Have you ever ran in a race where, despite the fact that you actually had a miserable time RUNNING the race, you remember it as one of the best or funnest races you’ve ever done? That’s how Champoeg Half Marathon will always be remembered for me.
The race began on an already warm Sunday morning at 9am. I thought that seemed a little late for a race to begin on a forecasted hot day, but I figured we would be running mostly in the shaded park, so I didn’t think much of it. Much to my dismay, less than half of the race was actually done in the shaded trees of the park. From the start, we ran about a half mile in direct sunlight, as well as roughly half of the race was ran on the country streets behind the park. It was beautiful countryside, for sure, however, in 90 degree heat, I was less interested in the scenery and more interested in getting the heck out of there!
My biggest mistake (and I know I’m not alone in doing this) was that I started out too fast. I never do that either! I’ve read so many people comment about how they have trouble controlling themselves from the start, but it’s never been a big issue for me. I’m the “slow and steady wins the race” kind of gal…minus the “winning the race” part. This was going to be my last half marathon of the year, though, and I think that gave me jolt of excitement at the start I rarely personally feel. Unfortunately, that surge of energy, combined with running it in direct sunlight, was short-lived. I knew at mile 2 this was NOT going to be my best race of the year for time…..but it was STILL my favorite and most memorable race yet. Here’s why….
My family also decided to volunteer for the first time.
My family consists of my disabled husband, 14 yr old daughter, and 13 yr old Asperger Syndrome/ADHD daughter. My family has always been supportive of my running (well, MOSTLY supportive..everyone has their days!), and even though he’s in a lot of daily pain, my husband has attended all but 2 of my 15 races this year. THIS race was special, though, as it was my last half marathon of the year for me, and I’ve only been a runner for 7 months. My entire family decided that the best way to support me this time was to be on the course, so with many smiles on their faces, they were placed at water station #1. They were the first people I saw at mile 3 when I was already exhausted and hot from starting out too fast, and the last people I saw when I was ready to give up. By the time I reached them at the end, I was TERRIBLY hot, sore, and mentally DONE with this race. They kept cheering me not to stop and were saying, “The finish is only 100 meters away! Keep going, mom! Keep going!”, but all I wanted to do was walk…if that. Then something beautiful happened. My 14 yr old daughter put down the water and gels she was holding for runners, took my hand, and said, “I’ll run to the finish with you, mom. You’re almost there!” That was all it took. She gave me my second wind. Together we ran those last few steps, and we even raced each other over the finish line! When I was handed my finishers medal, my daughter took it out of my hands and told me SHE wanted to put the medal on me because she was so proud I never quit.
Think your family can’t volunteer at your next race? Are they disabled? Have social disorders? Don’t think they’ll have a good time doing it? Well, lets see what my little family of volunteers says about that in my mini Q & A.
Me: What were you most surprised about in regards to volunteering?
“I was really surprised at how many runners were appreciative. So many racers were thanking us for volunteering!” -Robert
“I was really surprised at how much water and Gatorade we had to pour..there were lots and lots! I had no idea runners drank so much!” – Saleen (14 yrs)
“I was surprised at how many people didn’t take the gels on the way back” – Ariana (13 yrs)
Me: What was your favorite thing about volunteering?
“Telling the runners to SPRINT SPRINT SPRINT! There’s only 100 meters to the finish!!” – Robert
“Meeting the other volunteers! We had lots of fun throwing water on each other to stay cool.” – Ariana
“Getting free goodies and food!” – Saleen
So there you have it. Some races are great, some races are bad, and some races are meh…but having your family not only cheer you on, but help you and your fellow racers make it through till the end will make your race (regardless of how well you performed) the most memorable race of your year.