Sept. 25, 2017
By Tracey Hlucky
“I’m in complete awe of you. I’m so proud of you!”
That was the text I got from my mom on Saturday after finishing my very first half-marathon race and the last of the Akron Race Series.
To be honest, I was a little in awe of myself too. I had no idea I had it in me to finish a race, ever. In high school, I hated when we had to run a mile during gym class and I’d argue with my swimming coach when our practice involved running the indoor track. “Why do we have to run? We’re SWIMMERS!” I’d say as I begrudgingly finished my measly one mile.
But this weekend, I didn’t run just one mile. I ran quite a few. I won’t say I ran 13.1 miles, because I didn’t. I did a lot of jogging and whole lot of walking. But I moved my feet for 13.1 miles to the finish line.
All week I had expressed my nervousness to my family and friends. They encouraged me and told me I’d do great. I wasn’t so sure why they thought I would do so “great” because I was terrified. I hadn’t trained enough. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t a “runner” like everyone else that was going to be there.
I had secretly hoped for the storm of the century to cancel the race. But there I was, bright and early Saturday morning, standing in the middle of downtown Akron about to start a half-marathon.
The first two miles were a breeze. I took my time and did my running/jogging/walking routine. Then I caught up with the 12:43/min mile pacer around mile 3 and thought, “Hey! Not so bad! I’m going to hang out with them for a while!” And I did, until about mile 6. The pacer yelled back to us: “Ok, we’re going to run for a bit, get ready!” I kept up with them for about 50 feet until I felt like a boulder was sitting on my chest. An asthma attack? The heat? I wasn’t sure, but it was time to get out my inhaler and take a few minutes to concentrate on my breathing.
As I stood off to the side of the road, I watch the pace sign get further and further away from me until I realized I wasn’t going to catch up with them. That was the first of many moments of defeat I was going to feel over the next couple of hours. I just didn’t know it yet.
Mile 7: I’m doing nothing but walking now. Inhaler has kicked in though, and I can breathe. As I’m congratulating myself on my ability to breathe without wheezing, I pass a man on the sidewalk in a wheelchair watching the race and my brain went into overdrive. “Dammit Tracey, you can walk. You can jog. You can run. You are healthy enough to finish this. Just do it!” And suddenly I was running again with tears pouring down my face. “Ok. I’ve got this. It can’t be that bad.”
Mile 8: It can be that bad. My feet are cramping and I’m sick to my stomach. I’ve been drinking water, I’ve been drinking Powerade. I don’t think I’m dehydrated, but I’m in pain. A LOT of pain. I stop off to the side of the road again and stretch. OK, maybe now is when I stop? Do I get medical? No. I can’t. I have to keep going.
Mile 9: I’m limping now and running is no longer an option. My right knee and hip are throbbing and my feet feel like they have needles in them. I stop off again and stretch. A few volunteers ask if they can help me. I shooed them off. “Nope, I’m good,” I say, once again wiping tears from my face. This is crazy. Why am I doing this?
Mile 10: Piece of cake. I’ve got this. Only 3 more miles! That’s a normal day of walking for me. “About another half hour until I finish, right?” I had no way of knowing it would be another hour.
Mile 11: I see a friend who has been on the sidelines all day cheering a few of us along. I’m in tears again. My feet are aching so bad I don’t think I’m going to make it. When she asks me if I’m ok, for the first time all day, I respond “No.” She asks me what I need, but I don’t even know what I need at this point. I just know I’m not going to stop.
Mile 12: Almost there. I can hear the announcers from Canal Park, but now the reality that it’s taken me much longer than I thought it would is starting to hit me. People are walking to their cars with their medals and I’m still a mile away. And my feet? SO much pain. I’m visibly limping now and I honestly think that there is no possible way I’m going to get there.
A half mile later, the tears are still streaming down my face when a friendly volunteer approaches me and asks me if I’m ok. “I don’t really know to be honest. I’m in a lot of pain.” I stop for a second and she places her hand on my shoulder and says, “Honey, you’ve only got about 4 blocks ahead of you. That’s all, I promise. And once you get there, nobody can ever take that away from you.” Queue more tears because, damn, this lady is good! Someone please give HER a medal! Ok, I can finish.
I honestly have no idea where it came from, but once I got into that stadium, the fact that I could barely walk turned into running. I couldn’t just WALK across the finish line; I had to RUN, right? And I did! And then I sat down, and I cried again. Not just because I was in pain, but because I had finished (and also because my food and beer ticket wasn’t in my pocket, but that’s another story.)
I limped my way through Canal Park for my series medal, cursed out the stairs a little, and then I just sat in the stands for a while and took it all in. I did something that I never thought I could do that day, and I was damn proud of myself.
I’m still icing my feet and walking like a zombie two days later, but I did it and as that sweet volunteer reminded me, nobody can ever take that away from me.