Explanation: This was a guest post from Meaghan Nana-Sinkam in 2014 that has somehow gone AWOL from my site. I liked this write up quite a bit for many reasons and luckily Meaghan still had a copy of it available, so I am presenting it once more.
I signed up for this race for one reason. The “Finisher’s Premium.” Some races give you a medal, which is nice. But how long can you wear the medal without looking like a jerk? Not more than a day, and a day might be a stretch. But a jacket? I pictured myself wearing that jacket for years to come! The only possible pitfall was that on all race materials it was very clearly spelled out that there was a strictly enforced 2 1/2 hour time limit, and anyone finishing after that time limit would not receive the jacket, nor would they be counted in the official race results. There are two types of racers–those who have to check for race cut-off times and those who do not. If you are the former, then good for you.
I am the latter.
I felt I had a good chance to make it though, since my half marathon time is about 2 1/2 hours. So as long as the wheels didn’t completely fall off the bus I would soon be proudly wearing my Annapolis 10 Miler Finisher’s Jacket! The race was very well organized. The day before was packet pick up as well as my birthday. My father was in the hospital for some complications following a surgery, so I spent that day with him in the hospital, which was actually close to the race. While he napped my mom and I headed over to pick up my race packet. The woman who gave me my packet was actually a neighbor from where I grew up, who my mother recognized. Her name is Muffin, she is in the 70 plus age group, and I could tell from looking at her that I didn’t have much of a chance of beating her the next day.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital, and then had a great dinner at an Italian restaurant. I spent the night at my parents’ house and I woke up at about 4:30, plenty of time for some coffee to get things moving before the race. And things got moving. If anyone has heard my Nike Half race report from The Running Lifestyle Show episode 9, you know that can be an issue for me. I got out to my car in plenty of time when I decided I needed to run back in the house for one more pit stop. No problem, the race was only about 15 minutes from the house. Well it ended up taking about 40 minutes to actually get parked. There was a huge traffic jam getting into the stadium lot. Still I had allowed plenty of time, so after a port-a-potty stop I lined up for the start.
The starting line was very informal, no pacers or indications of where anyone should line up by speed, so I lined up near the front of the back. As the race started I got a glimpse of Muffin, our old neighbor. I was correct about her pace, and I couldn’t keep up with her. I settled into my own pace. The race is hilly, and although it wasn’t too hot (in the 70’s) it was very humid. About halfway into the race I spied a course photographer. I was feeling good, and I thought I would raise my hands triumphantly to get one of those exuberant hands-in-the-air-type of photos I see people post on-line. Well the picture in my head and the picture that was taken were very different. Maybe my first mistake was dressing in head to toe purple. See, I’m a big Prince fan, so purple is my go-to color. Well, I ended up looking less like Prince and more like Ronald McDonald’s friend Grimace. Or Barney.
As I neared the finish line things were getting tough. I had left it all out on the course. In my mind ahead of the race I had a goal to come in under two hours, and it looked like I had a good chance of accomplishing that goal. Except leading up to the finish is a very steep uphill climb. I was determined to come in strong, running that hill. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. My eyes were on the ground, staying in the moment, one step at a time. I couldn’t look up, couldn’t think beyond my next step. Finally I crossed the timing mat. I slowed to a walk, and pulled out my phone to stop RunKeeper.
Then I looked up.
And a ways ahead see the finish line.
What I had crossed was a timing mat that would trigger something for the finish line announcers to call my name. At that moment my finish line picture was snapped. This is my WTF face. I couldn’t believe that I still had a ways to go, and I couldn’t manage to run another step. I sadly walked across the finish line, a little dazed and confused as to what had just happened. I did manage to come in under 2 hours though, so I was pleased I met my goal. I got some water and headed over to the table where they were handing out the jackets. There was a tear-off portion of the bib that had my name and jacket size, and I thought I’d need to hand that in to get the jacket. I did not. They were just handing out the jackets to everyone who came up. I had registered for a large ladies’ jacket. When I asked for the large they told me that all the large and extra large ladies’ jackets were gone. I took a medium and fortunately it did fit. But I’m not a small person, and most of the ladies finishing after me were not small either, and many of them were a lot bigger than me. And it made me sad to think of them struggling to finish within the time limit and then not getting a jacket that fit.
At this point it was about 2 hours and 10 minutes into the race, and I went back to the finish line to cheer on the rest of the racers. Folks, this is where the heart of the race is. Sure, it’s exciting to see the first few speedy guys and gals finish. But watch the end of the race for true inspiration. I stayed until the last person came in, a woman who finished in 2:38. I watched her after she crossed and they did give her a jacket, although she was too big for the medium ladies. She ended up getting a larger men’s size.
These runners at the end weren’t sure they would finish before the cut-off when they signed up. They were taking a risk. It’s only by risking failure that you discover the edges of your limits. Do something that you’re not sure you can do. You may fail spectacularly. You tried and maybe next time you will do better. Or maybe you won’t! But if you fill your life with grand opportunities to fall short, you’ll live on the edge, and possibly have some great pictures to show for it! Or if you’re like me you’ll have some ridiculous pictures that you can laugh about! And one not-so-bad picture.