Running a half marathon wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. If you had told me five years ago that someday I would be running my fifth half marathon while studying to become a personal trainer and working at a lady only fitness establishment, I would have asked you what you were smoking.
But just three short weeks ago I was crossing the finish line at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. The entire experience was amazing and I am thrilled to share it with you.
It all started back in June of last year when Father’s Day hit, and my mood was a little down. As many of my readers know, I lost my father, the champion behind my weight loss journey, just eight months into my story and developed a connection to him through exercise and running. When I woke up on Father’s day 2013 missing him more than usual, I headed out on what started out as a normal 5k run for me and ended up becoming my first half marathon. [ I ran a Half Marathon Daddy Happy Fathers Day]
The feeling of victory that I felt when I completed a half marathon was amazing, and something I instantly wanted to share with someone else, so I set out to put together the sponsorship to send myself and one of my blog readers to Anaheim, CA for the Disneyland Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. I’d be doing my first official timed and bibbed half marathon, and I’d help someone else achieve that level of victory by crossing the finish line with me. That was my goal. [How Do You Celebrate Success Contest]
I fell a little short of meeting my sponsorship goals, but I did get enough funds together to pay one person’s way to the event. So that’s what I did. We had a contest on my blog, and one lucky winner received a trip to Disneyland to participate in the RunDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon with me. [ Winner of Bariatric Fitness Half Marathon Contest Giveaway ]
With the help of my friends and sponsors at Pace Setter, I put together a 20 Week Training Program that intended to get us prepared for the event and we ran a virtual event for anyone that wanted to train alongside us and complete a half marathon themselves as event finale. I coached our winner through the 20 week training program, and provided her with all the possible encouragement and motivation that I could from across the miles; seven months later, just three short weeks ago, Dawn and I were standing in our corral at 4:30 am getting ready to start.
Dawn struggled from the beginning. Going from someone who has never run before to completing a half marathon in 20 weeks (after being benched for several weeks due to injury) was a big task and it wasn’t something that came easy. Of course, the coach and trainer in me says, “if it comes easy it isn’t worth having,” and pushing yourself is one of the main ingredients to successful long-term weight loss.
There was a moment during the race when we had just passed the 2 mile marker that I looked at Dawn and said “Remember this is fun, you wanted to be here, you won the opportunity to be here,” and she looked back and me and said “This isn’t fun, this is hell,” and in that moment, the response she got out of me told me that no matter what happened, whether Dawn finished the half marathon or not, the coach and soon to be trainer in me had emerged. If there was ever a moment that I doubted my destiny, the doubt had just vanished. I looked at her in disbelief, and the diatribe started…
“You think THIS is hell? Move your feet! Let me remind you what HELL is… Hell was 175 lbs ago. Hell was not being able to walk from your car to your front door without panting for breath. HELL was not being able to stand still in your kitchen because your body hurt so much. OBESITY was HELL … THIS is fun, THIS is easy, THIS is achievable. Now move your feet and give me a 60 second run interval Dawn.”
RunDisney has a pretty strict pace time. (16 minutes per mile) and when I say strict, I mean strictly enforced. At mile marker three and the 5K split Dawn and I were pacing out at 17:26 and the “Sweepers” as they call them–the RunDisney folks that remove you from the race if you are not making pace–were on our heels.
“You are behind the pace requirement ladies, if you do not speed up you will be removed from the route.” We’d been warned a few minutes earlier when I stopped to take a photo of Dawn that we needed to speed up. But Dawn was struggling and she and I both knew it. We’d had an agreement before the race that I would stay by her side unless she got swept and unfortunately, that moment seemed to be upon us. With my hand on her back, trying to literally push her forward I said “I need you to speed up Dawn, we’re way behind the pace flag and we’re going to get swept.”
As the words left her mouth they broke my heart, because I knew that there was nothing I could do in that moment to get her across the finish line and as we quickly said teary eyed good-byes I knew that what Dawn wouldn’t understand was that I wasn’t disappointed in her, I was disappointed in me. I had hoped that having me there at her side would help motivate her to make the pace she needed to make and help shave some time off her per minute mile. But in truth, Dawn’s times were slower than they were at home and I had to hope that by leaving her behind a sink or swim moment would kick in for her and that she would find the motivation she needed to finish.
I took off running. I turned on my headphones and played my Father’s memorial CD, listening to old-time country music by artists like Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Marty Robbins as I ran through Disneyland, trying to catch the pace flag. I ran as fast as my little feet could carry me and I didn’t stop until I hit the 7 mile marker and had to take a detour to the port-a-potty. I’ve never been so afraid to urinate in my whole life. What if that potty break cost me the pace time? I figured by what my Nike GPS+ Sports-watch said that I was pacing out somewhere near 15 min/mile and I wasn’t far off; RunDisney had reported my 10K split time to Facebook at 15:36 min/mile – I’d shaved 1 minute and 50 seconds off the my time in about 3 miles thus far.
As I ran through the streets of Anaheim I stayed focus on my goal. I had a half marathon to complete and people waiting on me at the finish line. Mile 9 came and went without much trouble, and surprisingly I wasn’t even feeling the need to put more fuel on board, though I did throw back a banana just to make sure I didn’t run out of energy along the way. My 15k split was reported at 15:03, so while the potty break cost me some time, I was still doing alright. I wouldn’t be seeing the twelve to thirteen minute pace times I was used to seeing on my runs, but that was alright, I wasn’t here to compete with anyone, I was here for the experience and to share that experience with Dawn.
I supposed I should have limited my hydration a bit, because Mile 11 hit and another potty break was eminent. In fact, if I am being honest, I was worried whether or not I was going to make it and hoping I didn’t end up with a repeat of my October half where I wet myself right before getting to a bathroom and had to strip down to my quick dry shorts and run the last mile while drying off and with a bag of wet pants and undergarments.
Mile 11-12 kicked my ass. I was struggling, and needed to take a moment to find a little inspiration so I pulled out my phone and checked in on Facebook to see what my cheer squad was saying. I started looking at all the names I was seeing liking posts about me running in the event. I started reading the comments and seeing the \O/ ‘s that people were throwing up. Then I saw a post by one of my best friends; my friend Kelly, who I’ve been friends with longer than I can remember, we went to grade school together, grew up in houses just around the corner from one another. There was a post with a picture of her son Logan; one of the cutest little boys in the whole world dressed up as a lost boy with a caption that said, “Lost Boy Looking for his Tinkerbell Pandora Williams \o/ You can do it!!! We’re waiting for you @ the finish line.”
That picture put the pixie dust in my tinker-toes and the next thing I knew I was hitting the 13 mile marker and hugging my Godfather, my friend Tammy and of course, Kelly, Logan and Heather as I made my way to the finish line. When all was said and done, I finished with a pace of 14:58 min/mile and an overall time of 3:16:08 which is proudly engraved on my medal, thanks to Kelly and Logan.
Standing in the finishers corral, I was reunited with Dawn, who did indeed find that inner drive to move her feet when I left her, and managed not to get swept at that 3 mile marker, and made it all the way to Mile 10. I’ll be posting Dawn’s write up about the event in the next day or two. I feel it’s her story to share with you, not mine, but what I will say is that as a coach and soon to be trainer, I am damn proud of how far she made it, and her overcoming the obstacles and fears that she had to get that far.
I always say there is no such thing as failure. Each time we fall short it is just an opportunity for us to do better the next time. And while I may not have given Dawn the experience of crossing the half marathon finish line like I wanted to, I gave her the experience of participating in her first half marathon. Just yesterday I saw a post from her on Facebook that said she was doing another half marathon in April and that she was going to participate in a mini triathlon. Apparently Dawn realized along the way that it wasn’t “Hell” after all and has decided to give it another go. This is both a victory and a success in my book as a coach and I will gladly stand up and say “I took Dawn to her first Half Marathon, I helped her find the motivation and determination to run, and I helped her find the fun in fitness enough to make her want to do it again.”
As for me, I found a few things during those 13 miles that I didn’t know I was looking for. I found closure on any doubt I had of the destiny that lies ahead of me. I found closure to a chapter I wasn’t sure about the ending of, and as I stood there at the finish line getting hugs from some of the people I know love me the most; I felt my father smiling down on me and I knew in that very moment, that standing there in the midst of the happiest place on earth, I had fulfilled a promise I made to my father. I was living a happy, healthy life.
I want to send a very special thank you to everyone that was a part of this day. To our sponsors, Kay’s Naturals, Celebrate Vitamins, Pace Setter Athletic and Ameriwell Bariatrics, thank you, thank you, thank you. Walt Disney said “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” Without your financial support this dream never would have come true. I can never say thank you enough for what you allowed me to learn, experience and give to someone else in my community.
To my on site Cheer Squad – My Godfather; Tom Geiger, My “WLS Parents” Sandi & Chuck Henderson and their lovely granddaughter, My dear friends Tammy and Kelly and my “Lost Boy” Logan, and of course, Heather. – I could not have asked for more loving, supportive and wonderful people to share this amazing experience with me. Each of you holds a special place in my heart and each of you is loved, beyond measures of time.
To my Facebook Cheer Squad – there are just too many of you to mention, but I’ll be writing a blog about just you and about “Social Media Motivation” and how you are all a pillar in my world. So look for that to come. But know that each one of you that liked or commented on anything related to this experience has been someone special in my world and given me a gift that can never be replaced and I am forever grateful.
Lastly, to my Father– thank you for opening my eyes and helping me find the runner in me. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish you were still here to share the happy healthy life you helped me achieve with me; that I don’t feel showered with your love, pride and joy knowing that though I cannot touch you or see you, I can always feel your presence… especially when I put my feet to the pavement. Below is a picture that was taken of me standing next to Eeyore at Disneyland when I was 24 years old and weighed 420 lbs. Next to it, you’ll find a picture of me standing next to Eeyore at Disneyland last month, at 37 years old and weighting 166 lbs. This is my gift to my Father, this is my promise fulfilled. I love you Daddy.
Now it’s time to wipe my joyful tears and get ready for work and start working on that Sponsorship Letter for my next dream… RunDisney Wine and Dine – November 2014 – Here comes Team Seeking Slender \o/
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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