Rising before the sun is no easy task. Rising before the sun to run 13.1 miles when I haven’t laced up my running shoes in about a month seemed nearly impossible.
Regardless, I stumbled out of bed before 6 a.m. Sunday to head downtown and participate in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Half Marathon — and despite my inner feeling of dread when I headed to my corral, I have no regrets.
For those who missed the race and the more than 15,000 finishers, check out my top five moments from running the Columbus half:
1. The start
I began in corral B, and was part of the third wave of runners. From my spot on High Street waiting to turn onto East Broad Street, where the starting line was, I participated in two countdowns and saw two explosions of fireworks at the starting line from afar. At the time, I thought the fireworks were over-the-top, too showy.
But when it was finally my turn to inch up to the line, I appreciated the pizzazz. The energy at the start was incredible as everyone counted down from 10 together, and the fireworks upped the excitement in the atmosphere. I’ve run in races that were kicked off by cannon fire, but this was easily the coolest start to a race I’ve been a part of.
2. The signs
Supporters were out in full force, lining nearly the entire 13.1 mile course. Most were yelling, ringing cow bells, offering high-fives, but many also had witty signs, which offered a bit of comic relief to the never-ending stretch of pavement ahead. A few of my favorites read:
“You’re running better than the government”
“You trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage”
“If this race was easy they’d call it your mother”
“I bet this seemed like a great idea four months ago”
“I don’t know you, but I am proud of you”
3. Morgan’s Dad
Of the 26 total miles in the full marathon course, which split off from the half marathon course at Mile 13, 24 were “Miracle Miles.” This means they were dedicated to a “Patient Champion,” a current patient of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The patients were at the race, cheering on participants and offering high-fives to runners as they passed.
Around Mile 4, I was running through Bexley when I noticed a man wearing a shirt that read “Proud Dad” on the back. With it was a dedication to his daughter, Morgan, whose “Miracle Mile” was Mile 10. Many people were running the race in shirts dedicated to other people or causes, but Morgan’s dad stood out to me.
When I reached Mile 10 and saw Morgan Hood’s smiling face, I couldn’t help but think back to seeing her father, who I later learned is named Derek Hood, running for his daughter, who was diagnosed with a stomach condition called gastroparesis while she was in high school. That’s what the race was all about for so many people and it was such a touching moment.
4. The Angel Mile
If keeping my emotions in check was hard throughout any point in the race — when my knees began to ache, my feet started burning or I was touched by a Patient Champion’s story — it was nearly impossible to keep my wits about me in Mile 12: the “Angel Mile.” On Nationwide Childrens’ website, the Angel Mile page reads, “When you run through the Angel Mile, run for those kids who have passed, and be inspired to live every day to the fullest in honor of those who have already finished their race.” The mile was lined with families holding signs dedicated to their lost loved ones: photos of children and messages celebrating their lives.
Since the mile was right at the end of the half marathon course, seeing the smiling faces of these children and the people who loved them was exactly the encouragement I needed to push myself up the incline of High Street to the finish. In that mile, I wasn’t focused on my aching knees or tired arms. I was running for the angels who couldn’t.
5. The homestretch
I’ve been competing in races since I was about 13 years old. Two-mile middle school cross country races were less exciting than eventual high school cross country 5Ks and other various road races I’ve competed in over the last nine years. However, there’s something all of these races have in common: the incredible adrenaline rush seeing the finish line brings.
While this is true of every race, nothing compares to the final .1 mile of this race. Running down the hill on Nationwide Boulevard as hundreds of spectators cheered, lining the sidelines, I felt more powerful than any other race has ever made me feel. While I had been struggling to get up the hill on High Street, somehow turning the corner onto Nationwide gave me the ability to fly. With a smile spread wide across my face, I raced down the hill as if I could run another 13.1 miles. Only a few runs in my memory have taken me to such a place of bliss.