Leading Ladies Half Marathon, August 19, 2012

Just look at the snippet of the course – how could you not enjoy yourself on such beauty? The entire course for the Leading Ladies Half Marathon looked like this – through canyons and rich forest trees (ignore the beetle-killed ones) – and on an entirely downhill course? You betcha, I had a blast!

One of the many reasons I like being a part of the Half Fanatics is the incredible people I meet at my races. I am a walker – and a slow’ish walker at that – and I have yet to come across a Half Fanatic or a Marathon Maniac that makes me feel less for my time. At the Leading Ladies race, I got to meet and room with the incredible Maureen Bowen (HF #555) who is on track to finish a half marathon in all 50 states (plus DC) come November. We met up Saturday evening after she came in from one of the plains states (Nebraska? North Dakota? Can’t remember) and had dinner at the Pizza Ranch (yes, that’s an actual restaurant) and got our after-race cupcake at Dolce Vino Lounge (“Beer and Tapas, Wine and Cupcakes”). Race morning would come early so we got our stuff together and called it a night.

The Cupcake Place

We had to be on the bus for the start at 0445 and it was a tad chilly. I don’t know what I expected with South Dakota but it certainly wasn’t chilly. I think the temperature when we headed out to the bus was about 40 degrees and I’ve been used to warm, even hot, morning starts so it was a bit of a shocker to come out to the cool morning air. We pile on to the warm bus and meet Sandy – another Half Fanatic who also did Saturday’s race with Maureen – and the energy on the bus was quite fantastic. This is a women-only run and we talked with many people who had never done a half before. Soon we were at the drop off point and after milking the warmth of the bus we hopped off and walked to the start line. I was very thankful that someone decided to abandon their nice warm blanket on the bus – it kept me from freezing!

Bethany (#837), Sandy, and Maureen (#555)

This race was one of the smaller races I’ve done over the past year. There were approximately 320 finishers of the half marathon (not sure how many nuts did the full) and you could tell that the event was held close to the heart of the race director – she was there to see us all off and she was at the finish line sharing in our victory. The course’s volunteers were amazing and encouraging and the water stops were perfectly placed about every mile and a half. The stops even had wonderful things like pretzels, oranges and M & Ms – just the right amount of fuel to keep you going. The course was entirely downhill so I thought I would try the Galloway method full tilt. I was going in for shoulder surgery 4 days later and I didn’t see the sense in holding anything back. So when we were told to go, I went. Not as fast as everyone else but faster than I’ve ever gone before. I turned on my iPod, switched to my cadence playlist and shuffled along. I was so enthralled with the scenery and the crisp morning air that I actually lost track of time. Before I knew it, I approached the 10k mark and I looked down at my time – I shaved 10 minutes off of my best 10k and I was thrilled. I thought for sure I was on track to make a PR.  I don’t know where my mind took over but it eventually did, as it always does and I found myself walking more than wogging (what I fondly call my form of jogging). But I was still enjoying the course, enjoyed the encouragement I received from the volunteers and absolutely loved cheering on the marathoners as they passed me by. At about the 5k left mark, Michelle “Mom O’ Six” Walker (an incredible Marathon Maniac) came up on me and she gave me a great big hug before she blew on by me.

Michelle "Mom O' Six" Walker

As I was turning in to the last mile of the course, I was blown away with the sheer rugged beauty of the course and the stunning grace of the little park we meandered (ok, I meandered, everyone else raced) through. The park was lovely with a little creek babbling serenely and birds chirping. Just a little bit in front of me was a woman who I had been playing leap frog with and I was determined to close the gap and pass her before the finish line. She passed me around mile 8 when I took a longer-than-needed break and I had lost sight of her. Now I was coming up on her and I noticed she was having difficulty – she was walking as if her feet were on fire and limping a little, favoring one knee. I slowed down to talk with her. Her name was Katy and this was her first half marathon and she said she would never do another one again. I told her that I said the very same thing after my first half marathon 20 half marathons ago and she cracked a smile. And then she started to cry a little. I recognized the cry. I’ve done it myself on many occasions. It is the cry from way down deep inside that says you’re never going to finish, that you’re not good enough and that you’re going to fail. So I walked with her, talked with her, made her laugh and together we crossed the finish line.

   The last mile.1

Leading Ladies Half Marathon in Spearfish, South Dakota is an amazing course. With its beautiful scenery, wonderful volunteers and a truly downhill course, I will add this to my “would do again and again and again” list. This was my 14th state and 21st half marathon since beginning my obsession in October 2010.

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