Crossing the finish line of my first half-marathon was a thrilling event. I don’t know how to put it into words, but there was something very special about coming down the last stretch of road and stepping over the curb ,and onto the grass, where cones funneled us through the final 50 yards that led to the finish line. Many spectators, including runners who had already finished their races and were dressed awaiting the awards ceremony, were cheering us on as we jogged our last few steps. There were whistles, claps, loud cheers and even a couple of cowbells clanging as we sauntered home. Best of all, our friends Clay and Lisa were waiting to congratulate us on having completed our 13.1 mile run. It was a memory I won’t soon forget.
Finishing the goal was the best the feeling of all. The energy we had in finishing was better than the energy we had in miles 1-3. Finishing was more joyful than the pace and rhythm of miles 4-6, and made the work of miles 7-9 almost forgettable. When we crossed the finish line, I wasn’t thinking about the wall we hit in miles 10-12, instead, I was taking in the moment and enjoying — yes, enjoying — the aches and pains, the sights and sounds and the emotional thrill of victory. We had beaten the course because we had finished.
As I’ve thought back to the finish line, there are three big take-a-ways I have from completing my first half-marathon:
- Train for the finish line. Traci and I trained hard during the months that led up to the race. We ran two or three times a week, every week, splitting up long runs with short runs, fast runs with slow runs and doing intervals and other types of sprints that helped us build up strength and endurance. And the whole time we were training, we were working toward 13.1 miles. We didn’t train for a 5k (3.1 miles) and then try to run a half-marathon. We trained with the finish line in mind.
- Public goals are harder to blow off. After we both agreed to run the race, we made our goals public. Believe me, that was one o the best moves we made. Why? Because so many friends and family members were cheering us on through the whole process. I had calls, emails, texts and FB messages of encouragement, in the days leading up to the race. Our friends wanted to see us succeed. That kind of public accountability made it almost impossible to do anything but finish! We had so much support, failing was not an option.
- Enjoy the journey and victories. Even during the race, Traci and I took time to “High-5” each other when we met certain markers. At mile 3.1 for example, we celebrated the first 5k of the race. At mile 9 we commended each other for the furthest run either of us had completed. At mile 10 we fist-bumped for making it to double digits and when we crossed the finish line we joyfully put our hands in the air and gave it a big “woot woot!” The race is long, the journey is hard but there are always moments to celebrate. And when you cross the finish line, take some time to soak it all in!
Race day was a big learning experience for me. From start to finish, I learned a lot about who I am and what I’m capable of doing when I work hard and choose to not give up. Through the ebb and flow of two hours and forty four minutes of running, I caught the bigger picture of life and realize that I’m on another journey, too. And as great as it felt to finish my first half-marathon, I can only imagine how great it will be to finish this journey with the same commitment and dedication.
I wonder if what I experienced at my race on Sunday was the same time of feeling Paul had when he told young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my face…” Paul was at the end of his life, and he knew that his journey on earth was almost over. As he faced that reality he did so with an overwhelming sense of completion because he had beaten the course — he had run the race God had given him.
It’s my hope and prayer to end my race the same way. I want to finish my journey with the satisfaction of knowing I did my very best, that I worked hard, ran thru walls and challenges, that I took advantage of the help offered me, and I encouraged others and allowed them to do the same for me. I hope people will see an excellent runner in me, one who embraced his course and, in faith, followed God where ever He led. And along the way, you’ll see me celebrate the little moments — the milestones and the victories — that God gives us each and every day.
Thank you for following along on this journey, and where ever it may lead, your encouragement and friendship has helped make it a reality. Let’s keep running together and pushing for the finish line one day at a time!
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water.