Those of you who have been around awhile already know about my virtual running group Outrun38. Click over here to my recap of the 5K they hosted and to learn more about the cause we're fighting for. Also, if you're a runner, walker, or biker, head over to their Facebook page called Outrun the Odds and join us! In a nutshell, Outrun38 was started by a woman named Nicole to support her best friend, Liz, who is battling Cystic Fibrosis. It started as a tiny little Facebook group and is now a huge movement (and an official nonprofit)! They hosted the 5K last summer, and this past weekend the very first Outrun Branford Half Marathon.
As soon as I saw this was happening I registered right away. And though my training was less than consistent, I was excited to attend this event (even if it meant I had to run 13.1....). My excitement tripled when my very best friend since childhood expressed an interest in running it too! She's a much better runner than I, but I knew we could at least start together and find each other at the finish. Well, she had no such intentions and said she was going to run the entire thing with me. I was like... ohh.... you don't want to do that... I'm going to be walking a bit (or maybe a lot) and will definitely be very slow. Her response, "this group is about supporting one another. It was started originally to support a best friend! So I'm running with you!" Awww! That's why she's my best friend. Everyone needs someone like her in their life.
I was able to leave work a little early on Friday and head over for early packet pick up. I figured this would save some time on race day. So the morning of, my BFF Jenn, and my other friend Jill all carpooled over to the race. We left my house at 6:15 and arrived a little before 7. The bathroom lines were LONG and we missed the opening remarks sadly. But we made it to the start with plenty of time to spare! I took few photos, and none on course, so I apologize for the lack of illustrations. If you're able though, definitely visit the Outrun the Odds page on Facebook, there are SO MANY great photos!
|The before shot, Me, Jenn and Jill|
I'll say this: The course was HARD. The weather was not at all what was predicted. It was supposed to be in the low 60's and raining. It instead was in the 70's, mostly sunny, and humid. SO HUMID. We were warned ahead of time that there would only be water stations every three miles, but given the forecast, I wasn't worried about bringing hydration. BAD PLAN! I was struggling by mile 2. STRUGGLING. Also, the hills. I had heard it was hilly. It was not a lie. I didn't find most of them to be terribly steep or high, but they were constant. There were very few flat areas, if any. But the scenery was gorgeous.
We ran first through a neighborhood with what appeared to mostly have older residents. And many were out in their driveways cheering us on! It may seem silly, but having people cheer you on is so very helpful in a tough race. Or any race really. We continued to run through some adorable neighborhoods, and eventually ran off onto what's called The Trolley Trail. It passes through wetlands and is a dirt path with tall sea grass on either side. It's not actually marshy on the trail, thankfully, and the scenery is gorgeous. There were even two wooden bridges to run over. Despite my struggles, I really enjoyed the course's scenery. (Not the hills.) After the trail we found ourselves pretty close to the shore and passing by some swanky homes. Beautiful area!
Jenn and I made a new friend named Russ along the way. We kept passing each other back and forth and finally chatted a bit around mile 9. He's from CT originally, and lives in DC now, but flew home to support the cause. We also met another runner who was as miserable as we were feeling. She was hilarious, and even complained that all the attractive firemen monitoring the course were all married. Comic relief is necessary on a tough day folks! I tried getting some volunteers (and even a police officer) to trade places with me, but no one took me up on the offer. The volunteers at this race were amazing. All so positive and encouraging.
After what seemed like 10 years, we were heading back to the finish and more hills. We passed through the seaside area of town and finally, FINALLY, we saw the finish! There is no better feeling than seeing that finish after your worst race ever. I walked a LOT. I averaged a 12 minute mile. That's pretty terrible for me. But considering my lack of training, the weather conditions, and hydration problems, it could have been worse! Having my best friend by my side the whole way definitely helped. Running a half marathon, even a disappointing one, is a pretty special experience and having your best friend support you through your struggle is even more special.
|The Finish! Me, Jenn, and Jill|
But that's not the most heartwarming and incredible part of the day... Nope. not even close. When Jenn and I were at about mile 12, we saw Nicole heading back down the course. I thought she was just cheering people on, maybe seeing what was happening at the back of the pack. But that's not what she was doing. Not exactly... You see, Liz, (Nicole's best friend battling CF), was running the race too. That's a pretty incredible feat on it's own: A 38 year old woman with Cystic Fibrosis running a half marathon (that was ridiculously hard to begin with). But Liz had been in the hospital until a week and a half ago. She had to have a feeding tube installed and special treatments on her lungs. That's pretty serious business. And she RAN THE ENTIRE HALF MARATHON! She and a pack of her closest friends ran it together, all donning hot pink shirts with the word "Miraclemaker" on the front and "Determination powered by Liz" on the back, with a hot pink wheelchair rolling along with them, just in case. She didn't need that wheelchair. She completed the entire course. Nicole had been heading back to join the pack so she could finish with her best friend. Brian, the third founder of Outrun38 (and also the race director) met them at the finish. It was so emotional, it was all I could do to hold back the tears! (Me with my cold little heart...)
|Nicole in pink on the left, Brian in blue facing away, and that's Liz hugging him|
This was the hardest, most difficult half I've run so far. (Number 6 for me!) But it was probably the most empowering. Having my best friend support me, despite being fully capable of finishing at least 20-30 minutes sooner meant so much. And that moment when Liz crossed the finish... I can't even describe it. Amazing.