A heavy mist blankets the air as I walk to my car. I tell myself I must be crazy for doing this. It’s 5:00 am. The world is still sleeping around me as I drive. After parking in Corning its a short walk to a row of buses. As I climb on-board I can feel the nervous excitement in the air. I think to myself, “This is it. Once this bus pulls away I’m committed. There’s no turning back now!” And then we are off.
The bus is taking us to Campbell High School where we will start our 13.1 mile trek back to Market St. in Corning. There are other runners who will go all the way to Bath for the full marathon, 26.2 miles. I wish them good luck as I exit the bus. Who knows, maybe someday I will work up the nerve to continue the trip to Bath but for today my goal is to complete my first half marathon.
As we enter the school there are hundreds of other runners getting ready. Some are sitting on the gym floor relaxing. Others are stretching and warming up. The air is electrified and intense with nervous chatter of “I hope I can do this” and “We have trained for this”. The buzz of encouragement is all around.
The start time is drawing near so they move us outside to the starting line. There are pace runners holding signs showing the time for that section. While training for this race, me and my running partner, Dawn, have been averaging just over three hours. We decided to get in the two and a half hour pace pack hoping this will push us and help us to stay on pace for three hours. To be realistic we set a goal to finish in three and a half hours.
As I wait at the starting line I feel my palms start to sweat. My stomach is rolling with waves of nausea and I question for the hundredth time if I should have gone to the bathroom one more time. No matter how many races I do I always feel sick while waiting at the starting line. There is something about that moment when you are surrounded by hundreds of people yet you feel so alone and anxious. And just when you think oh God I might throw up the gun goes off and we start moving.
With hundreds of people moving around me I feel myself being pulled into motion. We are packed together so the first half mile or so is pretty slow. As people spread out our pace picks up and we settle in.
For me the first mile is always the hardest. I never know if my body is going to loosen up and go or tighten up and fight me the whole way. Thankfully, everything loosened up and we set a nice even pace.
By mile three the sun is up and I can feel the sweat trickling down my neck. It is time to start shedding some layers. The side of the road is a sea of color from the multitude of sweatshirts people are tossing aside. I also see gloves and hats scattered around as we continue on. The wineglass marathon collects these items and donates them to a homeless shelter so these items will not be left to litter the roadside.
At mile six I am feeling really good. So far we are keeping pace with the 2.5 hour pack. To be honest I am ecstatic about this. I really thought I would have walked or slowed down by this point. One thing that really helped keep us moving is the app on our phone where friends keep sending us songs and sayings of encouragement. It is really cool to hear the Rocky theme song just start playing or someone yelling “you got this” when you are running out of energy. I am so thankful to my friends who sent hundreds of messages to keep us inspired and moving.
The course from Campbell to Corning is fairly flat. The first half takes you past several farms and lots of cornfields. There are water stations set up along the way. I have learned from running multiple 5K’s don’t drink the water. Swish it around your mouth and spit it out. When I drink the water I feel it sloshing around in my stomach for the rest of the race. It is a horrible feeling.
As we move closer to Corning things are going good and then came mile nine. This is where I hit a wall! I knew from training that mile nine was always my enemy. We are still in the two and a half hour pace pack at this point. Now we decide to slow down some and even walk a little bit. My body is tightening up and starting to ache. The doubts come barreling in like a locomotive. And then like an angel in the dark I see it. Just ahead there is a lady handing out popsicles. I will never know her name but I can never thank her enough! I slowly ate my popcicle as I walked mile nine. This little bit of a sugar lift gave me the boost I needed to keep moving.
As we hit mile ten we told ourselves this is just another 5K. We can do this! We picked up the pace again. At this point we are just ahead of the three hour pace pack. The course is now moving through Painted Post and goes into a park. The park is filled with people cheering us on. It is just the motivation I needed at this point. There were multiple signs with sayings like “You can do it!”, “Just keep moving!” and my personal favorite “Smile! You paid to do this!”. Mile ten was behind us in no time.
Now we are in Corning closing in on the finish. As I turn the corner to enter Market Street, I can see the finish line up ahead. The street is lined with people cheering us on. My heart speeds up as I realize I am actually going to do this! And then I hear “Go Mamaw!” I look over and see my family shouting and waving. I am not one to cry but seeing them made the tears start to run down my face.
And then I cross the finish line! I can’t begin to describe the feeling of excitement, astonishment and relief that flowed over me at that moment. It is one of those moments you need to experience to truly understand. I have a whole new respect for people who train and push their bodies to their maximum limit yet still find an inner strength to go just one step more.
That was two years ago when I completed my first and only, so far, half marathon. Now thousands of runners are getting ready to run that same course again this weekend. If you are running the Wineglass this weekend I wish you all the best. If you are not running then please consider going out and encouraging the runners. Believe me having people cheer you on will lift you up and keep you moving!
Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly