My best friend Jill is incredible. Not only does she have numerous qualities that I admire about her but she's a hard-core runner. She won't admit it but I really think she is. Jill has run four marathons--and I think that is outstanding.
I have wanted to be like Jill. So when I suggested one night that we should run a half-marathon together she got excited. And then I got more excited. And then we started talking wildly about training for a half-marathon in the summer. And while Grant sweetly encouraged us, Josh just looked at me incredulously and laughed. Why do spouses need to know your bad habits of procrastination and minimal self-motivation? And his laughter strengthened my fury and fire of desire....for a month. I don't remember exactly during which winter month Jill and I had decided to run the race but I remember thinking I had plenty of time to train and that it was too cold to start right then.
Once it started warming up outside, Jill and I ran more frequently together. But then it started getting hot... Well, you get the picture. Our training may not have been consistent but it was enjoyable for the most part. I enjoyed listening to Jill talk and talk and talk while I puffed along beside her. And I think she enjoyed our extra long cool-down walks as I responded to everything she talked about while we were running. Running through Provo was beautiful. We went through cemeteries, by old historic houses, up through new neighborhoods and parks, and once up 1/20th of the trail of Y mountain (that one didn't work out so well). Jill helped to make training fun.
And I certainly wished that we had done more of it when the phone alarm went off at 3:30am on Saturday, the 12th of June. I'd had this date on my calendar circled a thousand times. But when the alarm went off I realized, "Why was I ever looking forward to this day?" The feeling of dread was worse than walking to the testing center, worse than getting pricked by a needle, worse than...eating beans. I knew that agony would come but I didn't know how and I didn't know when.
It was a cold, wet, and anxious morning for Jill and I. She came over not long after I woke up and we drove through the misty rain together to Provo Towne Center Mall. We took a quick picture together (in case we would never have another again) and loaded onto the buses, armed with bananas and bagels. Someone up above was watching out for us as we realized at nearly the last minute that we were standing in line for the bus headed to the full-marathon starting line. We leaped out of line and stumbled through the crowd to find the correct bus. As my mama had told me while she drove me to the MTC and as we watched buses of fresh, excited missionaries leave the parking lot, "This reminds me of groups of people tricked by the Nazis into going to concentration camps." I felt uneasy on the bus as we slowly drove up University Avenue to Provo Canyon. I had alternating surging needs to vomit and go to the bathroom. Jill, who's slightly nervous face brought me a little comfort, danced her feet on the bus floor with anxiety.
The bus made a u-turn just south of the tunnel in the canyon which was just south of the turn off to Sundance Resort. Lined along the walls of the canyon were multitudes of portable potties. And nearly twice the length of the Great Wall of Potties was the urgently dancing line to get into them. Jill and I managed to find two empty stalls and then headed over to the moving truck where we tossed in our bags carrying our personal belongings (again, reminding me of something at a concentration camp). We tried to squeeze as close as we could to the fire pits while we punched holes in the garbage bags we'd kept with us. They were noisy bags but protected us from the chilly wind and mist coming through the canyon.
Finally it was time to line up....and wait. The anticipation was driving me mad. I kept thinking, "I'm freezing! What am I doing out here? It's so stinkin' cold and ridiculously early! What am I doing out here?!!" The start time of the race kept getting pushed back which made us all a little anxious. Eventually it was time for the countdown and the crowd of us were pumped and ready. "Three..two...one...BANG!" And then we stood there. What would it take to be able to get a whole crowd to move at once? Finally we were able to start a little shuffle and then a trot as we crossed the Starting line and began the race.
It was beautiful. The sun was barely beginning to lighten the sky so the mountains were still dark and cozy. We swished, swished, swished our way further up the crowd. People gave us dirty looks for having such noisy garbage bag ponchos but they were retaining heat and keeping most of the drizzle off. Jill and I ended up taking them off around the 2 mile marker. After that the run was even more beautiful and quiet! For me, it was the most incredible run I'd ever experienced. It was peaceful and made me feel connected to everything yet isolated at the same time. It was special.
By mile 4, it wasn't so special. I was really starting to question why people did this for fun. I was getting a little tired and just sick at the idea that I was less than 1/3 the way through the race. But Jill pushed us on. We straightened our posture and made extra determined looks as we passed the photo site. We pumped our fists as people cheered for us along the grassy area in front of Riverwoods. The worst part of all, though, was passing people. Now, we did a fair share of walking (thanks to Jill's patience with me) but when we'd start up again she would make me push along further. In her terribly sweet voice she'd say, "Now, let's try and catch up to that group up there....See if we can pass this girl in the green...Let's catch up to that guy in black." It was so frustrating. I wanted to turn to her and say, "No Jill. I'm not running any harder, not opening my stride any further--I am happy where I am. Actually, I'm just planning on finishing the race on my feet and not a stretcher." But I'd follow her (sometimes a bit behind) and we would pass people. We could do it! I can think of only a few people who managed to pass us.
One of the mile markers had a table of bananas, oranges, Powerade, and water for us. Jill suggested that I eat an orange but they were cut in wedges and I prefered to eat my oranges sliced and I didn't want my saliva to get all thick inside so I couldn't breathe and wait, why did I grab one, I'd put it in my mouth and OH MY HEAVENS THIS IS DELICIOUS! I devoured that poor orange slice like it was a turkey leg on Thanksgiving, a plate of spaghetti after fasting, a Burger Supreme gyro after logging in 39 miles of biking/running (images of Gollum eating fish on Lord of the Rings should come to mind). That orange slice was the sweetest bit of heaven I had ever tasted and its goodness renewed my energy.
Not long after we were crossing University Parkway and then the Flower Basket boutique, and then Zions Bank on the corner of 200 North. I was very tempted to simply turn left and run straight back to the house. My legs were on automatic but they felt weird. They were tight but felt close to Jell-O. But I realized that we were almost there. I had run over nine miles already. I was doing this! And then I began to get choked up. I was proud of myself for having made it so far. I was happy to be able to share this with Jill. And I was thankful for our healthy bodies. I became so emotional that I couldn't breathe well with my throat constricting and it was really slowing me down. So I did my best to control my emotions but there were several times afterward that I got caught up in the moment, in the emotion as I accomplished my overwhelming goal.
The worst part of the race came around mile 10. I was dreading the gigantic bridge over the railroad tracks. We were so close to the end but it really did feel so far away. I felt awesome running in front of all the people lined along the streets but I was about done with the whole race. Jill continued to push me and we braved ourselves for the bridge.
To my extreme delight we found Craig waiting by the lamp post at the base of that dreaded bridge. He whipped out his camera as we ran by. It made me so happy and filled me with renewed determination to persevere (that and somebody was now watching me so I had to run well). Jill continued to push me and we continued to pass people. The entrance to the mall was a lot further than I had anticipated and I was starting to get frustrated. It was even more frustrating to have to run all the way around the front parking lot so we could pass in front of the main entrance to the mall. But as soon as we turned the last corner and I could see the Finish line ahead I took off at a sprint. I wanted for it to be done and, most of all, I wanted to beat Jill. It would have just been the cherry on top to have gone all that way and smoked her at the last leg. But to my shock and worriment, Jill kept up. It took her a split second before she realized what I was doing and she immediately turned on her burners. I tried my hardest but in the end it literally was a photo finish. Both of our legs were in stride crossing over the line. (The time posted on the internet showed that Jill beat me by 1/100th of a second--her foot with the sensor crossed before mine.)
The whole experience was made worthwhile after I was able to get my chocolate Creamy popsicle. We meandered around, picking up our medals, snatching up plates of pizza slices or Red Robin fries. Grant and Craig found us and we chatted with them through clattering teeth. Jill and I were freezing! After pictures and lots of laughs everyone left and I stayed to get a quick little rub down at the massage tables. Then I went home and had a nice, long hot shower. I had completed a half-marathon and it was an incredible feeling and I was able to share the whole thing with my great friend Jill!