Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Being Proud of Myself

Three and a half weeks ago I finished a half-marathon. My post on the day of the race didn't have a lot of fanfare or excitement in it. I didn't want to go into the details of the race at that time because it was a pretty disappointing experience and very difficult for me to talk about. BUT now that the disappointment is fading I am finally able to look back at the whole picture and be proud of myself. I walked 13.1 miles!!! Dang! That's pretty impressive! I worked my butt off to achieve that and I will not let the last 17 minutes of the race overshadow the huge goal I reached. I AM proud. I totally rock! Let me back up.... I want to share with you an email that I sent to the race director about my experience in the last mile of the race. I wasn't going to write about it here, but now that the emotions have worn off some, I feel it's important for me to have a record of my own thoughts on race day -- this is not meant to bash the race or the organizers -- it's meant to be a snapshot of that point in my life when I accomplished a goal I set out to achieve. -------------------- Everything was great on Sunday during the race. Our group was making good time and we all felt strong and healthy as we walked hill after hill after hill. The entertainment was fun and we all especially loved the elementary school kids who were out rooting us on with homemade noise makers, signs and cheering at one of the entertainment points. When I hit the 10 mile mark I realized I had already beat my Crim time by 7 minutes, so we were making good time! All was good until we hit the 12-mile mark....I want to share with you my disappointing experience in the last mile of the race. I am a walker and my training group and several other walkers were at the back of the race. In my sight line there were about 15 walkers and we stayed within a few blocks of each other throughout the last half of the race. There were more walkers up ahead, but they eventually pulled ahead far enough that they were out of our sight around mile 10 or so. We were spread out in small groups of 2 or 4, but we could all see each other in front of or behind us for the last several miles of the race. After looking at the time stats online last night, I realize now that there were another 4 walkers about 3 minutes behind us somewhere that I didn't see and I'm sorry I didn't wait for them at the finish line to cheer them on. Just after the 12-mile marker on Adams Road a police officer drove up alongside us and asked that we move off the street and use the sidewalk. It was about 11:45 a.m., I think, so we were surprised they wanted us off the road so early. (I later found out that roads should have been kept open until noon.) As soon as we were cleared from the road they opened up traffic flow and we were on our own. About 11 of the walkers in front of us got across Adams before it was opened up to traffic. But 4 of us got caught at the light and had to wait for traffic to pass. We stood at the Adams/Walton intersection waiting for the light to change for 2 to 3 minutes - although there were police officers nearby and staffers across the street taking down the arch from the start line, none of them attempted to assist us across the intersection. Once we crossed Walton and headed up the sidewalk onto the campus, our way was blocked by the folks at the Citizens Bank water station who were breaking down equipment. There were boxes and tables spread out across the sidewalk and we had to walk around them and down the hill a bit to get by. Once we turned into the Music Festival entrance we were bombarded with cars and we were not certain which way to go to get to the finish line. There were no signs to direct us, no volunteers to show the way. Luckily other racers were heading to their cars and told us which road to walk on. On this last leg of the race the roads were all open and we had to dodge cars and golf carts coming at us or behind us ... runners who finished early were all walking back to their cars so we had to dodge the foot traffic in our way too ... traffic cones were being removed and we saw people carrying signs that had been taken down already .... our group of 15 racers continued to walked in confusion because we didn't know which way to go. As we approached the finish line there were staffers along the fence taking down signs and the race timing crew was packing up the timer mats (3 originally were set up, 1 was already packed up and the other was being disassembled) so we were confused as to the exact location of the finish line and if we were even still being timed. Once we crossed the finish line there was nothing. The first part of our group of 15 walkers were there to cheer us on and there were 2 volunteers to hand out medals. Otherwise it was virtually deserted in the circle in front of the mansion. There was no water, no fruit, no hotdogs ... everything had been packed up and tables were being broken down and carried away. One of our walkers had injured her leg in the last mile of the race, but we didn't see any medical staff around to look at it. So we just headed back to get to our cars to leave. As we were walking through the arch and to the parking lot we saw that the band was still playing in the far lot and we went out to listen.... but as soon as the song they were singing finished, they said good bye and started packing up too. The tears I shed at the finish line weren't because I was proud of myself and happy for my accomplishment or the achievements of the rest of my training group. It was because I felt demoralized over the last mile of the race. I felt like because we walked "too slow" and finished at the back of the race that we didn't matter anymore. The end of the race was more of an obstacle course than a real race course with a clearly marked finish. It felt like we weren't important enough to be included in any type of celebration at the finish line and even though we had just walked 13 miles, we didn't even rate high enough for a bottle of water. It was a pretty somber finish line experience for all of us. After 20 weeks of training for this race, I'm sad that we had to finish the last mile like we did. I know that all this was just a result of the first year race learning experience and that details like this will be fixed in coming years. I know we were not slighted on purpose and it wasn't intentional in any way. I just want to make sure that you are aware of the situation so that next year the walkers who finish last feel just as special as the runners who finish first.


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