Getting Back on the Horse

My fearless GOTR outfit.
The weeks leading up to race day were not fantastic. I had a solid long run at the end of August, and then things started to unravel. Too much work and some craziness in my personal life led to more mornings of sleeping in then getting up to run, and a lot of very late nights of work. But I did still get in some OK miles, ending with a 21 mile training run 3 weeks ago. As my good friend, who is also a running coach, tried to remind me "you can't cram for the test; best to go in undertrained that get injured ... again."

As race day approached, to help give purpose to my run, I decided to launch a small fundraiser for an organization that I am passionate about—Girls on the Run (specifically the Portland Metro council). GOTR's mission is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. GOTR envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. The program is designed for 3rd–8th grade girls. This is a critical time in a girl's life, and it is very common for girls to lose their confidence and voice at this age. This program brings them together with other girls their age, and adult female mentors, to teach them life skills through a running-based curriculum. The girls learn how to process and manage their feelings, how to work together, and other essential skills to navigate their worlds, while also establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. I truly wish I had had the opportunity to be involved in a program
Almost time to go.
like GOTR when I was kid, as I think it could have had a pretty dramatic effect on the course of my life.

My goal was to raise at least $500 for GOTR, and if I did, I promised to run the marathon in a pink GOTR cape. Friends and family were kind enough donate and help me meet my goal. The fundraiser was a nice benefit for GOTR, but the bigger benefit was to me. It got me really thinking deeply about the mission of the organization, specifically, the key words in the mission statement—healthy, joyful, confident. If I'm going to continue to be a part of an organization that is working to teach these life skills to girls, shouldn't I embody them myself?

And that's when another gear clicked in to place in my brain. The important part of the race wasn't a certain finish time, or place, or even to finish. The importance of the race was to be healthy enough to start, to be confident enough to try, and to run with joy—regardless of pace.

As I got ready the night before, the motions of race prep felt awkward and unfamiliar. What should I wear? Do I need a throw away shirt? Will I be too warm, too cold? How much food do I need to carry
Raising awareness for GOTR!
with me? How much should I eat before the race? How does one run in a cape? When I learned that there was a chance of rain, I spent an hour looking for my black Icebreaker wool shirt that I apparently gave to a friend 5 years ago.

In due time, an adequate outfit for the weather was put together (weather forecast: low of 46, high of 52, foggy until 11 a.m., possible rain starting at 10 a.m.). Compression socks to help prevent calf cramps, a black skirt and black tank, black arms sleeves with thumb loops and attached mittens, a lightweight Nathan vest for Gu, my phone, and other essentials. I went to bed early enough to get a decent night's sleep, despite having to set my alarm for 5 a.m.

Soon enough it was time to get up, eat, and head to the start line. By the time I arrived and got into the porta-potty line (always a pre-race classic!), I was starting to get back in the groove. As we got ready to run, I couldn't help but feel so grateful that I could be here. That after multiple breaks, and tendon issues, and iron issues, and personal life issues, that I was able to stand on this starting line. There have been a lot of dark times over the past few years where I truly believed that long distance running for me might be a thing of the past. And standing here today, I was hopeful that it wasn't. In that moment, I was willing to accept whatever came my way out of this day. Worst case, I had my phone, cash, and a credit card, and I could Uber my way home.
Running with Dana—all smiles!

I started conservatively, tucked in behind the 4:30 pace group, figuring I would much rather go out too slow than too fast. Right off the bat I got smiles and cheers for the cape. Hollers of "go super girl!" or "go wonder woman!" were common. Each time it brought a smile to my face. Several people came up and asked me to tell them about GOTR. After a few miles I sped up a teensy bit. My goal was to stay at an easy pace for least 20 miles. If I had anything left at that point I would try to speed up a bit.

The miles came and went with relative ease. My right calf has been bothering me for months, and I tweaked my right hamstring last week tripping on a root in Forest Park, but they didn't seem to be getting any worse as the miles wore on.

Dana made a portable sign!
I chatted with a few different groups. I gave kids high fives. I pumped my fist in the air when people yelled out "go Girls on the Run." I thanked volunteers and spectators, and the police for being out on the course. I cheered heartily for the front runners. I ran with joy and gratitude.

My friend Dana surprised me somewhere around mile 12 or so, and ran with me for 2 or 3 miles. It was a wonderful surprise and perfectly timed, as while we were chatting we passed right through the halfway point. And I have to admit, it felt GOOD to be past the halfway point.

Somewhere around 17 to 18 things started to get harder. My right hamstring started talking to me a bit, and of all the weird issues to have, my right shin started to cramp (how is it possible that your shins can cramp?). My old nemesis, calf cramps, tried to crop up around mile 23, but I wasn't having it. At one point I yelled at my calves not to cramp and got a pretty funny look from a fellow runner. By mile 24 my left foot (the one that routinely breaks) was screaming at me, but it didn't feel like the "I'm about to break" type of pain, so I just tried to ignore it, knowing I only had
two miles to go.

I was absolutely elated to cross the finish line. 26.2 done. Almost exactly 10 years after finishing my first marathon, the Portland Marathon 2008, I finally got this monkey off my back and crossed another finish line. And the best part, is that I really felt like I embodied the GOTR mission for the whole race—joyful, healthy, confident.

If you still want to make a donation to GOTR but haven't had a chance to do so yet, go here and make sure to enter "Mia is Fearless" in the notes field so that the donation gets attributed to this fundraiser.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who donated, and everyone who has encouraged me to keep trying. I'm so very grateful to have had this day.


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