Friday night, I realized that I hadn’t received my race packet in the mail. Some races require you to pick the packet up yourself, but this was a big enough race that I didn’t think that was the case. So I went to check my saved emails to see exactly what the deal was. And the deal was this: I hadn’t registered for the race!!
The Start: When the gun sounds at 11:50 am, I cross the start line and turn on my iPod and hear Let’s Get it Started by the Black Eyed Peas. The playlist is working for me already. 5 minutes into the run, the elite runners, who had a 50-minute head start, were blazing toward the finish line. The winner, Kenyan Sammy Kitwara, killed it with a time of 58:58, setting a personal best, a course record, the fourth fastest half marathon ever and becoming one of only a handful of runners to go below the 59 minutes mark.
Kilometer 1-3: Knowing that I will be running for much longer than 59 minutes, I get into a comfortable rhythm, and feeling Just Fine*, take in the sights of Rotterdam. We start on the Coolsingel and run through the center of Rotterdam, passing the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam and the moored museum ship that sits beside it.
Kilometer 4-7: Running alongside the Nieuw Maas River, I get a glimpse of the Erasmus and Willems Bridges, just in time for Justin Timberlake and Timbaland to “take ‘em to the bridge”. Along with the spectators, there’s a brass band playing and cheering the runners on. I’m feeling good. Feeling confident. Like I am capable of single-handedly bringing Sexyback.
Kilometer 8-10: Still running. Still feeling good. And still obviously exuding my “sexyback-ness” as some old-ass man (but running a half marathon so he gets some credit) smiles and winks at me. Since I “ain’t no Hollaback girl”*, I give him a smirk, move over a couple of lanes and keep moving.
Kilometer 11-13: Past the half-way mark and onto the second round, I’m singing the blues because the thrill is gone.** The Erasmus Bridge, architectural gem though it may be, didn’t seem as impressive the second time around. Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough is playing when I reach kilometer 13 and the thought enters my mind to stop, because with my hamstrings getting tight and blisters forming on my feet, I have most definitely had enough. But since stopping is not an option, I turn the music up a little louder and continue.
Kilometer 14-17: The gospel music kicks in right about now, which is good because my hamstrings are killing me and I’m praying for some super-hero strength, some bionic ability, some something to make it through. There is definitely No Way I can make it without some help from God, and this Tye Tribbett number, with it’s jaunty, military cadence delivery, helps move me along as well.
It was also around this time that my prayer is answered. As I turned the corner approaching kilometer 16, there was a lone spectator, cheering us on – in a wheelchair. This immediately reminded me of a quote my father, a minister, often used during his sermons; “I cried because I had no shoes, then I met a man who had no feet”. Prayer answered. I didn’t get any bionic or super-hero ability, but I did get the point: stop whining and run.
Mr. Man and the girls were supposed to come and cheer me on, but it’s kilometer 16 and I’m wondering, Where My Girls At?* Just before I get to the 17 kilometer mark, I see them. This gives my spirit a lift and I’m ready to push through the final leg of the race.
Kilometer 18 – 21: The home stretch. “Press. Hang in there ‘til the end”. I see half-marathoners walking and 10k runners zipping by. Those 10k people are so smug. I felt like that at kilometer 7 too. I keep running, though by now I’ve slowed to a fast trudge. A bright spot at kilometer 20: the woman I sat next to and briefly chatted with on the tram is running next to me. We greet each other, give high fives and continue. I turn my ipod off now, allowing myself to be carried to the finish by the applause and cheers from the spectators crowded along the last kilometer.
When I see the 400 meters mark, I speed up slightly. I have absolutely no kick (i.e. ability to sprint towards the end of a race), but I am determined to finish strong. 350 meters. 300 meters. 200 meters. At 100 meters, I start getting ready for my close-up. Arms raised in victory and smiling at the camera, I cross the finish line.
Post-Race: I accomplished my goal of running the entire half marathon. I didn’t raise the full $500 for my charity. But the “phone lines” are open until September 30, a few days after my next race.
Today I’m taking it easy and tomorrow I start preparing for the Paris to Versailles 16km on September 27. Watch this space for details.
*While actually on my playlist, not playing at that exact moment. But on the soundtrack of my bio-pic, song will be inserted here.
**Not on my playlist, but it should be.