By: Dawn Garland
Hello fellow runners and readers! Since I am writing this, that means that I survived the Chick-fil-A Half (more on that video above in a bit). 13.1 miles and I lived to tell about it. So here we go.
Friday afternoon-expo day! Now, we all know how much I love an expo. You get your number and your shirt and the fun, free swag that all the vendors want to hand out. I arrived as the doors were opening to see lots of lovely, shining, happy volunteers.
These guys were READY! I grabbed my number and proceeded to wander about aimlessly.
Chick-fil-A tent where you could win free food? Don't mind if I do...
Connect Run Club representing!! (Side note-if you're looking for a group to run with or need help starting running, these guys are a great resource!!) Plus, I got to meet some of the wonderful people from CRC including Coach Trey, who may be the nicest person on earth. No offense to Mother Teresa...
Because who doesn't need their photo taken in front of a step-and-repeat every now and then?
I headed home to get myself prepared for the next day. My plan was all laid out. My standard pre-race meal of a steak salad, lots of water, and early to bed. Now, the weather had been downright HORRIBLE all week. All the rain on earth had been falling in Athens. Everyone was worried about road conditions and whether or not the event was even going to take place. I have a feeling that the Weather Channel saw a major spike in usage of their app in and around Athens on Friday night...
5:45 comes early on a Saturday morning, but I was ready. Feet hit the floor, clothes changed, running bag grabbed, and out the door I went. I had plenty of time before the race to relax, eat my protein bar, and drink my C4 for energy. It was wet outside but thankfully, it appeared that we'd be spared from running in actual rain. For those of you who do run, you know what a huge difference that can make!
After a lovely rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the starting gun went off at 7:15 and off we all went! The first mile of a race is essentially you desperately trying not to bump into 1000 other people. You're just a wad of humanity headed down a road. I also like this part of the race, though, because I like to take a minute to look around at all the different types of people around me. All shapes. All sizes. All ages, races, sexes, etc. It's great to feel a sense of community at that moment. We're all athletes. We're all runners. And that's a beautiful thing.
The first several miles were great. I felt good. Breathing and legs were working together. The hills weren't too bad, but I knew what was ahead. At one point, we were out running on a pretty main road in town. It was great to see drivers on the other side of the road with their windows down watching us and grinning. Shouting support for people that they didn't even know. (I love Athens, just in case you couldn't tell.)
We hit the first major hill on Baldwin Street and boy was it a doozy. I'd remembered it was coming from the previous year, so I was prepared. The route was altered slightly after that. We got to run through Sanford Stadium which was awesome! However, the hill to get out of Sanford Stadium was, how do I put this, a nightmare. I could actually feel runners around me going "oh noooooo" as we climbed out. But we soldiered on.
After winding around through parts of UGA's campus, I suddenly felt something shift in my body. If you've ever heard a runner talk about "hitting a wall" or "bonking", that was exactly what happened. I got to mile 6.5 and my body just quit on me. My original goal for this race was to beat my time from last year's half. I knew that was no longer going to be an option. "Ok Dawn. New goal. You're not going to stop running. Even if it's at a snail's pace, you will run this entire race." So, once I'd switched gears in my brain and taken that pressure off of myself, I was able to re-focus.
Miles 7-10 went by in a bit of a painful blur. I was just focused on keeping my legs moving. And hydrating as often as I could. I knew I was past the halfway mark and that was a comfort unto itself. By the time I got to mile 11, I knew that I was going to be able to run the rest of the way. I had faith in my body. I just kept repeating "Don't quit. Don't quit." over and over to myself. Mile 12 had us running up and into downtown Athens to get to the finish line. There was one big last hill to get over and I remember feeling like I was shuffling up it. My legs were made of lead and I couldn't even imagine how slow I was going. But it didn't matter. I was so close. I wasn't going to quit now. (Now do you see why the video at the beginning of this blog was appropriate? That's exactly how I felt.)
I came over that hill and made the turn for the finish line. I saw Coach Trey cheering on runners and gave him a thumbs up. There is always something weird that happens in a runner's body when you know you are approaching the finish line. There is always this weird reserve of energy that comes out. You speed up and use everything you have left (you may have heard runners call this "the kick"). And that's what happened.
I did it. I made it. I didn't beat my time from last year. Far from it. But, I never quit and that was the best I could do that day. I wrung every ounce of everything I had. As far as I'm concerned, that's a victory.
After taking a week off to recover, I am back at it. My next race is the Marigold 10K in Winterville. And let me just tell you, it is going to be a treat because it is one of the flattest races I've ever run. HALLELUJAH!
So I have a challenge for you- what are you wanting to train for? What scares you? What event makes you say "I could never do that." Guess what? You can. Just remember two words- "Don't quit." It's not rocket science, kids. Your body was made to move. Shake off the fear and the pain and just do the thing!
Until next time, run on...
Dawn Garland is a native of Tampa, FL. She reads, she writes, she knits and does not believe that any college football conference can live up to the SEC. Dawn works at the University of Georgia as an analyst/consultant and her biggest accomplishment in life so far is the walking, talking sports almanac that is her eight year old son.