I never knew 13.1 would be so fun

By: 
Monika Spaulding, Digital Editor

If you would have told me a month ago that running 13.1 miles would be one of the best, most fun experiences of my life, I would have thought you were crazy.

Actually, I did have people tell me that...and I did think they were crazy!

However, I’m now one of the crazy ones!

I completed my first mini marathon last weekend as part of the Kentucky Derby festivities and it was one of the best moments of my life!

When I started this journey a few months ago, I definitely agreed reluctantly. A couple of friends talked me into it, the winter months seemed to last forever making it challenging to train outside, I had shin splints when I did start running outside and as the date got closer, I got more nervous!

The week leading up to the race was one of the fastest weeks ever! I was dreading Saturday. 

As we stood with more than 12,000 people at the start line for the marathon/mini marathon in downtown Louisville, I looked at my group of friends and said, “Never again. I will never do this again.” I was nauseous and convinced I was going to die before I crossed the finish line. 

In fact, I was worried because I had forgotten my identification and my friend Heidi said, “Don’t worry, if something happens to you, they will have your info from your race bib.”

I glared at her and said, “That’s not the response I was looking for!”

She laughed and quickly said, “I mean, why would you need it? Nothing is going to happen!”

We started out walking because it was so packed, but as the more speedy people got out of the way, things started to clear out and we got going. We were talking and laughing, pointing at the things we were running by, like the science museum and the Louisville Slugger museum. As we headed into the west end we hit our first water station and people were yelling and cheering, giving high fives and encouraging the runners. I was pumped. 

Three miles into the race, I was already planning my next mini marathon!

Deciding to sign up for the mini marathon was a  life changing decision for me. I know it sounds dramatic, but seriously, I have met so many amazing new friends since I picked up running. They are positive, light hearted people who like to have a good time. The notes and messages and phone calls I received leading up to the race were so encouraging and reassuring that I was going to do great. Most had run a mini before and knew exactly what was going through my mind: “What have I done?” “Am I going to die?” 

I mean the furthest I ran in my training was 7.5 miles, so I had never seen what my body could do past that!

One of those new friends ran the race right beside me. Jessica and I had so much fun running, talking and just soaking in the experience together. 

Anyone who has been to Louisville around Derby knows how that city comes to life. There was music on the streets, neighborhood people yelling and cheering, handmade signs were all along the route and people were lined up giving high fives in the neighborhoods through Old Louisville. It was inspiring and fun and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

When we reached Churchill  Downs and ran down through the tunnels and around the infield, you couldn’t help but feel the Derby spirit! We stopped to take a selfie in front of the Churchill Downs sign knowing that we were more than half way done and just had to turn around and head back down town.

We actually stopped and took several photos along the route and at one time, I even took a video of some men who had set up a little band in Old Louisville to play for the runners. It was just awesome.

Encouragement also came from friends and family during the race. There is an app called Race Joy and people could download it and follow you along the route and send you cheers. It was so cool! I got messages from my husband, my daughters and several friends. It was fun to hear their names and words of encouragement in my ears as I ran along the route.

I knew they were watching me and wanted to see me succeed and it carried me along.

My goals were to finish the race standing, try and run most of the time and have a good time doing it! All goals were accomplished and I’m already looking forward to running 13.1 again in the fall.

Running is a like a special club of people who all run at different paces, have different goals and are doing it for different reasons, but the passion and love of the sport is all the same.

One person who stayed in my heart during the run was  my friend Tammy Kemp. Tammy was diagnosed with ALS in the fall. Last year at this time she was training for the Indianapolis Mini Marathon and ran it. This year she is in a wheel chair. Whenever I got nervous or doubted myself Saturday, I thought of her. I knew that if her body would let her, she’d be out there running, too. 

Nothing could beat the reaction I got when I walked in the door at home Saturday afternoon. My girls were so excited and so proud of me! Katie loved my medal and said, “Mom! You’re a champion! I’m going to take this to school and tell everyone my mom is a champion!”

Life is good. I’m thankful God gave me a healthy body to run and wonderful friends and family to encourage me. 

-monika@salemleader.com

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