It's official. The Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon and 5K is in the books and I was a bona fide bib-wearing participant. I certainly didn't come in anywhere near First Place, but I also didn't finish last. I placed 221st out of the 397 runners in the 5K, just over halfway through the pack and well within my expectations.
When we stepped out of the parking garage that morning I was surprised at how emotional I became at the sight of the half-marathon runners (who were already well on their way) and the crowds of people who lined the streets to cheer them on.
I had no idea there would be so much support from strangers, and it made me both proud and nervous: proud at the camaraderie of the event and nervous at the realization that there would be people watching me run too! For a moment I imagined some sort of Race Bully who would lurk on the sidelines and yell discouraging things to those of us who were obviously struggling. Clay assured me that this would not happen. Still, I allowed myself the pleasure of imagining the crowd of cheering onlookers descending upon my imaginary Race Bully and pummeling him for his disrespect.
After kissing Clay and the kids goodbye I took my place among the other runners on Monument Circle. I still have no idea where the actual starting line was, but the masses moved at the sound of the gun and I went right along with them.
During my training I never did manage to stay running for the whole length of any run. I always have to alternating running with walking, and the 5K was no different. I imagined my walking would be an embarrassing handicap in a sea of experienced runners (enter my imaginary Race Bully), but that was not the case at all! I stayed with the same group of women for most of the race, our paces intertwining as we took turns running and walking around each other. I never learned their names, but they were my partners nonetheless.
There was a lean, muscular woman who looked like she could've run that 5K in her sleep, but she had to stop and walk every bit as often as I did. There were two mother-daughter pairs; the younger daughter was about 8 years old and the older daughter was about 18. The young girl took cues from her young mother and they ran and walked in near silence throughout the course, but the 18-year-old was quite an attentive coach, talking and laughing during walks and giving quiet encouragement during runs. There was a lady who -- I'll try to be polite by saying she was fairly Plus Sized -- ran a slow but steady pace the entire time, never once stopped to walk, and was even chatty with most of the other runners around her. We passed each other several times but she finished pretty far ahead of me.
The finish line was a welcome sight, and I ran across it barely noticing the crowd and not really hearing their cheers. The only thing I could hear was "Yay Mommy!" which came from Clay as he encouraged Will to cheer and Elly to wave from their post just inside the finish. Race officials were presenting all the runners with roses and gifts and - of course - the coveted Finisher's Medal! Then my Family Officials presented me with hugs and kisses and a Congratulations card. I was a sweaty mess. My legs and hips ached for days.
It was awesome.
My official time was 45 minutes and 26 seconds. I would love to do it again next year. I checked with my doctor to make sure it was, in fact, OK for me to run with arthritis in my knees and hips (perhaps a little late after the fact...) but she said it was fine and encouraged the exercise as long as I feel OK.
If anyone else would like to run next year please let me know. I promise you won't have to beat up any Race Bullies. ;-)