Yesterday was my time running the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, and I can’t tell you how much difference a year makes. Last year, I ran the race on a sprained ankle on a hot, humid morning. It took me 2:10:27, my worst half marathon time ever. This year, though, we started in 37-degree weather with low humidity, and I was healthy, mostly well-rested, and trained. I was also coming off the high of a PR in Tulsa, a hilly course. I set a goal of 1:51 for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon.
4:45 am: Wakeup Call
Jacobi and I planned to ride up together, so I got up, got dressed in my CW-X compression capris (heretofore referred to as my “PR pants”), a tech t-shirt, and some layers that included disposable gloves, a disposable hat, and a $3 Wal-Mart sweatshirt. I threw a few last minute items in my bag and ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich by my front door as I waited for Jacobi. She showed up at 5:15 on the dot, and we were off to Houston, uneventfully. The most eventful moment came when it was time to park; a sketchy dude pointed us to a spot near a dumpster and charged us $20. It was still cheaper than the $30 spots a block closer to the George R. Brown Convention Center, so we forked over the cash. Then I forgot my water bottle and GU in the car, so we had to go back. Props to Jacobi for not strangling me and leaving me in the dumpster.
At the GRB
We had plenty of time to stretch, so we did. We rolled out on our foam rollers, and I texted my friend Abby from CrossFit, who was also running the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. She headed over, and I hung out with them until I needed to check my gear and book to Corral A. I reached the porta-cans outside Corral A at 6:38 am. That was the fastest use of my life, but I really, really had to go! I finished warming up in Corral A with some squats, lunges, and leg swings, then ditched my hat and sweatshirt. The gloves stayed on.
Aramco Houston Half Marathon: Go Time!
Before I knew it, the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon started. I had lined up in the space between the 8:15 and 8:30 miles, so this time, I got to the start line a lot faster. I didn’t even have a chance to snap a photo of the start line. I started my Garmin and music as I crossed the start line and just started running.
I can’t tell you what a beautiful day it was, or how perfect the weather was. By mile 2, I had shed my gloves. I tipped my face up to the sun and smiled. I felt strong and healthy. I’ve struggled with my faith since Merrilee passed, but yesterday, I felt like there was a God that had blessed us all.
Around Mile 3, some spectator shouted, “You’re almost there!” I shouted back, “You liar! LIAR!” I was having so much fun. Around Mile 8, I saw a smallish girl running in a tiara and tutu. I asked her, “How old are you?” She was eleven. Eleven! I have an eleven-year-old! I said to her, “You’re awesome! Keep running!” And then I kept running. I also saw a man’s legs give out at a water station. Someone was already helping him; he couldn’t get up without collapsing. I yelled for a medic, but I kept going. That was the only casualty I saw.
For the most part, the Aramco Houston Half Marathon felt amazing. I love the energy of Houston, my adopted hometown. There is something really special about this city that comes together during hard times, that cheers so hard for its athletes, that brings tears to my eyes.
While I smiled and sang along to my music for most of the race, I’m not going to lie here, either. Around Mile 11, I started struggling. When I ran straight into downtown, with the sun in my eyes, I battled. But I kept going. I heard the news helicopters overhead watching the men’s marathon finishers; I heard the crowd cheering; I wanted to cross that finish line strong. At 13 miles, I floored it. I just kept going, not looking at my watch. So when I crossed the finish line in 1:50:40, according to my Garmin, I was ecstatic.
My unofficial time was 1:50:37.
I told every single volunteer that I had PR’d. I told the lady giving me water, the lady giving me my medal, the T-shirt people, the photographers, the gear check. My legs felt like jelly, but I felt amazing. I had done it!
Afterward, I met up with Jacobi, and we rolled, stretched, ate our free HEB breakfast, and waited to see how our friend Melissa did (it was her first marathon). Melissa ran a BQ. Abby ran an amazing first half marathon, and Jacobi PR’d, too. So we walked out to the RunFest on Discovery Green to ring the PR bell, of course!
Y’all, all the feels. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family or my CrossFit coach. I felt like Merrilee was running alongside me, even though she wasn’t a runner. A huge thank-you to the Chevron Houston Marathon Committee for such a well-organized race, and an even bigger thank-you to every police officer I saw for keeping us safe.
So much has changed in a year: my health, my friendships, my goals, my life. I’ve had to let go of so much since last year, and some of it has been painful. Some of it has shaken me to my very core. Yet yesterday, when I crossed the finish line, I felt like it would all be okay, that something greater than myself would take care of me.
Like I said, all the feels.
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