I remember covering the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for the station I work for back in May 2013 and thinking, I wish I could do this. I felt hindered with my sports-induced asthma. I’ve been active since I was a kid: dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, acro, volleyball, softball…but I had to always watch my level of intensity. Not easy for an Aries woman!
After reading up on how to run while dealing with asthma, I learned that it is possible and decided to finally attempt my first 5k later that year at the Rock n’ Roll Marathon (read more from my blog here: https://life-with-leah.com/2013/10/07/a-big-accomplishment/). I completed my first 5k, beating my goal time by 2 minutes and proving to myself that my asthma didn’t matter- I CAN DO THIS!!
Since then I have ran in countless 5k’s. I figured out how to train to get my lung capacity stronger. In late 2015 I decided I was finally ready to go the next level and hit my next goal: a Half Marathon. There would be no better first for me than the one that originally inspired me: the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon. I registered for the Half, and luckily some fantastic friends of mine wanted to join too! They have been a great support, and I don’t know how I would have done any of the races I’ve done thus far-especially the Half-without them.
I had a good six months to train, but due to a million excuses I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be come race day. I wasn’t in bad shape by any means, but just not where I had hoped. I was still averaging 12-14 minute miles when I was hoping to magically be 10-11. But again, I am still working on my lung capacity. I do have to give myself props for how far I had come though. When I began my training I was averaging a minute of running before I had to power walk. I have to interval run, it’s the one thing I will just have to deal with because of my asthma. But by race day I was averaging 3 minutes of running before having to slow it down.
I’ve reported from the Marathon the past 3 years and the weather has been gorgeous. Maybe a light rain, but clears fast and is a perfect spring temp. That’s what I was hoping for. I luckily thought to grab gloves before I headed out the door because it was in the 30’s that morning. There was rain, but seemed to dissipate by the time the race started. I thought for sure we’d be in the clear.
I’ll never forget the start of my first Half. My eyes welled up as I was going across the start line, listening to “Cleveland Rocks” (always the start song for Rite Aid). I’ve been preparing for this and I had something to prove to myself. I felt the excitement of the other runners, and the crowd of family, friends, strangers, volunteers…it’s a pretty electric atmosphere.
As I’m jogging along I get lost in my iTunes playlist and the beautiful sites of my Cleveland. Spectators hold motivating and hilarious signs that keep me in the moment. I suddenly realize I’m running behind the pace leader of my goal time…. I CAN DO THIS!!!! I’m so happy!!
Then I have to pee. And it’s like football tailgate lines at the first porta potty stop. I tell myself keep going, I can catch up to the pace guy! I keep going till around mile 3 and my bladder is hating me (damn race day nerves!). As I’m in line, worrying about my goal time, I can see thousands of other runners who were right behind me. I’m looking back without looking back. I reminded myself a quick stop was fine on the way to my goal. That’s how life is, right?
I’m back on the trail, crossing over the historic Lorain-Carnegie Bridge. It was one of the spots in my training I’d picture running down, only I hadn’t realized how long and steep of a hill the bridge was. Good time to power walk and drink it all in. Little did I know this was where the decent weather would stop. I get past the bridge and turn on to the side street and it suddenly starts hailing! I’m being pelted in the face with hail, the air is frigid and it’s miserable. I’m no longer worrying about my goal time, I’m more concerned about if I’m going to lose a contact and be unable to see where I’m going from this weather. I’m getting soaked. I end up in puddles that were unavoidable so my feet are wet and gross. It was so cold that my gloves no longer helped, and I couldn’t feel my fingers.
One of the things that got me through was my super-supportive boyfriend Patrick and our best friend Janine. They showed up at various spots along the route to cheer me on and keep me going. Thank God they did, cause at mile 9 I was struggling with my numb, wet hands to open the hand warmer a friend luckily gave me prior to the race. I see 2 people up ahead and think “ooh, maybe they’ll be kind enough to help me open this fast.” As I got close I saw the 2 people were them, and they came to my rescue! (The hand warmers only slightly helped by the way) Their presence boosted my spirit, and I felt like “I GOT THIS!!” once again. Then I got to mile 11 and it was off and on rain again this time with some thunder. My legs are at the I hate you! point, but I’m so close.
The run down Detroit Avenue and the Shoreway (miles 11-13) were a true test; running against the strong, cold wind. I felt like I was going to get knocked down by the strength of it. Prior to the race I thought for sure those last 2 miles would be a breeze, but instead it was one of the biggest challenges I had faced during the whole race. (That aside, it was cool to actually walk/run on the Shoreway)
The sun, as I’m finally nearing the finish, was starting to peak out. Pretty symbolic for me. As I get closer to the finish line I thought I would cry, but at this point I’m so tired and my fingers are so numb that I’m just stoked to finish. I see Patrick and Janine with my parents cheering me on as I get to the finish line. It was the final boost I needed.
I definitely did not make my goal time, but it no longer mattered. I DID IT. I completed my first Half Marathon. Not one asthma attack. No stopping in pain. I proved to myself that I CAN DO IT.
You can watch me cross the Finish Line here: https://youtu.be/qZ-Tmv2b0rg
I could barely walk after and it took awhile to feel my fingers again (thank God for my family and friends helping me afterwards). For the rest of the day (and the following…glad I had already taken the day off!) I looked like an elderly zombie in my attempts to move around. The recovery process after the race was not easy, but eventually stretching continuously helped out.
Even though after I crossed the finish line I told everyone “I’m never doing this again!”, that was a lie. I’m hooked. My next Half Marathon is scheduled for later this year, and I’ve already registered for Rite Aid Cleveland next year. This time their Challenge Series 8k/Half. It won’t be easy, but I have my running mates, the support of my family and friends, and the wisdom of knowing…. I CAN DO IT!!