I started out on this journey to lose a few pounds and then stay in shape, but along the way I discovered that I really have a passion for it. Whether it is a long, pre-dawn solo run or a large race with thousands of participants, running has become a big part of my daily life and changed me for the better.
Just a couple of months into my running journey, I discovered that a few of my other local friends were also interested in getting together as a group to run. We formed the Mount Vernon Running Buddies and it is a huge reason why running has become so much a part of my life as the accountability that comes from being a part of a group really helps you to show up at 6 a.m. instead of sleeping in. These other runners have become some of my closest friends as we spend time working hard together to reach our respective goals. We've hosted numerous themed 5K's and also two charity ones to-date.
One of the great aspects of our group is the fact that we try our very best to make sure that no one ever finishes their runs by themselves if at all possible. On our daily 5K's, we loop around and run in with the last runner. At races, we always wait until the entire group has crossed, and we also find ways to encourage each other even when we can't all be there. Even when one of us has been down with injuries, the rest of the group has worked hard to keep the injured runner encouraged.
The Mount Vernon Running Buddies are also now part of a larger group of Central Ohio runners known as Run DMC (or Daily Mile Columbus). This group is made up of runners who have connected via the running social media website Daily Mile. The group schedules training run meet-ups to keep people from having to run by themselves and then usually has a great presence at most of the Central Ohio races and beyond. It's been fun for me to meet other runners and find other places to run.
On Sunday, these two groups came together with at least 20 total runners along with others there to support the runners at the Earth Day Challenge half and full marathon in Gambier, Ohio. There was a fun time of catching up in person and meeting some people for the first time in real life, and then it was time to head to the starting line for the business at hand. I was one of four people in the combined groups to have signed up for the full marathon, and I set out to attempt what was my second marathon with a lofty goal of a 3:15 to BQ after posting a 3:52:04 in my first marathon attempt at Columbus last fall.
The first 13.1 miles of the race was so much fun as I ran pretty much a perfect race according to the plan that I had going in and I crossed the halfway point in 1:36:10. Since the course was an out-and-back course there were a couple of times in the first half that you crossed paths with all the other runners and it was so much fun to share smiles and encouragement with all of my other running friends that also included a lot of MVNU students. This made those first 13.1 miles just fly by as we all helped each other.
Then, I passed the turn off for the half marathon finish, high-fived my daughters (pictured above), and headed out to the much less traveled second half. Boy was it lonely! The only four people I saw the next three miles were volunteers stationed at cross roads to protect us from traffic. I kept churning out the miles, but all of a sudden my legs started to fail me around mile 17. Two of my Run DMC friends, Brandon and Peter (who was pacing Brandon after running Boston himself on Monday) caught me as I started to slow down and they tried to get me to go with them. I did for about half a mile and then faded again. Mike, another Run DMC friend, caught me just after the turnaround and also tried to get me to hang with him, but I was pretty much toast at that point. (My best guess is that I didn't drink enough water the first half and dehydration hit my legs hard.) A smile and some encouragement from Candice, another Run DMC'er, and Chris, a fellow MVNU alum, helped me keep trotting along for a few more miles as we crossed paths. However, by mile 22, a bad cramp in my left hamstring brought me to a screeching halt and I started to walk.
As I approached another cross road, I saw my Mount Vernon Running Buddies group, Chad, Teri, and George, as they had come out to cheer me to the finish. Seeing all of them REALLY lifted my spirits and I started to run again and thought "OK, I can definitely do this" and continued on. Since they had each run the half and had driven out there, they had to drop off after a short run and drive back to the finish, but just the brief minute or so they were there really helped and I trudged on.
Before I knew it, another familiar face popped up in the distance. This time it was Molly, a new friend I had made through Daily Mile and then had met in person for the first time the week before at a 10-mile race when we ran the first half of it together. She had finished the half marathon with a new PR and as the fastest female, but she took the time to come out along with her brother to help run me in to the finish. We jogged along to around the 25-mile mark and then the Mount Vernon Running Buddies (including Donald in jeans and all) appeared again along with Peter to create quite the contingent to get me over the final mile and to the finish line.
As we got closer to the finish, my daughters also joined in the running group (pictured above) and I saw that a huge portion of the Run DMC group had stuck around for almost two hours after finishing their half marathon race to see me cross the finish line. Talk about a show of support!!! Every single one of them helped will me to the finish line and I crossed it more than 10 minutes faster than my previous best time with a finish time of 3:41:39.
While I still have a lot of work to do to reach that elusive BQ, this is a race that I will never forget because of the kindness, encouragement, and support of my family (Carla, you were a trooper to have the girls there for over four hours!) and a huge contingent of running friends. While our times are recorded individually, I am more convinced now than ever that running IS a team sport. We have the opportunity to encourage those around us and help push them to more than they think is possible. This PR belongs to every single person who helped me cross that finish line. Thank YOU!
P.S. If you want to see exactly how amazing this support has been, check out my Daily Mile page with the race report there. I'm blown away!