I can officially say I have ran a 25K. How many miles is that? 15.53 miles. What's even better: I FINISHED!
This is the biggest accomplishment of my entire life so far and the hardest thing I have ever done.
Never in my wildest dreams or in my running "career" did I imagine I would be running over 15 miles. One year ago, I could barely run a 5K (3.1 miles).
Backup one year: this was me in May 2o12. 30 pounds heavier. This was at the exact same event and at my first race ever. I ran the 5K and could barely finish.
This was the very beginning of my running journey.
Officially registered for the 25K
Fast forward exactly one year later: 30 pounds lighter and signed up to give away my soul to running a 25K. When I registered in January, I had just finished running my first half marathon on my own in my neighborhood. It was one of those runs where I felt awesome, had perfect weather, everything was in line, and my feet kept going. Next thing I knew, I had 13.1 miles in. I was so ecstatic from that run I figured, "whats another 2 more miles?" So I signed up for the 25K in May. Little did I know what I got myself into.
I had my first running injury in February (shortly after I signed up for the 25K) and sprained my foot. I was devastated to say the least. At that time, I had a 5K race only 2 months away that I signed up for. I could not run for weeks: trying to nurse my foot back to health. I had all my training planned out for this 25K and it was now ruined. I ripped up and threw away my training calender that I had printed out. I was lost. I felt like there was no way I would be able to train with so little time left. So I felt sorry for myself for a bit and then realized that I could not continue to feel that way. Not to be able to run was getting in my head too much and I had to snap out of it. I vowed to myself that once my foot was better, I would train my hardest and do the best that I could.
My feet taking an ice bath
So after weeks of not running and having an ankle brace I slowly got back into running. It was so hard! I could only start off jogging when I wanted to sprint! But I wanted to do it right and not risk myself for injury again.
Once I was able to run my normal pace, I was surprised and thankful to see how naturally it came back to me. I was up to my normal distance and pace in no time. Before I knew it, I had my first 5K race of the year under my belt; I finished 9th place out of 141 for my age group and 36th place OVERALL out of 821. Yes! I was back in the game. I was stronger and now more determined than ever.
Tens unit on my sprained foot
I kept training, running my long runs, continued sprinting, and had to learn a whole new posture to run in because of my foot. I felt good and was ready as I ever could be. Of course I wish I had more time, but I think every runner does. I made sure to taper the week before the race. I was religiously icing my ankle and knees every night and using a tens unit on it. It helped a lot.
At packet pickup
Before I knew it, it was the night before the race and I was at the expo picking up my packet. The feeling was surreal. What am I doing? Will I be ok? My foot still hurts. This is too cool! I am not ready. I am so excited! Oh yes. All these random thoughts were buzzing throughout my mind. As if running was not a mind game enough! I knew I would not be able to sleep and I was experiencing every kind of emotion and feeling at once.
Luckily my OCD had me overly prepared. This was the carb dinner I ate the night before...chicken parmesan and pasta. It was delicious! I knew I did everything I could and felt ready. I had a sleepless night, filled with nerves and excitement. I knew my adrenaline would help with my getting no sleep.
The alarm finally went off and it was time to go! I got ready by wearing my Boston Strong Adidas shirt which I ordered just for this race. The incident in Boston happened only a month before and I wanted to show my support. If I was running 15.5 miles, I was going to do it in style while supporting my country!
Waiting for the 25K to start on race morning
We soon arrived at the race location and I instantly felt the energy. This was why I love racing. So many runners. I felt more relaxed and the butterflies went away. It was cold that morning, 50 degrees; however, it was excellent weather for running! I kept sipping my Coconut Water and ate my G Chews while waiting in line for the bathroom. It is a must, no matter what, that I use the restroom before any race. Along with my other rituals before the race, I was good to go. I started getting hyped up and got my mind to the mental part of focusing. I did some stretching, prepared my GPS, and playlist on my phone.
I then gave my jacket to Derek, he wished me luck, and I got in line. I could barely get a spot with all the people. It was shoulder to shoulder but I loved it. I was only there about 5 minutes and then I heard the horn. The race started! I could not believe it was time: I was running a 25K! Months of training and preparing led to this very moment. I frantically looked in the crowd on my right side, wishing I would see Derek one last time to null the rest of my nerves: he was there. Yes. I smiled and started moving forward with the crowd. There was no turning back now.
We started off slowly because of the large crowd of runners. I knew it was easy to make up for the time. I was taking in the moment of starting this race. Like a sea of fish, I followed the crowd. The first mile was a slow one with all the people. They had portable toilets and runners were rushing towards them. "This is why I always go to the restroom before a race!" I thought to myself. My goals were this: Do NOT stop, do NOT trip, do NOT use the restroom; that would be considered stopping and I was not going to do that. Easy enough, right?
I was pacing at 8:00 minutes my first couple miles. My breathing was fine and I felt good. I knew not to go any faster. I kept thinking in my head, you are running to see Derek. This is what kept me going the first half of the race. I knew he would be waiting at the halfway point so it was something to really look forward to. I had raisins with me along with jelly beans. I did not take them until mile 4. I took two raisins and two jelly beans. I figured I would do that every 3-4 miles. I also took a sip of water at mile 4. Soon enough we were approaching mile 7. With my iPod in, I started to hear this noise from the distance. I took out my earbuds. It was cheering. YES! The halfway point. This was a big spectator spot where Derek would be watching for me. I turned off my music and savored the sounds. Applause, cheering, music. Then I saw the crowd. It was nothing I have never experienced before. Tons and tons of people with signs, horns, bells, you name it!
I smiled and started saying a silent thank you to the people cheering. I was given thumbs up, "good job," "go Boston!" (because of my shirt). There were little kids in front sticking out their hands for high fives. I ran over to them and gave them all high fives. I was loving this! Then I heard a, "RACHAEL" I looked and there was Derek! For 2 seconds I got to see him! There he was yelling and cheering me on, camera in hand. I was ecstatic. This was the best feeling. Within a couple minutes it was all over and we were out of the cheering crowd. It was silent and we were at the turning point to head back into downtown.
At the halfway point, I was so happy and feeling great
The mood from the runners suddenly changed. It was dead quiet. All I could hear was hard breathing and shoes hitting pavement. Approaching mile 9, runners started to drop to the side of the road and bend over in pain, grabbing their legs. Uh oh. So many were stopping to walk and catch their breath. This is when I started praying. Please do not let me stop. I was feeling good, pacing 8:30 minute miles. This was my goal and I was sticking to it. Just keep it up, you are doing this. You are running back home now. How is your foot? Is your breathing even? Keep your head up, and double check your posture. I was doing my mental checklist.
Coming up to miles 10, 11 and 12, there were hills. I had to slow my pace and concentrate. I kept short strides going up those hills. They were not too bad, I personally love running up hills, but not during a 15 mile run! The mental part of running was really taking over. I cannot do this. No way am I going to finish. My legs hurt. I cannot feel my feet. Why did I think I could do this? The words of doubt were rushing through my thoughts. I had to snap out of it. I told myself these doubting words will not get me to the finish line. Running, no matter what, you always need to have a positive attitude and believe in yourself. You can do this! Only a 5K to go, I can run that in no time. In 30 minutes you will be DONE! And then it hit me. I was right! I am almost there. I cannot stop now. I have come this far and this is the final stretch. So with my bad thoughts thrown away, I had my positive attitude back and kept on running.
There it was. Mile 13. Approaching I could see crowds forming. I was told this is where the adrenaline really kicks in and you feed off the crowd. Well I am good at doing that! My runners high was on and I smiled. I kept saying thank you to the spectators cheering me and every other runner on. I used my headset microphone on my phone and called Derek to let him know I hit the last two miles. This was all a blur. It went so fast!
Then it hit me, hard. My right foot went out and I started limping on it. Severe spasms starting going through my calf and foot. The pain was unbearable. NO! What happened?! What is going on?! I was FINE! My right foot and calf were in excruciating pain and then went numb. Limping, I tried to figure out what went wrong. I started tearing up. This was supposed to be the last two miles where I enjoy this and savor it and take in every second of this race! All I was focusing on was my leg. I have to stop. I cannot run on this, it hurts too much. Then my toes cramped up and shot straight up. Is this why people were stopping around mile 8 and grabbing their legs in pain? Was it because of the cold weather? I do not know. Try to keep focused, I told myself.
I had to stop. I was approaching mile 14 now. Stop with one mile left? I am not a quitter. I was about to call Derek and tell him to come and get me because I have to opt out, I was hurting too much. NO. That competitive voice came into my head. You are NOT stopping. Run until you collapse. Go until you fall. You came this far. Only 9 more minutes and you are done. Do NOT stop. This was it. I won't stop. I do not quit, especially now. My new goal was now this: run until I fall, collapse, or faint. No matter how much you are hurting or crying, you will finish. And I did. I sucked it up and kept on limping. The spams were now in both of my legs and it was torture. I was not able to look around me at the crowds and on-lookers applauding. I was focused on crossing that finish line and receiving that medal. I told God to please carry me home. And he did.
Within minutes, I was rounding up the last and hardest hill. It curved left, then there it was. The finish line. I started tearing up again. To my right I heard my name being called. It was my Mom, sister and Derek waving and cheering me on. I let out a huge smile, fist pump and thumbs up. Come on, just a couple more yards. Then I crossed. I DID IT. Tears swelled up in my eyes. A volunteer handed me a medal and said, Congratulations." I looked at it, smiled and hung it proudly around my neck. This piece of metal is what I have been yearning to receive. I slowly caught my breath and limped to the exit. I was freezing. My lips were blue and I had goosebumps. What did I just put my body through? Answer: The most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
Just feet away from the finish line. I had enough energy to give a fist pump to my family
I grabbed a banana, watermelon slice, and water from the tent. I needed potassium and water in me. I then left the tent area and started walking to find my family. I was in a daze. Mentally, I was still in the race. I could barely walk. Thankfully my Uncle, Aunt, Mom, Sister and Derek found me. I got wrapped in two jackets and my Aunt started massaging my calves to help get rid of the spasm knots. I just stood there realizing what I just did. I let out a huge sigh of relief and smiled. I did it. I ran 15.53 miles and finished. I was OK. I never stopped running. I never quit. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. I DID IT and FINISHED!
A big smile and thumbs up: the final stretch!
I warmed up a bit and my calves started to feel slightly better from the massage. I would still get random spasms, while walking, which lasted the rest of the day. We celebrated by going out to lunch and then home. I was ready to nap, ice my knees, and not walk! I took a good week and a half off from running after that. I wanted to make sure my legs and feet were recovered, especially from my foot sprain a few months back. Then I was back into it. This sport is something I always want to have. All the training, eating, running, sweat, mental, physical, emotional, bad days, good days, tired days, is ALL worth it.
After the race with my medal and flowers from Derek
I have never had such a feeling of self worth before. I am so proud of myself with how far I have come. I conquered something that I thought a year ago I never imagined I could do. I remember watching the 25K runners and saying to Derek, I could never do that. Well, I proved myself wrong and DID do that. I am a more confident person since I started running and I am proud to officially call myself a runner. I was very pleased with my stats, especially for running much slower the last couple miles because of my legs. This is a lifestyle that is emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging. I love every second of it. It truly shows, if you work hard, train harder, never give up, and love what you do, ANYTHING is possible.
Now one of my most prized possessions: My Medal