6 Tunnels is trail with a combination of hills and turns. Not a PR course, by any stretch of the imagination. It was to be my first Half Marathon race since the Vegas Half.
Then, the unthinkable happened. One of our beloved family pets became gravely ill, suddenly. I spent my days and often sleepless nights taking care of her. Every ounce of my energy was spent taking care of her medical needs.
I knew my body could run a Half Marathon, but my mind could not. I decided to withdraw from the Half Marathon. My kids were so disappointed, as they love to accompany me on race day and be part of the day. So, I decided to run the 5K instead. That way, I could have a race for my kids to enjoy. I could handle a 5K, I thought.
As the days wore on, the painful decision was made to put our beloved Ladybug to rest. That day came on 3/11/11 (the day before the 6 Tunnels race). She quietly passed away in my husband’s arms while I stroked her head and sent her on her eternal journey. One of the worst days of our lives.
Prior to her passing, my kids made me “promise” (to Ladybug) I would still run the 6 Tunnels. You know how it is mom, you promise anything to your kids, right?
On the day she passed away, I couldn’t even comprehend putting on my running shoes, let alone running a race. But, my husband reminded me “you promised her”. Therefore, I had no choice. My only intent was to run the race, finish and honor her memory. She fought her disease until the end, I could only hope to be as brave and strong as she was, during my 5K race.
I prepared the night before, as I do any other race. With one exception – I physically could barely move. To even stretch out was so physically painful and the emotions that was over taking my body.
My youngest (10 yrs old) drew me a picture as I was packing up for the race -
I went to bed very early in the hopes I could get a few hours of sleep. Something I had been lacking for weeks, as Ladybug needed constant care during the night.
When I awoke – my body was so sore. I just threw up my arms and said, “oh well, this is another run. I can only do so much!”
We arrived at 6 Tunnels and was immediately greeted to the sounds of a Bag Pipe. It was very peaceful and comforting (although that was not the event organizers intent, I am sure)
Here is the race crowd (well, part of the crowd). MUCH larger crowd than I had seen since the Vegas Half. Saw some familiar faces and running friends.About 900-1000 racers.
Then…it hit me, like a SLAP in the face. The tears started. Actually, it was more like sobs.
I thought to myself, “okay babygirl (Ladybug), it’s showtime. This is for you! Run with me, get me to the finish line. I don’t care how long it takes me”
My waiting time consisted of receiving a few dozen text messages from friends/fellow runners. I can't even begin to tell you how much I appreciated each and every text. Thank you, to you all!
As I made my way to the Start Line, I suddenly felt very, VERY alone. Watching people cheer and holler, my heart felt so empty. I had just lost the sparkle of my life, less than 24 hours ago and here I was about to run a race.
Gun goes off and my legs started to move.
At the half mile mark, I looked at my Garmin and saw the pace. 7:52
I laughed (in my mind) “oh yea, RIGHT! They said the Garmin’s don’t often work correctly, this must be one of those times hahahaha"
Feeling a slight tightness in my chest, I went into my deep breathing. At this point, I was running at a 8:30ish pace (still unheard of, FOR ME)
Ran through one of the tunnels and then the turn around
I felt a kept a steady pace through mile 2 and around 2.5, something kicked in. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t hurting and I focused on the runners before me and ran. I turned the corner and saw my boys holding up Ladybug’s favorite ball and rooting me on. The best inspiration of them all!
The Finish Line zoomed up on me and I literally ran right into the arms of my sons. I broke down and cried and said, “I did the best I could do, I am sorry if it isn’t what you expected. I gave it my all”
As I sat in one of our fold out chairs, my youngest reminded me “you finished, and you finished GOOD. I know you did. Remember, all you wanted was to finish good”
Here I am with my Finisher Medal, holding onto Ladybug’s favorite ball (can you tell I had been crying?)
Confident that I MAYBE ran my typical time of 27-28 minutes (afterall, this was a TRAIL, not pavement). In my mind, I felt I ran more of a 29:00. My body could only do so much today and I had to accept that.
We waited around, chatted with runners, ate some snacks and then the times were posted. I casually walked over there and looked at the list. I immediately started at 28. Didn’t see my name anywhere. Then, I went to 29 & 30. Nope, not there either. Okay…let’s do 27….not there, either.
Then, someone who knew me said, “LOOK Charlene! You did a 26:35!!! You broke 27”
WHAT? HUH? Okay, you read that incorrectly!
I found my name and there it was 26:35
I RAN back to my boys and we had a mini-celebration. My previous PR was 27:50ish and that was on pavement about a month ago.
My moments of feeling so alone, were now gone, I had something to celebrate!
As I was packing up my bag, my kids said, “WAIT! Let’s see if you get an award!”
I chuckled and said, “not this time, honey. These racers are pretty fast. I PR’d – there is nothing more I can ask for!”
But, they convinced me to stick around and wait.
They announced the Women's Age Division (45-49)
Third Place – not me
Second Place – it was me!
I picked up my plaque and said, “we did it Ladybug, we did it!” (more tears)
Here is a picture of me with the Medal, Award and Ladybug’s tennis ball
Ladybug’s tennis ball? That will go with me to every race for the rest of the year….I think we make a good running team.
Live and Run Strong,
Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Half-Marathoner, Business Blogger, Public Speaker & Hosts IMPACT Radio Channel
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