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May 10, 2008

Feelin' like a Hippie Chick

This morning I participated in the 2008 Hippie Chick Half-Marathon in Champoeg State Park. I'm thrilled to report that I finished! Woo-hoo!

Today's race was quite a challenge for me. I was wholly unprepared for the daunting distance of 13.1 miles, since my training program went out the window in January when we decided to move. Between house-selling pursuits and a nursing baby, I just didn't make time until recently to exercise at all, let alone participate in any kind of distance training. So it really was silly to expect I'd be able to run the whole race. In spite of these facts, I went into the race with a light-hearted attitude: let's see what this old bod can do...and have a fun morning with a good friend in the process! Natalie Lyman, my faithful friend who hadn't trained much either, was by my side, and we figured if nothing else we'd have a few hours to talk our heads off and burn a million calories. (The non-refundable entry fee definitely influenced our attitudes, as well!)

For the most part, Natalie and I had a great time. I talked too much and got winded more easily than I expected, but the first few miles passed more quickly than I expected. Around seven miles, though (the longest distance I'd run in, oh, 13 months or so) my body started failing me. I pushed through until nine or so before walking at the water stations. Shortly afterward, on a hill, I sort of had a physical and mental breakdown. Even though I knew I wasn't physically prepared for the demands of a half-marathon, I was still frustrated that I didn't have control over my body. I wasn't despairing or anything, but I sure was glad to have Natalie there to help me push through. We walked for small stretches on occasion, but during the latter half of the race it hurt more to walk than to jog, so jog we did!

Around mile 11 (a very heartening number!) I started asking fellow runners if any of them had the time. Natalie and I were stunned to find out that only two hours and seven minutes had passed since the race began! We were thrilled at our pace, but I sure couldn't make my body move any faster. The burst of energy finally came when we rounded the last corner and I could see the finish line. As I predicted, I was a mess of tears and sweat as we crossed the finish line. I was so happy just to finish, but even happier that my time was 2:27, which is just barely over half of my marathon time from five years ago.

Garry, his mom, our three boys, and Natalie's youngest son, Jackson, arrived at the finish line about five minutes after we crossed it. Although I was a little disappointed not to have any race photos, I sure was glad to hug my little supporters and share my excitement with them. Since I was pretty dysfunctional for about 30 minutes after the race, they all fetched me goodies from the booths (Jamba Juice, Cinnabon rolls, and chocolate). Later I picked up my race shirt and finisher's necklace and a few other samples. The Hippie Chick had some fabulous sponsors!

My experience today reaffirmed my belief that running is a metaphor for life. First of all, running, like this earthly existence, is hard. Sometimes it's tough just to put one foot in front of the other, especially when you aren't sure how far you've come and you can't see the finish line. Secondly, life's journey is inevitably better when in the company of excellent friends. And third, no matter how impossible a task may seem, sometimes mental toughness and endurance can yield surprisingly positive results!
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