The day it all fell into place

So I completed the half marathon. It wasn’t pretty. It was one of the worst runs of my life actually; but crossing that line made everything else that I had been working on, click into place.

For those that are just discovering my blog, here’s a bit of a back story behind why I set this goal, and also why I started my blog. I hit the lowest and darkest point in my life after 3 miscarriages and my partner at the time walking out on me and taking our daughter. Everything that I loved in my life, I lost. I felt like my life as I knew it, was over.

It was at this point where I felt this burning desire inside me to run. I used to be a runner and had let myself go and wasn’t exercising at all. I set myself the goal of doing the Gold Coast half marathon. That was 10 months away and my first “training” session was a 10 minute walk that almost resulted in a panic attack and needing to get back into the house as soon as possible.

Fast forward 10 months. I’d run over 700 kilometers in training sessions. I’d had shitty news from my Physio only a month out from race day that I had a tear in my glute and needed 6 weeks rest, and the week leading up to the race I had a huge emotional break down. But one thing that didn’t happen, is that I never gave up. Not once did it cross my mind to not be on that starting line and give it my all. Not once did I lose track of my goals. I certainly had to adjust them a few times to accommodate a few road blocks, but I was always going to do whatever it took to cross that line.

Because it had been a gruelling journey just to get to the start line, the week leading up to the race was always going to be emotional. I thought it was bad at the start of the week when fear and self doubt set in, but the worst happened when I started to look at the positives of how far I had come. I was so over come with pride, it was over whelming. Only 3 days before the race, I tried to go for a 45 minute run; I lasted 4 minutes before literally having a break down on the side of the road.

Things weren’t looking pretty, but I knew it was coming. I knew that the last week was always going to be tough and that it would bring up a huge amount of emotions that needed to be released.

By Saturday I was feeling good. I was ready. I had a few moments of panic over stupid things that really didn’t matter, like the fact it was raining and I was worried that I wouldn’t be warm enough wearing just a sports bra and I should rush out and buy a singlet. As if that was going to make a difference. But I could step back and recognise that this was just nerves, and I’ve always seen having nerves as a good thing. It means you care about what is going to happen.

I woke up Sunday morning, everything went smoothly. Getting dressed and putting my racing bib on I felt calm and focused. I got dropped off about 1 kilometer from the starting point and did a slow jog to warm up. I felt strong and mentally ready.

Waiting around for an hour before the race actually begins is tough. The atmosphere is bouncing with nerves and excitement and it’s hard to not lose a lot of energy getting wrapped up in it. There was a few moments of thinking “I should have done this or that.” “Why didn’t I train this way instead of that way.” Panic and fear that tries to steal your thunder. But standing in the crowd ready to run, I remember taking a deep breath and thinking “You’re ready. You’ve done everything you possibly could. Enjoy the moment, it’s yours.” I felt a huge sense of relief and clarity. I knew in that moment, that I had come to a full acceptance that whatever happened after that gun went off, that I was proud of what I had already achieved.

I started off at a blistering pace. I hate starting off fast but again it’s hard to not get wrapped up in the energy around you. The first 13 kilometers I was sitting around the 4:30 – 4:40 pace so I was 100% confident that I was going to absolutely smash my goal of sub 1 hour 45 minutes. Then things started to go wrong. I had felt a tiny niggle around my hip at the 9 km mark but it went away so I ignored it. At 13 km the pain started. It was a deep throbbing pain that started in the one area where my injury was, and slowly started to spread across my back and down my right leg.

My physio had told me that if I can run through the throbbing pain then that was ok, but if I felt any sharp, stinging pains I was to pull out immediately. Panic set in big time. I knew there was still a long 8 km to go and with every step the pain was spreading.

At 15km I stopped to spew. I’d had a full protein shake instead of my normal half because I knew it was such a long wait before the race started – lesson learnt, stick to what you normally do before a race. It probably didn’t help either that I was getting myself into such a high state of panic thinking I wasn’t going to hit my goal time.

By 19 km I had stopped probably 5 times to try and stretch, and had to walk for a few hundred meters. My hip had completely seized up and I was basically dragging my leg and walking sideways. Then the tears started as I looked at my watch and saw the time click over to 1 hour 45 minutes. I felt like I had failed.

I’m finding it hard to find the words to describe what happened over the next few minutes. It felt like hours were passing. I was at a cross roads. Do I walk away? Do I keep pushing?

There was a million thoughts racing through my head and all I wanted to do was scream at them to shut up. I just wanted a moments peace. I just wanted the pain to stop. I just wanted it all to be over.

It was having that last thought that clicked me back into gear. I had worked tirelessly for 10 months to get to this point and in 2 short kilometres, it would be over and this was my moment to reap the rewards for all that hard work. I started a slow jog again and started to take in the crowds. The last kilometer the streets are lined with supporters and the atmosphere is amazing and something that words could never describe.

By this stage the pain was so intense it was taking my breath away and the tears were flowing freely. I was doing a weird shuffle run and my leg kept giving out on me. The crowd picked up on this and suddenly I was hearing constant shouts of “come on Jess you’ve got this, don’t give up.” It was incredibly overwhelming and humbling and an experience that I’ll never forget.

As I turned the last corner I saw the finish line and panicked a bit as I thought I’d missed seeing my family. Then I heard my Mum scream “Go Jessica.” I turned and saw them and felt the most immense amount of pride and accomplishment. I waved my hands and gave them a fist pump. Then I focused on the finish line and crossed in 2 hours and 1 minute.

This was it. I’d done it. I’d battled the most horrific traumas and overcome so many bumps in the road and I never gave up. The last 10 meters I kissed my neck lace that Mum gave me after my first miscarriage. I looked at the sky and thought about my 3 angel babies that I lost and I cried. Oh man did I cry. As I crossed the line it all came out. My legs finally gave way as well and I hit the deck. I don’t know how long I sat on the ground and cried but it felt like an eternity. The emotional release was intense and all part of the process.

I finally stood up and started taking it all in. It was breath taking. The other runners were a mix of pure raw emotion like myself, and also crazy with excitement and sense of achievement.

Seeing my niece and daughter coming up to me was another huge moment. I grabbed them for dear life and cried again so with so much pride. Lexi is only 3 so she really didn’t understand what was going on, but I remember crouching down and holding her at arms length and I could tell in her eyes that she knew this moment was huge but that she didn’t fully comprehend what was happening. She was fascinated with my medal and wanted to wear it which again made my heart bust with pride.

It’s been 4 days since the race as I sit here and write this and I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it all.

I look at the person I was when I started this journey and I barely recognise her. I’ve spent endless hours in therapy working through everything I have spent 35 years bottling up. I’ve looked deep within myself to find out who I really am and who I want to be. I’ve embraced what I used to see as flaws within myself and now see them as parts of me that I love. I’ve accepted who I am and have grown to love this person.

Moving forward I know my journey isn’t over. I will continue to grow and learn more about myself. I will have bad days and relapses into bad habits that I used to have. But I now know that I can handle whatever life throws at me and that is an empowering feeling.

So while I completed the half marathon in probably the ugliest way possible, all that matters is that I crossed that line and achieved my goal. And the most incredible part of it all, was the journey I took to get there. The transformations I made to grow and heal myself. The person I discovered inside myself that I had been hiding all these years. The friendships I’ve made since starting my blog and sharing my story. It’s all of those things that matter most, not the actual run.

The journey of 21.1 kilometers will last a lifetime and I will always look back on that moment as one of the greatest achievements of my life.