This half marathon was literally something dreamed up from hell. It rained, it had 30 mph wind gusts, it had 2 bridges that were something of a garish nightmare, it had hills throughout the course (who knew Florida had hills?!), and it was the most enjoyable race I have ever run.
Because I got to run it with my dad.
It started at 7 am in a beautiful park in Clearwater overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and I was rearing to go. Having done two other half’s, I felt like I could do this. No problem.
The gun went off, and off we went. I felt great for the first 2 miles until I realized, I felt like absolute crap. I couldn’t force my body to run, no matter how hard I tried and I felt like I was walking slower than everyone there. (Don’t let them fool you, the ladies in the back of the pack can outwalk you anytime.)
I was having GI issues all morning so when we came to the first port-a-potty, I stopped, along with 6 other ladies. I ended up waiting 9 minutes before I could use the restroom and by that time, the cop car that stalks the last person was waiting on us.
Now, at that point, I realize that I’m literally in the back of the pack and unless I pull 8 minute/miles for the rest of the race (not happening), the back of the pack is where I’ll be. With utter embarrassment, I start jogging.
I pass a few ladies and am gaining hope when I see the cop car again. He was literally 200 yards behind me. The two ladies who were in last, were gaining. It was extremely disheartening.
I saw my family at about mile 3.5 and I lost it. Literally. I just started crying and sobbing and letting myself feel like a failure. They told me that I shouldn’t push myself if I didn’t need to because I have Ireland to think about in a week where I’ll be walking 3+ miles a day. But I’ve never had a DNF and never want to, so I started moving again, police escort and all.
That’s when things started to look up. I was dancing while jogging, and the cop car would play music for me and honk along with the song, I was feeling good. (He had seen my meltdown and probably didn’t want me to start crying again).
I had told my family I would run to the 1st bridge on the course and we would reassess my status then. So when I saw them, it was sort of a relef. We were at mile 6 by then and when my dad came out onto the course, I thought he was going to hug me. Instead, he asked if he could run the rest of the race with me. I was floored.
My dad is 42, he was in cross country, track and went to the Air Force Academy where they train you for 4 years. He had a sub 5min/mile in high school and was a great runner. He stopped running when he went to Iraq and Afghanistan and never picked it back up. He hasn’t run more than a mile in 10 years. Here he was asking to run 7 miles with me, to help me finish because he knew I could.
So off we went, over the ridiculously steep Bellair Bridge and started a run 1/walk 3 system. As we’re crossing the bridge, it gets really windy, like, really really windy.
But we kept moving.
Then, it starts pouring.
But we kept moving.
The wind was relentless.
But so were we.
Then the sun felt like it needed to blister down on us.
But we kept moving.
We pushed each other, complained about how stupid everything was, and laughed at all of the volunteer’s jokes about how “ugly of an Irongirl” my dad was.
It was literally the most moving experience for me, personally. He had put all of his physical pain and discomfort aside to make sure that I finished. We didn’t talk that much, but we didn’t need to. We were doing this together.
What was funny was as we were running, he told me he has been wanting to do a 5k with me. I replied, “You just did, and you’re about to do another.” We laughed, then stopped realizing we still had more than 3 miles to go.
We passed 4 women and would celebrate a little bit with each one, respectfully, of course. As we turned the last corner, I could see my sister and my mom and aunt. They had been there the whole time, waiting for us, cheering louder than anyone else. My sister ran out to us and gave us both kisses, holding my hand as we made our way. My mom then ran out and gave me a hug which meant the world to me.
And when we could hear the announcer at the finish line, all my dad said was, “Finish strong” so I did.
USATF sanctioned events state that no one besides registered runners can cross the finish line so he ran alongside me on the other side of the chute, but we finished. Together.