I am a Warrior Woman.
It's not something I admit to very often, but I am she. I am strong. I have stamina. I have endurance. I can go further, faster, longer, stronger than most. I have the physical, mental and emotional strength to do ANYTHING.
Today, I ran 21.1 kilometres. I ran the distance. I didn't walk. I didn't stop. I started grumpy, snotty and a bit stiff at 8.20 in the morning. Two hours, thirty four minutes and a handful of seconds later, I crossed the finish line.
AND I RAN THE WHOLE WAY!
It nearly didn't happen. After a kilometre, right at the start, the last thing I wanted to do was run around Williamstown. Blah - didn't want to do it. Silly thing to do. Fools errand. Bloody Reindert, making me get up at 5.45 to drop him at the marathon start at 7 am. My mind is screaming 'Turn around, go back and read your book in the car. Go on," I tell myself.
But I keep running.
Then the stroke of luck happened. About the three kilometre mark I met up with Stuart and Margaret. Stuart is a marathon veteran, returning to running after injury. Margaret was two days off her sixtieth birthday. They were chugging along quite nicely and I asked if I could run with them for a bit. Lovely people, easy to chat to. Here was me, with my tactic of run five minutes walk two all the way around. After ten minute of running with them I think, ah, keep plodding away, they're nice, they're at a comfortable pace. Keep going.
There is no shame running with some of these oldies. A lot of them will leave you for dead. I have no illusions that I am fast - I just like doing the distance. I get a lot of strength from these older women who chug along at the back of races. They all have their own stories - they re just as courageous as the guys up the front. As a novice, it's just nice to find people who run at your slow pace.
We reach the seven kilometre mark in fifty minutes. Stuart tells us that we're on track for a 2.30 time. What? Me? Half marathon in two hours thirty. Nah. I quit the urge to walk and keep shuffling away at a steady seven minute kilometre pace.
Got to the ten kilometre mark in just under 72 minutes - the last ten kilometre run I did in December I made it in 74 minutes. Okay, I tell myself to keep running. Personal best for a ten kilometres. I'm tracking well. Breathing is good, legs are holding up. Feet feel fresh.
I let out a banshee scream then. It's dawning on me that the training is beginning to pay off.
I see Reindert running from the other direction around the thirteen kilometre mark - with the circular track he had to do that last eight kilometre loop three times - thankfully we only had to do it once - He's running well.. Stuart and Margaret are still with me. I have to keep going, though I keep threatening to walk every ten minutes or so.
Reindert passes us around the fifteen kilometre mark. Watching him from behind he looks a little tired, but fine, and very thin. I haven't noticed this before. I introduce him to Stuart and Margaret. By this stage Reindert has run 35 kilometres. Freak.
Sixteen kilometre mark all I want to do is walk. Stuart stops me from doing this. He reminds me it's all downhilll from here, and to keep going. He reminds me running is all mental. He also tells me that if I walk I will continue to walk. "Keep on shuffling," he says, "You're looking fine."
I keep on running.
Margaret then tells me, "You have to run now. You're a warrior. You can do anything. You take up running at forty. You've overcome neglect, abuse, poor self image, no self esteem, obesity.... All the bad crap. You have to honour the warrior woman. The warrior who made you strong. The warrior who makes you happy.To walk would be a travesty. Honour the her. Honour you."
I kept running.
The last kilometre is always bittersweet. Margaret reminds me that it's only another five minutes of running (well,seven) and it's all over. You can feel every muscle in your body. Yet you find something in the tank to keep on going, and go faster. And some stupid part of you would like to continue.
Reindert meets me a hundred metres from the finish line. He finished in 3.12. He's also dragging a leg, which is not a good thing.
I finish. Five minutes have come off my personal best time for the half marathon. And I have run all the way, without stopping, without walking, without breaking down, without doing myself and injury. And without bailing as I was tempted to do ten minutes in.
I let out another banshee cry. I have conquered the 21.1 kilometre run. I have run for over two hours and thirty minutes. I can still walk, breathe, talk, sing.
Non-runners will never experience the exhillaration of battling a half marathon. It is the best feeling in the world.
Reindert, Stuart and Margaret - if you're reading this, I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, your advice, your encouragement, your wisdom and your presence on the run. I doubt I would have run this time without you.
Ten minutes later after a decent stretch and a visit to the dunny bus, Reindert and I pop over to Blarney and Barney's to see the boys who live a short distance from the race. A bag of frozen peas is strapped to Reindert's leg. Blarney feeds us a cup of tea and some biscuits, and I'm given my favorite cat to cuddle and a baby to feed.
The perfect ending to a fantastic morning.
I'll come off Cloud Eleven in a few days. I've managed to smash so many perceptions of myself in a two and a half hour period today.
This is why I run. This is why I will continue to run. It's the best feeling in the world.
Pandora Behr - Warrior Woman