Six weeks ago, I set an ambitious goal for the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. I’m running in all 50 states to honor my sister and support millions fighting a rare disease. And for state number 18, I wanted to run the fastest 13.1 miles of my life.
The Missoula Half Marathon had the right ingredients: a flat, fast course and more comfortable summers than my Charlotte hometown. Even better, at 35 years old and almost 20 half marathons into this running thing, I was finally in the best shape of my life.
For a long time, it looked like I’d achieve my goal of a sub-1:40 half marathon, meaning I’d have to average better than a 7:38/mile pace. I nailed my speed workouts, and at the end of 90-minute long runs, I sometimes felt like going for another 90 minutes.
I started out well enough. For the first four miles, I stuck close to my goal pace.
Then, the wheels fell off. I never felt tired, but my legs felt like lead. Worse, they didn’t take well to the cut of the new running shorts I’d packed for the race; as a result, I had such awful chafing on my thighs that in the later miles, every step made me want to scream out in pain.
As I often do, I tried to focus on everything but my own pain and my body’s inability to follow instructions. I watched the Montana sky. I listened to the music of the man wearing a tuxedo and playing a grand piano in his front yard. I ran through every sprinkler, even though the temperature never broke 80 degrees. I thought about my sister, Taylor, and how if she wasn’t sick, she’d be there beside me, giving her best through the last .1 mile.
But my sister can’t run anymore. She can’t even walk. And my legs. Just. Wouldn’t. Go.
I did almost everything right in the weeks and days and hours leading up to the race. But running-wise, it wasn’t my day. In fact, I crossed the finish line short of my sub-1:40 goal by a full 10 minutes, well off the PR I’d set on a tougher course three years ago.
But I accomplished my other goal in Montana. I had a nice interview with Missoula’s ABC/Fox affiliate at the finish line. That followed a 15-minute radio interview and a nice story in the Missoula Current.
I spread the word about Batten disease and maybe even inspired some people to give to Taylor’s Tale. And supporting kids like my sister means a lot more to me than my own performance.
I love you, T. You’re always with me!
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