to the Disneyland staff who constantly cheered us on as we went through the park. To all those who were on the course giving us words of encouragement, Disneyland staff, volunteers, high school cheerleaders and band members, everyone…thank you!
I remember starting to feel a bit tired right around the end of mile 7. I felt my energy starting to dwindle and my legs beginning to buckle but it was as if God had sent an angel around that exact moment to carry me through the remaining 5 plus miles that were left. At this point on the course I saw a woman carrying a sign (regret not having gotten a picture of this) that read, “THANK YOU TNT, LEUKEMIA SURVIVOR” I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. I was too tired to cry but I felt my breathing change like the feeling of when you want to cry but tears aren’t falling just yet. I asked myself if I was having a mini asthma attack or just so touched by this woman’s sign so much so that it caused a reaction out of me. I was literally worried that I needed to stop. I then realized I wasn’t tired; it was pure emotion that was caused by this woman’s sign that made me react this way. All I kept thinking, “I am so glad I did this through Team In Training.” I felt a rush of energy after this.
I regained strength at mile 8 and made my way through Angels Stadium (GO DODGERS)! I got to see myself on the jumbotron which was neat. Miles 8 through 10 were a bit of a blur but once I reached that 10 mile mark, I remember texting my family and Shaun, 3 miles to go! The text back from Shaun said, “Come on baby! You can do it! Kick baby kick…I’m at the finish line!” His text made me run even faster! I couldn’t wait to get to the end to hug him and my family who had sacrificed their sleep to be there for me so early in the morning and meet me at the end.
Mile 10 to 11 was so hard! I felt my back start to tighten up and I really had to dig deep inside myself to make it the next few miles to the finish. I felt every step on the pavement until I reached mile 12…OMG one more to go!!!!!! I’m almost there!!!!!!!!!! Slowly but surely I started to see the sign for the Disneyland Hotel which I knew was close to the finish line. “Come on Julie! You got this!!! You can do it!!!” I could tell everyone around me started to increase their speed indicating how close we were. And there it was, the mile marker for mile 13. It was covered by all the spectators but I knew there was a 13 behind it which meant only one tenth of a mile to go and that’s when I pushed myself! The look on my face would have said it all, “I’m hurting, but I want this so bad!!! FINISH LINE I’M COMING!!!!!!!!!!!” And just like that, I had completed my first half marathon!
First things first, water!!! Next, medal!!! And finally, hugs!!! I found my mom, my aunt, my brother and his friend and finally Shaun. I was so happy to see them!!! They looked at my medal and all I could think was, “I earned that!” I was so modest but deep down, I was so freakin’ proud of myself! I not only did it, but I did it in under 2 and a half hours!
I set my first PR of 2:18:16 which from what I am told from other runners is not bad for my first time. I never want this feeling to go away and with that, I am officially signed up for my next one, the Long Beach International City Bank Marathon (I’m doing the half). Need to do a few more before I am ready for the full.
There are so many people to thank for this….to my wonderful co-workers who purchased pretzels from me. To the partners for allowing me to sell my pretzels at the office and their support. To those who were brave enough to buy pies from me…hope they were yummy! :) To my friends for encouraging me along the way. To everyone who donated items for my yard sale. To my family who believed in me. To my wonderful mother who didn’t lose faith me and sacrificed her own time to help me on my fund raising events. To my dad who relentlessly asked his co-workers for donations. To my friends who gave up an entire Sunday to sit through a TV taping. To those of you who took a chance on the raffles I posted or those of you who donated the items for me to raffle. To my boyfriend Shaun who understood times when I had to devote myself to training and fund raising instead of being there as a girlfriend. To each and every one of you who opened not only your wallets, but your hearts to this mission. And last but not least, the amazing people at Team In Training. Our campaign manager and mentors who suffered through my millions of questions, especially Miss Julie Allen who did not let me throw in the towel when I feared I couldn’t do it. To the most amazing Coach ever, Miss Sunshine who was there for me every step of the way. Coaches Robert and Joel who made it out every Saturday to help us on the miles. To Coach Chuck especially for sharing your story with me and inviting me to come on board as a mentor for next season...hope I am chosen. It would be an honor to be part of your team. And simply to anyone who was part of this whether it was an encouraging FB comment, a few dollars in support of the cause, or anything…THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART! This was one of the most remarkable chapters in my life and I would not have had the glorious opportunity to have experienced it without the support. I am truly blessed. THANK YOU!
My cheerleaders after the race! Thank you to my family and Shaun for the support! <3 you guys!