The Rehoboth Half

The morning of Saturday, December 7 dawned clear, bright, and bitterly cold on the shores of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I, along with 2500 other heavily-layered souls, milled along the Boardwalk listening for the gunshot that signaled our collective waiting was over. Our purpose? To complete the Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon. Our goal? To make it to the finish line as quickly as possible.  Our reason? Collective insanity!

I began running my freshman year of high school. I sadly lacked the coordination required for other, “cooler” sports like soccer and volleyball, and I found myself joining the cross country team almost by default. The uniforms were flattering, the team was small and friendly, and we were actively encouraged to eat all of the bagels and pasta we could stomach. What was there not to love?

As time went on, I grew to love running as more than just an excuse to eat any and all carbs in my immediate vicinity. Running was a release, a time to turn off my mind and listen to my body. Running was unique in that it was the one activity I found physically exhausting, but mentally and emotionally recharging.  Signing up and completing races became my way of accomplishing something tangible in a world that was becoming increasingly online, yet felt disconnected.  Every race presented a new challenge and a new opportunity to push myself to some new personal best. At the end of each race comes a feeling a pride: I ran this far. I ran this fast.

The Rehoboth Beach Half Marathon was the first race of its distance that I had signed up for in seven years.  (For the uninitiated, a half marathon is 13.1 miles.) I trained for about four months, incrementally building up my mileage week by week.  I bought shoes, rain jackets, gloves, balaclavas – any clothing that would allow me to train in all types of weather and account for any meteorological event on race day. On the morning of the race, I felt rested, prepared, and eager to begin. I had the inchoate, lofty goal of finishing in under 2 hours, since that was around the finishing time of my previous half marathon all those years ago. I thought that goal near impossible – my average training pace was at a rate of 10:00 minutes per mile – but I figured that there was no harm in aiming high. I just wanted to run to the best of my ability. And then the gun went off and the race began!

I could lie and say that the race was easy.  That all of my preparation allowed me to float along the softly rolling hills of the course with all of the grace and ease of a gazelle or other fleet-footed creature. In reality, each step after Mile 7 throbbed.  After Mile 10, they burned.  At Mile 12, I began to bargain with myself. If only I could hold on for just a bit longer – just ten more minutes – I could spend the rest of the day/week/month doing absolutely nothing. All that mattered was the next mile.  I just needed to hold on.

I crossed the finish line at 1:57:33, with an average mile time of 8:56 per mile. I met and exceeded the goals that I set for myself, and I felt buoyed by my accomplishment (and endorphins). I celebrated my personal victory by sitting in a comfortable leather recliner for a very long time, while my supportive and doting husband brought me food and drink from the local Dogfish Head Brewery.

I think it’s time to sign up for the next race!