And the difference between the Summerlin Half-Marathon and the Zappos Half-Marathon in December? Two completely different races, with different outcomes, and different sentiments. It was like night and day.
Saturday went smashingly well. So well, I'm still grinning ear to ear. Considering my level of terror on Friday night as I watched the wind whip through the palm trees, I really thought the race was going to bring yet one more unmitigated disaster. I gave serious consideration to throwing myself down a flight of stairs (gently) and claiming an injury to get out of running. Brian was so concerned with my attitude that he dialed up every single cheesy sports movie clip with an inspirational speech to fire me up. I grimly watched "Miracle" and "Every Given Sunday" (as Brian encouraged me to "fight and die for that last inch") as I twisted my hands feverishly. Scotty, ever oblivious to the potential of losing his mother the next day, happily noshed on breadsticks and played with his monster trucks. So young, so naive. So lucky.
But all of my fears proved to be unfounded. Yes, there was a light rain as the race started early Saturday morning, but there was no wind. The crushing crowd of 44,000 from the December race was replaced with a ridiculously polite crowd of only 600. Tree-lined streets of Summerlin displaced the glaring neon from the Strip lights, and a soft blanket of grey covered the sky. It was cozy, familiar, and clean. Honestly, it felt like home-field advantage.
One of the most pervasive feelings from the December half-marathon was the profound sense of loneliness running a crowd so big. To top it off, I was literally surrounding by the weird (the blue man), the subverse (the barefoot guy), the sublime (the naked dude.) And while I occasionally will bemoan the snootiness and banality of Summerlin from time to time, I have to admit, it was refreshing to not be running surrounded by people draped in tutus and Christmas lights. Everyone looked normal, acted like runners, and even better - I knew some of them! I drove with my friend Andrea. We immediately ran into Jodi from Junior League, then Tonya and Reed from Boot Camp. As we all entered our corrals, I bumped into my friend Sandy's next door neighbor, Patty. It was like a meet-and-greet at 6:55am in the parking lot of the JW Marriott. And I was so thankful.
My only goal for this race was to have a better experience than December. I would say by 7:15, I had accomplished that. The lovely female voice on "Map My Run" came through as I hit mile 1 with a nice report: "You have completed one mile. Time: 9:22. Pace: 9:22" and I about jumped for joy. 9:22? Sweet! I slowed down, since I didn't want to burn out, but my legs felt sensational.
By mile 3, I discovered another friendly face: Greg from Boot Camp. It was his first-ever half-marathon and while we didn't talk to each other, we grinned brightly and waved. He and I ran by each other for several miles until mile 7 when the course went quickly downhill. And by downhill, I mean the best kind of downhill - the sloping kind. Mile 8 was amazing, and that Florence and the Machine song "Shake it Out" came on just as I looked at the low-hanging clouds over Red Rock. It was one of those "I am so happy to be alive and I feel so blessed" kind of moments - which, of course, made me start crying. But, as I have learned, there is no crying in running and I quickly choked back any emotion to focus on the task ahead.
Andrea found me at mile 9 and we ran together for two miles. She encouraged me to pass her, so I did, and at mile 11, I almost tripped over both feet when on the side of the road I noticed Krista and Jill, both fellow Boot Campers and my running partner from St. Patrick's Day, standing there with a giant sign, screaming for me. My name was even on their sign! It was honestly one of the nicest gestures of my life. I couldn't believe they had come to cheer us on.
From there, I don't remember the last 2.1 miles, I just remember crossing the finish line and running into the arms of both Boot Camp trainers (and seriously amazing athletes in their own right), Kerry and Reinier. I've never felt more supported. And - it gets better - out of nowhere, Brian and Scotty magically appeared. I actually got to have one of those "only-in-my-dreams" moment when I stood at the finish line with my medal on, kissing my child, hugging my husband, and grinning from ear to ear like an idiot.
I loved every minute of it.
My official time, posted today, was 2:12:38. It's not a great time if you are a serious runner, but for me, I am deliriously happy with it. It is a 21-minute improvement on my December time, and the door remains open for continued improvement.
With that, I feel like I shook that nasty monkey from the December marathon off my back for good. There was a lot of self-doubt going into this run, and I am so, so, so happy I was able to push past it.
At breakfast after the race, I regaled Brian with details from the race. In between bites and gulps, I told him with a wink, "You know...I still had energy left when I finished. I could have kept running. I could have gone -" long, dramatic pause "- farther."
Brian promptly buried his face in his hands.
Will I try for a full marathon? Not sure. But I'll keep you posted.
And yes, I plan to keep bringing my own water.