This past Sunday I was in Connecticut to support my sister, Amy in the Fairfield Half Marathon. The last time she ran a road race was over 25 years ago. She and I were both very successful high school track and cross country runners, but she didn't keep it up after her school years. A few years ago she started jogging a little, maybe three miles three times a week. This past winter a co-worker put the idea of running the half marathon into Amy's head and she asked me to help her train for it. I was thrilled.
Amy has a good job and is an excellent mother, but hasn't had anything in her adult life that has been just for her. I was hoping that running might help empower her and make her believe in herself. I was happy to start sending her weekly training plans. She followed them faithfully. This wasn't always easy for her. It was hard for Amy and her family to accept that it was OK for her to steal away a little time for herself to get mentally and physically healthy. She had always given everything she had to her family. For some women there is a lot of guilt involved in taking care of yourself. I think Amy is one of those women.
I arrived Saturday night and could feel the stress. Amy was nervous and her family still wasn't behind her. What did she want to run a stupid race for anyway? I half expected her to back down and decide not to run. I kept my mouth shut and waited to see how it would play out. I think the old Amy would have just said, "let's forget it and have a family day instead." But the new Amy laid out her running clothes and wrote out directions to the start and went to bed early. Race morning arrived and Amy and I drove to the start. We went through the ritual of number pick up and port-a-pottie visitation. Then we mosied over to the starting area. This race had thousands of competitors including some international big shots. I helped her seed herself in the starting area and tried to get her to act at least a tiny bit happy to be there.
Originally I had planned to run the entire half marathon with Amy, but I am not able to tolerate running on pavement with my current injury. Instead I ran the first few miles and the last few miles with her. I wasn't sure how she would do with the crowded start conditions, but she stayed calm. I told her, "don't try to weave, it will thin out" and we fell into her pace. She wanted to run 8:30's and we hit the first mile at a chip time of 8:34. Soon I bid her well and jogged back to watch the 5K and the kids 1 mile race. Then I ran back out on the course to join Amy for the last miles. I joined her in the middle of a huge climb. She looked at me and grimaced with her eyes rolling back into her head, but she was just being dramatic. She was doing very well and moving up through the pack, although she claimed to be dying. I tried to pass on my energy to Amy and the other runners around us. "There's a nice downhill waiting for you after this climb!" "Stay Strong!" "Don't walk!" ... I might have been driving people crazy, but hopefully I helped a little. I know I helped at least one guy because when I paused at the water table to let Amy drink, he said, "stay with me Red, I need you to pull me along," to which Amy replied, "she's mine."
I ran with and talked to Amy through the last few miles and she really stayed strong and steady. I told her she was on her own for the final quarter mile kick. I left her with the parting words, "Almost 50-years-old, my ass! Look around you, you're kicking butt!" There were lots of women in their 20's around us at the time and Amy was leaving them in her dust! She finished in 1:53:13, 13th out of 116 in her age group and in the top 25% overall. I am so proud of her!