13.1: Reflections on the PF Changs Arizona Marathon and 1/2

21 Jan
April King, finishing her first marathon!

When I first started running, I’d always had the idea in my head that participating in a half or full marathon was something I would love to accomplish.  It was one of those, in my lifetime, type things.  I never thought I’d be physically fit enough to actually do it.  Many days have passed since that time and I have completed several races, and every time I run, I’m struck by how racing transforms me.

Last week, having ran the Arizona PF Changs half marathon (www.http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/arizona) for the second time, I was transfixed by the energy of the crowd.  PF Changs races remind me of Disneyland for fitness and health minded folks.  You might assume because this is a running event, that upon arrival you would be faced with highly competitive and fit individuals.  There is nothing further from the truth.  There are thousands of people are of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.  Some come to race as a personal goal, others to support a cause.  Some come to support those whom they love in racing, and others hope to soak in the positive energy.

I’m always nervous at the start of the race, but this time I made a commitment to myself that I would take it all in, that I would be observant and really recognize what the experience was all about.  The national anthem played, the buzzer sounded and we were off.

Mile #1:   As you run through the crowds of people watching there is one common theme, pride.  The first mile the streets are lined with people cheering on others, and not just those whom they know.  There’s an amazing energy, and as I get warmed up, I take it all in and  use it to motivate me.

Mile #2: What jumps out at me are the children smiling along the path with their hands out offering high fives to runners.  Simply having them there reminds me of the value we offer our kids by involving them in activities such as this, even if just to watch.  I make a mental note that fostering health, positive body image and good habits often starts from a young age, and activities such as this are integral in shaping that perspective.

Mile #3: There is a runner in front of me, plugging through slowly but surely.  The back of her shirt says, “I’m running for Sally”.  I have no idea who Sally is, or what she’s done, but I suspect if others are running on her behalf, she’s likely someone worth knowing.  In my mind I decide maybe I should run for her too.

Mile #4: A person in a wheel cheer is moving alongside of me.  She clearly isn’t able to run.  I take for granted a lot of things in my life, one being that I have a choice as to whether to run.  I pick up the pace, deciding that I’m lucky to have the ability to run, and as a result, I’m going to give 100%.

Mile #5: I’m weaving in and out of the crowd and see a little girl with a sign that’s says “Cancer wont stop my mommy, she’s going to rock this race”.  I start thinking, what if that were me.  What if I was facing a serious health challenge?  I’m reminded that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% the attitude by which we perceive it.

Mile #6:  There are awesome bands throughout the entire race route.  Not only that, there are dance squads and cheerleading teams.  This helps keep me motivated.  I thrive off this sort of energy.  It’s a dynamic environment in which to be a part.

Mile #7: My running “high” is kicking in right about now.  That’s the point at which you feel like you can run forever.  I’m completely in the zone and focused.  I can feel each time my foot hits the ground.  I’m virtually silent like I’m walking on air.  This is a good sign.  Runners shouldn’t be able to hear their feet hitting the ground.  My core is tight and my form is good.  I’m on track to hit a personal record at this point and so I use all my mental energy to stay focused.

Mile #8: When in doubt, play The Gin Blossoms!  I’m always amazed at distance runners who can run in silence.  I’ve heard there are many benefits to this.  Although I can run without music, I choose not too.  Nothing pumps me up more than my running playlist!

Mile #9: Man down.  I stop in my tracks to see if he’s okay.  People come running from the sidelines.  He looks at me and tells me he’s all right and to keep running.  I think he had noticed I was pushing hard, and with the last leg coming up soon I have to keep pace to beat the time I set for myself.  Reassured that he was being taken care of, I sprint off.  In my mind, I’m now running for Sally and him.

Mile #10: The person’s shirt in front of me reminds me not to give up.  That the body always wants to quit at the end of the race and it’s the mind’s responsibility to get you to the finish line.  This is so true.  It’s all mental from here on out.

Mile #11: It gets quiet for a while.  I’ve broke away from the crowd and I’m completely in a zone.  I always start reflecting about this time, thinking about the journeys I’ve had running.  I’ve seen so many sights.  I’ve run in the rain, in 110 degrees, in other countries, and on many different trails. I’ve had days where I’ve barely made it through runs and had to talk myself through.  I’ve also had days where I didn’t ever want to stop running.  It all comes back to me every time I get close to the end of a race.

Mile #12: This is it.  I’m in over-drive now running as hard as I can.  My last 3 mile split is significantly faster than all the others.  I’m almost sprinting to the finish, and I look at my watch 4-5 times during this mile.  It’s the longest road, but it takes me to the end.

Mile #13: I cross the finish line.  I always smile and the end of the race.  No matter how bad I feel.  I feel accomplished.  I feel

Lisa, Taylor and I attacked by little ones with silly string after the race!

like I did something worth wild.  I’ve barely caught my breath and I am thinking about when I can run my next race.

At least once in your life, try it.  Run a race, attend a race, support someone who is participant.  You’ll be transformed by how even watching the race you are inspired to work hard at something.  You’ll be reminded of the many blessings you have in life.  Mostly, you’ll be inspired, by those around you working hard for a common goal and you will leave refreshed, with a renewed sense of spirit and pride.

One Response to “13.1: Reflections on the PF Changs Arizona Marathon and 1/2”

  1. Gretchen January 22, 2012 at 5:29 am #

    Love this one!! Just so good–made we want to keep reading–so next year you’ll have to run the full marathon so I can read about the next 13 miles…..

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