Coming into September, my longest run had been eight miles.  My longest training runs were on the horizon and with a few weeks to taper, my half marathon was looming in the near future.  A few weeks ago, I pushed myself for 9.5 miles (walking the last mile) and walked away with a very sore left quad.

The doubts started to creep in.  If I couldn’t finish 9.5 miles, how was I ever going to make it to 13.1?  Three weeks between that run and the start of my taper where my miles would decrease significantly for three weeks until the big day.  Add in my 10k performance, I was doomed.

My goal Saturday was to make it through 11 miles.  At the very least, I could walk the last two miles come race day.  I considered running on my own across the Narrows Bridge to Point Defiance skipping my team’s practice; it would be much better to be on my own if I failed.

Instead, I headed to Orting early (one of my favorite running trails) to meet up with my coach.  My mind was ready to tackle this demon: started the first two miles running with my pal, CS, who turned back to catch the mission moment and then I was on my own for the next three miles.  Even though it was overcast, foggy and a bit muggy, it was perfect weather for a run.

mile 3.5

My left hamstring was tight (thanks to yoga) but instead of stopping, I decided to breathe through it (also thanks to yoga).  At mile 5, my coach came running towards me, ran the last .5 miles to the water stop and then turned around.  No choice but to make it the 5.5 miles back to my starting point.   Granted, running with someone can change your pace, running the next 1.5 miles with him, my average pace per mile was 13 minutes.  Passed by my cheering teammates and was on my own again.  I don’t have words to describe what its like to run surrounded by trees, bullfrogs, birds.  I am not sure there is ever a moment where I’m more present (even if my mind wanders).

mile 7.5

With only 3 miles to go, my resolve was starting to falter.  I would have made it back but I may have walked a portion of the those miles, if CS didn’t find me.  She ran with me, kept me distracted with stories and bolstered my determination.  Those last few miles, I felt incredibly slow but happy to report, my time was 3 minutes faster for my second 5.5 miles.

And there I was, standing at the corner of bomb-diggity & hell yah.  I completed the full 11 miles, stopping only for gatorade and two pictures.  I ran 11 miles.  It is still a bit unbelievable but I feel much more prepared for the half marathon in 20 days.  Twenty days: the culmination of all this training; the victory lap for the past five months of hard work and determination.

As I was running with my coach, my mind returned to the very first practice at Point Defiance where I could not run three miles without stopping to walk.  How my coach found me WALKING and gave me the science behind my fatigue (something about not getting enough oxygen in my blood).  And five months later, here I am, ready to take on the half marathon.