By: Angel Carlton Anderson
There was a slight December chill in the early morning air, holiday lights that glimmered on the palm tree lined streets lit the way as we jogged from the hotel to the race site at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, Florida. The race started out as any other organized run with hundreds of runners, lining up, all anxious to push their limit, sharing a quiet excitement and anticipation for a great experience.
For me, the goal for my first half marathon was simply to finish. I had been well-coached, conditioned, and mentally prepared for this. I have trained for months, 16 weeks, to accomplish running 13.1 miles in a single stint although to this point, my farthest run was 8 miles. Brad Anderson (my coach and now husband) had a solid plan, a strategy for me to run a mile and walk a minute…totally doable!
It’s 7:05 am, the skies mostly dark, the crescent moon still shining with a hint of the rising sun on the horizon. The temperature was a crisp and cool 56 degrees…perfect running weather! We stood proudly for the national anthem and suddenly we we’re off! I kissed Brad good luck at the starting line, and he took off like a shot, while I took it slow, wanting to preserve my energy for the end, not knowing what I would feel like at the finish line.
Immediately, it was a surreal experience. People were passing me by, and I was totally okay with that. I intentionally wished them well (energetically), enjoyed the competition and feeling the unity between a clan of runners who came from everywhere to participate together. As I found a comfortable cadence and a pace I could manage for the long stretch, my mind began to wander (one of the things I love most about running! I find it to be excellent visualization time!). I usually begin my runs with thoughts of gratitude…listing all the things in life I am grateful for. I find that this practice not only lifts my spirit but also lightens the bodily impact as I make a connection to my higher self. I often wonder if this is what people describe as a “runner’s high” because it truly is an enlightened experience.
I couldn’t tell you what mile I was in at this point, maybe the 5th mile, but it was almost as if I had an out of body experience. Although my feet were hitting the ground, I literally saw myself running from about 50 feet above me in the air. It was almost as if my little soul stepped out to give me the most fascinating perspective of my own human existence in that moment. Still in that place of extreme gratitude, I felt an immediate appreciation for my human body, realizing the infinite possibilities it can achieve, and literally observing myself exercising some of that unlimited potential. It was as if I was flying and barely running. This meditative state of mind, this feeling of serenity continued as my feet kept in rhythm with my breathing. The plush landscape along the path kept me entertained as I intentionally connected with the nature that surrounded me.
It was around mile 7 when I somehow paired up with a woman going at the same pace who struck up a conversation with me. We had great dialogue that lasted about 3 miles and occupied our minds as we ran side-by-side for a couple miles. I decided to take some electrolytes at mile 10 and when I slowed down to drink my water, I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. Thinking it would work itself out, I continued my run only to find it got more painful with impact. I cannot imagine what I did for this to happen! I was going strong. I would walk it out until the pain subsided and then start to accelerate my pace but was met with disappointment every time when I realized I may be causing more damage to my knee by running on it. I went from the utopia feeling of runner’s high to being utterly upset with tears of distress welling in my eyes.
Frustrated to the core, I power-walked the last 3 miles trying not to think about the disappointment, knowing I had what it took to complete this race with a time I could be proud of. I did my best to shake it off and just “finish the race” as I intended. I preserved all my energy and with a painful knee or not, I was determined to run across the finish line. I came around the corner and saw the big arch. I hobbled my way over the line as they called my name, I smiled with a tremendous sense of completion. I was being cheered on and greeted by Brad (who by the way finished 1st in his age group!), my parents and lots of kisses from our sweet little puppy, Anni.
I did it. I completed my first half marathon. It was a journey within itself. A 13.1 mile emotional adventure of feeling elated with self-worth, gratitude, and pride to frustration, disappointment, and sadness. There is no question I will do it again. I want a do over! This was by far one of the most exhilarating experiences of my adult life, savoring every moment, every step, every mile, and every milestone. After all, isn’t that what life is about…living in the moment, embracing the unexpected, adapting to whatever change life throws at you, managing your emotional response, and then knowing you have the power to not let it knock you down, but build the determination to conquer it once more.
Angel Carlton Anderson is a published author of Dedicated to Destiny, professional speaker & Leadership Transformation Facilitator. A former professional NBA cheerleader for the Chicago Bulls, Angel is an advocate for personal growth, emotional/mental well-being, and enthusiastically cheers on humanity for conscious change.