Remembering that I had an extra hour of sleep the night before did not serve to be the relaxing factor I needed. My nerves were trying to swallow me whole as the day approached. I monitored everything I did: how much water I drank, how much food I ate, when I ate, what I ate, how much I stretched. In a few hours, I would be running my first ever half marathon. Nike+’s Run to the Beat Half Marathon was still scheduled to commence at 9:45 a.m. whether I was ready or not. With a few winks of sleep, warm clothes, a race pack and a pit in my stomach, we set out for London’s O2 Arena in Greenwich to meet our fate. The phrase of the morning seemed to be “well, we are doing this.”
Upon our arrival, we finally were able to perceive how large this event was. Signs the size of billboards, charity tents lining the streets and the main stage were quite a sight as we approached the empty grounds. Our nervous stretching was cut short by the announcement: “Runners, please check your bags and enter the pens.” It was go time. If you haven’t guessed by now, the theme of today was not being ready. We huddled for warmth while making light conversation and static stretching in the cramped pen. If the cold winds were any indication of what was ahead of us, a challenge was surely ahead.
The gun sounded and we were off. Runners jostled and jockeyed for position as we took off down the first straight. Despite my juvenile desire to take part, my running buddies assured me that we should just run our own race. We calculated that we could run 13.1 miles in two hours if we ran 9-minute-miles. Consequently, we held strictly to this pace as the first 3 miles melted away. All we could see infront and behind us was a sea of yellow shirts bobbing up and down. Now for the hills. Hills have never treated anyone nicely, but this was the first test which threw us into the preverbal strainer. Those who had sprinted passed us at the beginning were now starting to suck wind and were falling off. Before we knew it, five miles were done. While reflecting, I cannot recall anything memorable happening until mile 8.
At this time, we had reached the National Park. I had remembered this area from my trip here in September so it was an odd, sweaty homecoming for me. The Greenwich community and fans lined the sides of our path yelling as loud as they could. We could hear the DJ booth ahead and just wanted to get closer. Abandoning all reason, I had to run faster. I felt a new life. As we turned the corner, we ran down the Prime Meridian and bounded down a large hill before we were spit back out on to the street. Here, I was met by my charity fans. Fans from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Research Group were there to cheer on their contributors at this designated spot. I couldn’t slow down. 10 miles killed.
Only a 5K separated me from a huge life accomplishment. I never thought that I would only say that I was happy to run 3.1 miles, but this was exciting. I was almost done and felt no pain. The trouble for me came out of vacancy at this point. I did not want to push too hard to quickly and then die out. I was well aware that I was pushing my pace, but I had no clue what pace I was holding. With an injury plaguing my running buddy, I was on my own for the end. How fast should I go? Should I save it? Why is there no music?! Where are the fans?!
Regardless, it was still time to push to the end. As I came down a familiar stretch of road, I started to envision the finish line and how fulfilled I would feel. Oddly enough, my legs were not on par with my brain. I wanted to sprint, but my legs would not let me. As a result, I decided to hold my pace until I could convince my legs to cooperate. As I got closer, the cheers became louder, the music became deafening and the gloom of this period was lifted. I instinctively started scanning the crowd for friendly faces. Smiles accompanied compliments as we pushed forward. Smile…smile…compliment..smile…and then, a familiar face! Some of the most genuine surprise consumed me as I saw the faces of Jason and Izze against the barracks yelling for me to push to the end. I looked up and that minuscule .1 mile separated me from finishing. Nothing mattered anymore. No pain. No worry. No reservations. With the love and support of those present with me and in spirit, I sprinted to the end with energy I didn’t know I had.
That’s it. It was over. 13.1 miles in the books. I finished in 2449th place with a time of 1:48:26 and a pace of 8:16. On Sunday morning, October 28th, 2012, I set out to challenge myself with two new friends, Zach and Karina. We were a part of a 19,000-person event that raised over 400,000 GBP for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research. The soreness is worth the memories and the experience I’ll never forget.