I have run two half-marathons (my third will be the 2016 Brooklyn Half) and I have had my heart broken a few more times than that. In my most recent heartbreak, I realize how similar running a half-marathon is to the process of picking myself back up when I have fallen too hard for someone.
When starting a race, I’m ok. I’m fine. I don’t get nervous. I may have a few thoughts about how glad I’ll be when it’s over, but I’m more anxious to just get going. Standing in the corrals with thousands of other racers, I feel really alone. But I’m ok with that. I’m just working on being calm and preparing.
I know that the first part will be the hardest. I know if I can just get past the first mile or two, I’ll be ok. From miles 2-4, I’m in the zone. I’m feeling good. I’m forgetting that there’s still a lot of ground to cover. But I’m at a steady pace. I’m even smiling a little. I’m encouraged. I’m attempting to enjoy the race and the scenery around me.
Around mile 5 or 6 is when I start getting a little frustrated. I’m not even halfway through? Where’s the Gatorade? Is that a blister I’m feeling? Oh god, my nipples are starting to chafe. Why didn’t I train more for this?
So I walk. I take my time. I rest. I let my energy build back up. Occasionally I’ll start a small trot. I know I’ll finish, but it feels really far away. These few miles are when I am really alone with my thoughts. And that can be scary.
Mile 10 is rough. I’ve come so far and I know I’m so close. But everything hurts. People are passing me. I’m trying really hard to focus on me and only me, but it’s hard. I wonder if anyone I know will be along the finish to cheer me on. But I know there won’t be. So I get a little down. I have to remind myself that I’m doing this for me and no one else.
Thankfully, that part goes by fairly fast. Pretty soon I’m hitting mile 13 and I know I just have a couple of hundred meters left and I need to pull every ounce of my energy and strength to finish strong. I refuse to walk across a finish line. I will run. Cue the “you can do it” inner pep talks. (Pretty sure I have actually uttered these words aloud to myself during a race).
And then I see cheering faces along the finish stretch. I begin to smile. People are ringing bells and clapping. A friendly stranger will run up next to me—”We GOT this!”—and I’ll push across the finish. Usually choking down some tears.
And when it’s over and every inch of my body hurts and I’m walking like there’s a hot metal rod up my ass, I know I’ll be ok. I know because I’ve been there before. I’ve covered the miles and the ups and the downs and I endured.
My heart has been broken a few times. And it will likely be broken again. The aftermath of heartache sucks. There are high moments and low moments; one day it’s all confidence and independence and awesomeness and the next it’s being bummed that you can’t talk to your best friend anymore. But it’s not a sprint. I’ll have good miles and bad miles. But eventually, I’ll finish. And I’ll be running when I do.