Annapolis Challenge Athletes reflect on their journey
On June 2nd, the Muscle Milk Light Half Marathon Challenge Athletes, powered by ZOOMA and Baltimore Washington Medical Center, crossed their very first half marathon finish line in Annapolis. As the participants recalled their journeys to becoming half marathoners, they all had one thing on their minds during the race… crossing the finish line.
Like many new moms, Challenge Athlete LaToya was drawn to running to find herself again. Running quickly became her escape. Yet, despite becoming involved with Black Girls Run!, she hesitated to sign up for a half marathon because she felt as though she did not “look the part of the runner.” After crossing the finish line of ZOOMA Annapolis, LaToya noted, “From the first training run, to the course preview, to crossing that finish line, my confidence flew from 0-100. No, I still don’t look the part of runner, nor am I at my old weight, but this is the happiest I’ve been in years. Crossing that finish gave me a feeling that I can take on the world. I learned that not every day will be perfect, but with hard work and dedication, I can accomplish anything. Running my first half- marathon has been truly a life changing experience- yes, just one more to add to the list. I have a new found sense of courage, strength, and confidence to not get the “old me” back, but just be the best me. My running journey is really just beginning, and I welcome racing at all distances. My focus has now shifted from a weight goal to a lifestyle change. For me it’s all about just getting out there, finishing strong, setting an example for my kids, and most importantly having fun.” It sounds to me like she found herself!
Challenge Athlete Sarah Joy compared her half marathon journey to the birth of her daughter. Sarah Joy joked, “I knew race day would inevitably come. I knew I would have to somehow make it through 13.1 miles of hills and brutally humid heat. Although dramatic, the two were nearly identical in my head. I adopted the same birthing strategy for the race as I had last year with my baby: denial. The day would come, worry or no worries, so I decided to just try not to think about it.”
During the race, she confessed to tears and worrying about how she would make it across the finish line. How did she make it through you might ask? She had the support of her best friends, her husband, and Lara, the ZOOMA Challenge running coach. Sarah Joy recalled, “I’d nearly finished the race, and accomplishing this feat was made possible because of the amazing people in my life that I did nothing to deserve. As I dried my eyes and pressed on, I hear a loud shriek, ‘I’ve been looking for that PINK SKIRT all day!’ It’s my little, red-headed, bursting-with-life running coach, sprinting her way towards me, ready to run the rest of the race with me. She kept me company until I crossed the finish line. That’s right. I did actually cross that line. I did finish. Despite nearly blacking out, despite the tears and the fear and anxiety, despite my turtle pace and walk breaks, despite the heat and hills… I crossed the finish line. I hope I never take the things or people in my life for granted. This entire experience was such a huge reminder of all the things I’ve been blessed with. I hope I never forget that. And I hope I never stop running.”
After receiving a diagnosis of insulin resistance last June, Challenge Athlete Tracey made a huge life change; she started to run. After one year, a 5k race, and a weight loss of 85 pounds, Tracey tackled 13.1 miles. Tracey reflected, “I had to walk a majority of the course because of the heat, but the entire time I just kept thinking of the finish line. Also, I kept thinking that when I crossed the finish line, I would have completed my first half marathon. Then I hit the mile 10 marker, and started crying because it started become real. I couldn’t believe that I was about to finish a half. At the 11-mile marker, my mood completely changed from excitement to an overwhelming sense of wanting to give up. My body was tired, hot, and hurt all over. It was also at those 11 miles that some of those who watched me go through the challenge program came to my aid to support me in those final miles heading into the finish line. I feel if it was not for the support, I would have never been able to finish. When I crossed the finish line, I felt this overwhelming sense of love, support, and accomplishment. I could not believe at the end I found two cheering squads for me, and one of my favorite songs playing at the end. I started crying. I felt like I had just conquered the world.”
More than a week after the race, Challenge Athlete Mary confessed that she is still beaming with pride about crossing the finish line and even wore her PR medal to work! Mary described herself as, “a runner with heart, with dedication, who has inspired her friends to get up off the couch. I am out there for all the ‘regular’ girls whom the world so easily at times overlooks. All of this was what I was thinking about on the course that day. It was brutally hot and much hillier than I ever expected. I kept thinking about all my friends and family who had encouraged me. I did not want to let them down.”
After crossing the finish Mary explained, “It is a sense of accomplishment I will carry with me for the rest of my life. No matter how many future half marathons I may end up doing, there will be nothing like that first-time knowledge of yes, I CAN do this and I DID do this!” After crossing her first half finish line, Mary has learned the power of running as she noted, “I continue to hear feedback from people who say they drew inspiration from me, and the odd thing is, is that it works both ways. Knowing that I might play a small part in helping someone stretch his or her boundaries is what inspires me.”
So, to those of you considering running a half marathon, just sign up. While the journey may not be easy, you will relish in the moment you cross the finish line. As these ZOOMA Challenge participants can attest, there is no feeling quite like it.
A huge thank you to Annapolis Race Ambassador and Athlete Mentor Lisa for providing this recap! Through her blog, Lisa Runs for Cupcakes, Lisa encourages and inspires others to get moving and shares how she combines her passion for running with raising funds and awareness for military non-profit organizations like, Team Red, White, and Blue, and Team Fisher House.