It was all because of a band. J and I signed up for the Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon, which took place on November 5, when we found out that Old Crow Medicine Show was the headlining concert after the race. I’m a fan of the band, first hearing of them 11 years ago when I was living in Johnson City, TN which is mentioned in their song, Wagon Wheel. The following year I saw them in concert while living in Asheville, NC. I was excited to see them once again and I felt optimistic that I could return to my former status as a runner. This half marathon was quickly planned and unprepared for but surprisingly went much better than expected.
I was continually sick from July of 2014 to July of 2016. This past August is when I started feeling healthy again for the first time and that is when we signed up for the race, thinking that three months was plenty of time to train for it. Running again felt amazing… the open air and the repetitive movement is meditative for me. Unfortunately after only two times out running, I felt my hip aching which soon turned into a serious pain. I knew from past experiences that it was my IT band so I stopped running for a few weeks to let it heal. I eventually sought out a chiropractor for help and found one in town who not only adjusts my spine and hip alignment, but also works on my muscles. He is my miracle worker and continues to keep me pain free and moving.
By the time I was able to start training again, there were only two weeks left before the race. The farthest I ran in that time was 2.5 miles and that is the most I had run in over two years. Because of this, I had no expectations of running the race but I was determined to finish it, even if I had to walk it. I needed to finish the race. I felt like I achieved very little in the past two years, other than staying alive and being a mother, so my soul was yearning for an accomplishment that was outside of my everyday life.
J came down with a bad cold the week before the race and was in rough shape so he couldn’t run, but he made the trip with me anyway. His parents were in town to watch C and give us a weekend away, which we hadn’t had in years. Savannah is a 3.5 hour drive through a whole lot of nothing. South Georgia is mainly swampland, pine trees, cotton fields, and very long straight roads through itty bitty towns. We ended up getting a flat tire close to Savannah but J was able to switch it out and still get us the race expo on time. Always an adventure!
The race expo (which is an exhibition full of running gear, products, and information) is where I discovered and purchased PowerBar’s newest energy gels, Simple Fruit. I used to be a fan of GU energy gels but I’m no longer comfortable consuming things with chemical preservatives. Simple Fruit has limited ingredients that I’m okay with so I used two of them during the race. They were easy to eat (similar to an applesauce pouch) and they did the trick so I will absolutely be using them again in future races.
We splurged a little, since we hadn’t taken a trip alone together in so long, and booked a room at the impressive Mansion on Forsyth Park which was right next to the finish line and the post-race concert. Our room at the Mansion was spacious, the decor was quite eclectic, and the location was perfect for the weekend. We really enjoyed our stay there.
Although our hotel was right next to the finish line, it was about one mile from the starting line. The morning of the race, J walked with me and waited until my corral began running. The mile-long walk was actually a great warm-up for my muscles and my body. It was 50°F when we started walking that morning and got up to the low 60’s by the time I finished the race. Having lived in a warm climate for the past five years, I was a bit chilly running in multiple layers and was amazed at the people running in shorts and tank tops. Since there are regular drink stations throughout the race, all I ran with were some energy gels, sunglasses, iPod and earbuds, and a GPS watch. Even small things get burdensome after carrying them for over two hours so it’s best to keep gear to a minimum.
I was so excited, absorbing the intense energy of the crowd around me, that I ran the entire first 3 miles. Soon after that, I felt my IT band aching so I walked all of mile 4, stopping to stretch it often. By the grace of God, the pain stopped and I began running again at mile 5. Soon after that, I found myself beside the 2:45 pace group and ran with them for over three miles. They were doing a .5 run/.1 walk pattern which worked well for me and helped the distance pass quickly. I eventually stopped at a drink station to stretch my legs and lost the group so I continued on doing a .4 run/.2 walk pattern on my own which was easier to keep track of on my GPS watch. I ran the final 1.1 miles to the finish without stopping.
I finished the race despite my lack of training and I felt amazing, having run so much more of the race than I originally anticipated! This was exactly the accomplishment I needed to boost my confidence in myself and in my body. It was proof that I was finally getting healthy after such a frustrating and long string of illnesses, and it was proof to myself that I am still capable of more than I think I am.
Upon crossing the finish line, I got my finisher’s medal, had a post-race photo taken, grabbed some snacks, and then walked to our hotel room where J was resting. I stretched, had something to eat and drink, and then we went across the street to the park to watch Old Crow Medicine Show perform. I got my medal engraved with my finish time and then we enjoyed a beer while watching the concert. I’m very happy with my time, considering my lack of training. I actually finished faster than two of my previous half marathons that I did train for. This was the 8th half marathon I have run so I felt very prepared mentally and knew exactly what to expect and what I needed to do to get through it. This really helped me get through the race. Knowledge is a powerful thing!
In the early afternoon, we went out for a late lunch at Fire Street Food which was an impressive little restaurant with delicious food. J had a big bowl of soup and hot tea with honey to help his cold. My post race splurge was a big basket of french fries to go with my teriyaki chicken, veggies, and rice. One of the best things about running a half marathon is the amount of calories you burn, which allows guilt-free eating for the rest of the day.
After lunch, we walked around for a while admiring the beautiful historic district of Savannah with its towering, moss-covered Live Oak trees, well-manicured city parks, trolleys and horse-drawn carriages, brick side streets, and huge, magnificent houses. It is a city full of southern charm and truly a treat to visit.
Later that day, we had an hour-long couples massage at the spa in our hotel. J’s masseuse focused on his face to help his sinuses and my masseuse focused on my legs and hips. This is the first time I’ve had a post-race massage and it was key in my recovery process. In the following days, my legs were a little tight but they were not sore at all! I was amazed, sure that I would have a long recovery due to my lack of training.
The Rock n Roll Marathon Series races are my favorite to run because they are popular and very well organized. There are regular drink stations throughout the race course, there is a live band playing music about every mile, there are official photographers along the course to document your run, and there are so many people who run the race that you never find yourself running alone. What I love most about running races is the inspiration of seeing other people running. There are always people of all different ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities, and yet everyone is there to accomplish the same goal of crossing that finish line. That excitement and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing puts me on a high that lasts for weeks afterwards.
“Strength doesn’t come from what you CAN do. It comes from
overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”