My first half marathon run

The first water stop came as a surprise and I didn’t really realize what it was, just a crowd and wet ground and white stuff all over the place, which turned out to be discarded paper cups.

It all had started with a long, chilly wait at Corral K, the last one. “ OK Corral”, “K is for Killers”… the pre-dawn crowd would have done anything to cheer up, and I almost could have hugged anyone at random to stay warm. A few smart people were wearing even black plastic bags to keep the wind out. But the magic of the start line fireworks worked on everyone.

The grogginess vanished in moments at the start line, among a criss-cross of good luck wishes. All of a sudden, the morning turned into a party and I started to notice the paillette tutus, people running with twins in strollers in front of them, with pictures of loved ones, whole country teams, church teams, packs of friends with matching clothes. The mix of ages and body shapes and colors of Corral K made me comfortable. In the run, I didn’t want to rush. I enjoyed the cheerleading with bells from the sides of the road, the shouts, the music, the sun rising over the cruise boats.

The first bridge didn’t look scary. I tried to tune into other runners like as if pulled by an invisible line, then preferred to settle into my own body and pace. I can do this. It even feels great!

Then the water stop coming up. I remembered the advice received from multiple sides — drink, drink at every stop. So I did, a bit annoyed to have to lose the pace but hey, I wasn’t even there to race on time after all. Next, what do to with the cup in my hands now? With literally thousands of cups on the floor I though well, this won’t change much. They must have figured it out. And there it went.

And then I saw something — the runner I had been pacing myself on took a right turn, straight for the bins. We got lost in the crowd. Ah. Well, it’s not like we were running together, it wouldn’t have lasted more than a few hundred meters anyways. But she was right. Just because I’m at a 14,000 people party, why would I do something I’d never do and throw a cup on the ground?

I still drank at every stop, and diligently ate every 5 km as better runners had recommended me to do. I exchanged high fives with the onlookers, and most of all kept going, increasing the pace at every mile as I felt more confident I could indeed finish the full loop. I started running with myself, bouncing on and on at every step, in rhythm with the colors around, the solidarity of a mixed bag of athletes and cancer survivors, people sweating it up and people there supporting a cause, abandoned sweaters everywhere along the way as the day got warmer, and the winter wind, crisp and bright, carrying the movement of the crowd. And I always, always took the time to find the bins to drop my empty cups.