I ran the half marathon during the Clearwater Running Festival on Sunday, January 19th. It was the second half marathon I have completed.
I traversed the same course during the Iron Girl event in April 2013. Six weeks before that race I injured my right ankle, putting a complete stop to my training. Two days before the race, my Grandfather passed away. The day before the race I woke up with a horrible cold. I woke up the morning of the race angry at myself for being sick and injured, angry at the world for the loss of my Grandfather. I went into the run expecting to turn around at the 5k mark, but my stubborn nature took over somewhere in the first mile and I forced myself to finish the whole 13.1. To say that it was difficult would be an understatement. I struggled through the whole race. At times I had to walk, but I made it to the end. It was the most physically challenging adventure of my life.
I may have been running the same route as before, but my experience during the Clearwater Running Festival could not have been more different. I trained in the weeks leading up to the race with no injuries. I woke up the morning of the race feeling healthy and excited. I went into the race knowing that I was capable of finishing. Make no mistake, running over the Clearwater Beach and Sand Key bridges (twice!) still kicked my behind, but this time I was ready and excited for the challenge. The weather was perfect and the scenery unparalleled. The most beautiful views of Clearwater Beach can be seen from the tops of those bridges. Those views were the perfect reward for the physical effort it took to get to the top. I was able to finish 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 22 minutes, without stopping and without walking. It was one of the happiest adventures of my life.
My half marathon experiences, while drastically different, have both taught me something about life. Sometimes life (or a run) is extremely difficult. Sometimes you struggle from the starting gun all the way to mile 13.1, dragging yourself up the bridges by sheer will power. Sometimes life (or a run) is extremely easy. You feel prepared and excited. You run up those bridges with a smile on your face. Both experiences are an adventure. Both experiences can teach you something about yourself, about what you are capable of doing at your best and at your worst. I learned that I can run 13.1 miles sick, injured and sad. I can also run 13.1 miles healthy and happy. The pride I felt at the finish line was the same both times. The views from the tops of those bridges were equally beautiful.