Finishing the Runners World Half Marathon with a Smile

by Elena on October 23, 2012 in Fitness

It was a bright and beautiful morning. The pre-sunrise sky gave way to a sea of blue.  It was one of those mornings that made you think anything was possible.

The inaugural Runners World Half Marathon was, after eleven years of running starts and stops, a personal “reboot” in my running life.  My goals for the race were simple. Combine a steady run/walk effort with a dose of mental toughness so that I could finish the half marathon with a smile, knowing that this was just the beginning. I was ready.

Except that it was not that easy. Although the words of the inspirational Matt Long echoed in my mind pushing me on with “I can. I will.” I found myself in trouble by mile 3.  My foot numbness that I thought I had planned for started earlier than usual.  Stopping to take my shoes off to stretch my feet I was immediately approached by Rick, a kind course volunteer that wanted to see if I was alright. Thinking that this was just part of the game I would have to play with my feet, stopping, stretching, and going on, I explained that this was just part of my current running reality. Except that as I put my shoes back on a few minutes later and noticed the numbness getting worse instead of better, my heart began to sink and my head went to a very dark place of doubt.

Mile 4 of the Runners World Half Marathon | Ciao Mom

I have never been a quitter.

Quitting is just not something that I accept, now or ever.  Except that there is a fine line between quitting because you are tired or not prepared to fight the mental fight and quitting because continuing would be medically unsafe.  As my feet felt more and more numb, for the first time in my eleven years, I wondered if finishing the Runners World Half marathon was actually a bad medical idea.  I stopped to take my shoes off again at mile 4, and this time was asked by thoughtful and caring runners if I was ok.  Through my tears, I said that I was. Which of course was a lie. Because beyond the physical numbness, I had allowed my brain and my heart to stop believing the “I can” that I had started off with.

My mind was full of scenarios. The idea of driving home for four hours, knowing that I had not finished, would be torturous.  The feelings of insecurity that would come from participating in the Runners World Half Marathon as a FitFluential blogger, after meeting so many editors and inspirational runners would weigh me down in a way unlike anything else. The tears propelled me to keep going, but the doubt was like an erupting volcano.  Spectators on the sides of the road cheered me on as I tried hiding the tears behind my sun glasses.  But I kept going. I contemplated calling my parents and asking them what I should do. I texted my doubt to my husband, my friends, posted to instagram, and to twitter.

But I kept going.

Eventually mile 4 became mile 6. The doubt still there, the tears still there as I heard shouts of “You’ve got this! Keep it up!” But,  I was still moving.

Somehow, mile 6 became mile 8.  I have only vague memories of my thoughts during those two miles. My focus was on the runners around me. My focus was on my watch, keeping track of my run/walk schedule.  My focus was on the hills that lay underfoot.

And then it happened. My doubt was gone. My tears were gone. My legs felt strong and I found myself smiling. And singing….as in out loud.

I started passing people. Catching up the runners that had passed me when I was stopped at mile 4.

Suddenly, the echo of “I can” and “I will” was back…and I actually believed.

Saying I can at the Runners World Half Marathon | Ciao Mom

At mile 11 I was met by a friendly face, who ran with me back across the river, with supportive encouragement and friendship.  Ashley’s smile and belief in me made the tingle that I was starting to feel again in my feet seem like nothing more than a nuisance.

With two miles left to go, I found just the right songs on my playlist, and looked ahead.

There was singing. Out loud. My hands moved like drums to the music. I literally don’t think that I have smiled that broadly in a very long time. Maybe it was the infamous “runners high.”  But whatever it was that fueled me in those moments, led me to finish the Runners World Half Marathon feeling proud of myself. Feeling like I had gone to war with my inner demons and won.

Finishing the Runners World Half Marathon | Ciao Mom

 I can. I will. Whether you are going out for a run, or tackling another journey…you just need to believe. What will you say “I can” to today?

Ciao Mom



I participated in the Runners World Half Marathon as a FitFluential Ambassador. Race expenses were provided by Runners World. No other compensation was received.  All opinions are my own.


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jodifur October 23, 2012 at 10:25 am

Amazing. so proud of you.

tracy@sellabitmum October 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

Tears. So proud of you!

Harold October 23, 2012 at 10:30 am

Elena it was so great meeting you in person :-). You can change that mantra from I can, I will to I did and will again. You did a great job telling your story, the difficulties, doubts that made the eventual triumph that much more important to you and us readers! Congratulations on finishing the half-marathon and sharing your experience with us. Here is that picture I took before the Half.

Hopefully the link works :-)

JenniferG October 23, 2012 at 10:32 am

You are a warrior. Don’t ever doubt that. I am thrilled for you! I’m plagued by an IT band injury right now that has been terrifying me. NY is a week and a half away. I’m foam rolling and preparing for the worst… or I WAS until I read this blog. Your spirit and tenacity has inspired me. To quote a great lady that I know “I can. I will. End of story.” :)

Robin October 23, 2012 at 10:36 am

You finished and should be so proud! It was so nice meeting you this weekend and chatting. Enjoy your rest and hopefully you will get your numb foot thing figured out.

Elaine A. October 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

Wow Elena, you are definitely the poster girl for perseverance! You are AMAZING!! Congrats!!

Nicole @ simply nicole October 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

this is such a great story! so happy you finished and you had the determination to keep going. such an inspiration! i’ll be running my first half in philly next month and we keep your story in mind :)

so mad i didn’t meet you this weekend!

Teresa @ Working Traveling Mom October 23, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Well done, Elena! You’re an inspiration to those of us who’ve never run more than a few miles at a time — but hope to run a half next year! I can. I will!

Ashley @ Coffee Cake and Cardio October 23, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Such a wonderful story of pushing through and reaching your goals. You looked awesome and mile 10 and I loved running with you. I am so proud of you!

Amanda @RunToTheFinish October 23, 2012 at 4:46 pm

YEAHH!!! I truly believe that getting out of our heads is the biggest challenge in distance running. congrats on an amazing new achievement and I hope that foot feels better soon

misszippy1 October 23, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Love it, Elena! What a way to push back the demons and finish out. That will only serve to make you that much tougher next go around! Congrats.

Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie October 23, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Way to go Elena!! It was so great meeting you this weekend, you should be so proud of yourself for all that you accomplished!! You’re an inspiration for me as I strive to train for a half marathon eventually!

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