It’s a 7 a.m. on the Saturday before Memorial Day. As I walked to the start of the Ogden Newspapers Classic Half Marathon, I was struck by how stable the 100-plus year old suspension bridge feels under my feet. When I drive my car over it, I can feel the bridge sway.
Then I took a step and felt the grate give way. Oh great, I thought as I moved forward. This bridge is crap. Little slats of metal were strung together to make the sidewalk. The bridge itself is a metal grid with grooves giving it traction during the winter.
Like my training, the bridge looks weak compared to the newer one beside it that carries interstate traffic. But it does what it needs to do.
I was a winner in my gym’s squat challenge earlier in the week. I gave birth to three kids in less than five years. This half marathon would be nothing.
After my husband gave me my directives: Make it under three hours and get home before Memorial Day, the race was on.
The first few miles went through downtown Wheeling. I knew these streets well, having lived there for about a year and vacationing on the island.
Then we turned onto 29th Street, which would lead to the first of three super hills in the course and the second water stop. Then I saw the mile sign: Three.
Really?! Really?! I only had 10 miles to go.
So we came to Super Hill 1, which leads to Bethlehem. I saw the other runners were walking it, so I followed suit. I knew I had two super hills to go.
On the way up, an Ironman passed me. Clad in a navy colored singlet, he had run every Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic. So this was his 38th time climbing this hill. He truly was an ironman as he ran up the hill.
“It doesn’t seem fair that it’s steeper the higher you get,” he said as he passed me. “Good job.”
“Good job,” I stammered back as I tried to power walk my way up the hill.
At the intersection of 29th Street and the I-470 exit, I started seeing more posters and people cheering. I reached the top. Now for another mile running down the other side.
As we went into Tridelphia and Elm Grove, the rolling hills began. The crowds were a little bigger, they set up their own water stands, and played music. The crowd, not my energy chews, got my through this portion of the race. I imagined friends running with me, some cheering as I went by.
As I neared Super Hill No. 2, I knew something was off.
I usually sweat like glistening is going out of style. I should be tasting my own sweat as I down my water.
I was sweating, but not a lot. To compensate for this, I walked up Super Hill 2 and through every water stop between miles 8-12, grabbed a cup of water and one of Gatorade. I drank about half from each cup and grabbed ice a few times to drop it down my shirt.
I was scared, but I didn’t panic. I figured it was the cool shade and my many walk breaks (too many for my taste) as to why I wasn’t sweating much.
I soldiered on.
Then I reached Super Hill 3, Wheeling Hill, mile 11-12. I hate driving down this hill, even in the best weather conditions. Walking/running up it was worse. This is the last obstacle, and I knew the end was in sight.
And a neon green line with the words “1 mile to go” proved it. I reached the top of the hill and was ready to go.
But a spot under my right calf was cramping. I ran, exaggerating my steps so I could stretch the muscle out. It worked and I was ready to use my reserves to race to the finish.
Where was the finish? It felt like I ran more than a mile by the time I got to the turning point on the final mile. As I rounded the corner, I saw the finish line and my family.
So I meet them at the next intersection and grabbed my youngest kid’s hand and away we went to the finish line.
It was awesome, humbling and rewarding.
At the finish line, I got a medal and a damp towel. The towel felt awesome. So did the medical tent after I had a dizzy spell about 10 minutes after I finished.
When I felt up to it, I ended up moving furniture, painted two bedrooms and pulled out the carpet of said rooms.
My runner’s high crashed three days after the race, on Tuesday.
I’m still processing the race. It was one of the toughest thing I’ve ever done, besides giving birth. I know I will carry this with me for a long time.
I plan on going back and taking on the big hills again. I feel like I have something to prove.
And my directives? I finished in 2 hours, 47 minutes. So I left with the rest of my family on Memorial Day.