Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Light Half Marathon, Mobile Alabama - January 11, 2015

Over the past year and a half, I had spent more and more time with my friend Seth. I don't know if it was that first trip that we took together where we conquered 6 half marathons in 6 days in 5 states (5 half marathons and a full for him), of the shortly thereafter, but I soon found that I was thirsty to travel the country and run a half marathon in each of the 50 states. Since that first trip, I had completed another 5 states in 5 consecutive days, and had traveled to Utah to run a half marathon with my friend Sarah. I thought for sure that due to financial constraints, that I would be unable to get another state under my belt for at least another year.

But my friend Seth had this ungodly goal of completing 30 full marathons in 30 different states during the calendar year of 2015, and he planned to do his first full marathon of the year on January 11, 2015 at the First Light Marathon and Half in Mobile, Alabama. The biggest obstacle in his path was that airfare to Mobile, Alabama was ridiculously expensive. He planned to make the drive, a trip which would consist of at least  10 hours in a car each way. He asked me and another friend if we wanted to join him, and both of us said no. For me, the thought of spending 20 hours in a car over the course of 72 hours was not appealing at all!

But then my husband suggested that I go afterall. He has been nothing but encouraging through my running journey, and fully supports my goal of hitting half marathons in all 50 US States. At the last minute, I called my friend Seth and told him that I would be joining him afterall.

I think what I liked the most about this race was that although it was a very small race, the crowd support was phenomenal. The race was part of a 2 part double header with The Mississippi Blues marathon and half in Jackson Mississippi, and the double header was this big reunion event for both Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. Having it be the reunion event meant that every turn that I made meant that there were familiar faces of other runners that I had met through these organizations. Seriously, having Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics at a race is like having my own little family at an event, even when I am so far from home.

The half marathon was walker friendly, and because I ran into a dear friend from California who I hadn't seen in over a year, I chose to walk the race with her. We walked through the most gorgeous historic neighborhoods with sweeping flora and canopies made of Spanish Moss (which is incidentally neither Spanish nor a moss), we walked through some relatively beat up commercial neighborhoods, and the most quaint southern family bungalow style neighborhoods. I absolutely loved this course! With each turn in the road, my senses were tickled with new scenery, and I never got bored. And of course, I talked to many people on the course, all while being cautious to not step in a broken section of pavement or trip over a random stray root that had pushed through the blacktop.

At around mile 10, my veteran running friend and I noticed that there were 2 girls who we were leapfrogging with. One of the girls was struggling to finish. She had completed a half marathon years prior, but hadn't trained for this event. We assured the girls that we would help them finish the event and told them that we would stay with them. And we did. I later learned that the girl who was struggling was at her breaking point right before we met up with her, and she was ready to quit. She didn't, because of us. This is why being in the back of the pack is so rewarding sometimes!

Anyway, this was one of my slower races, but I enjoyed every moment of it. I had wonderful company, and I enjoyed each moment. And the icing on top of the cake was that each registration for the event benefited an amazing charity: L'arche Mobile. According to their website, L'Arche is an international federation of communities in which people with intellectual disabilities and those who help them can live, work, and share their lives together. In gratitude for receiving the funds generated through this marathon, members of the L'arche community hand-make all of the finishers medallions. Rather than giving out finishers medals that are commercially designed, manufactured, and mass-produced... each finisher is awarded a finishers medallion that was hand-crafted by someone who the L'arche program supports... and each finisher receives their medallion from a member of the L'arche community. 
I've heard a lot of people complain about the lack of medals and the handmade nature of the finisher medallions, but I wouldn't trade my medallion for anything. It actually ranks up there as one of my top 5 favorite finisher awards. 

Finish time: 3:47:57
OA 685/699

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