I was pretty proud that, for all the times I considered walking during the Heart Mini, I only actually walked twice (besides a few steps at water breaks). One was up Torrence.
The other was up the last big hill on Columbia Parkway.
When people talk about the Heart Mini 15K, they talk about how hard the Torrence hill is. It didn't seem that way to me, because by then I was looking for pretty much any excuse to walk. Torrence seemed like a blessing - a break in the form of an obviously insurmountable incline. The real heartbreaker on the course comes at mile 8.5, when you're imagining the worst is behind you and suddenly there's this hill on Columbia Parkway that goes on forever. It bested me in the 5K last year, and it bested me again this year. (Wow, I had forgotten how much warmer and sunnier last year's race was.) I actually ran up the last tiny bit of it just to get the damn thing over with.
And from that point, it's a downhill run back into the city, and it's easy to give it your all for the cameras and the supporters that are somehow still lining the streets nearly two hours after the starting gun went off.
I know it's not a real marathon or anything, but it's twice the distance I've run in my life, and the final approach to the finish line was very emotional for me. I passed a man who was walking the course at this point, and he said, "That's right. Leave it all out here." It meant so much to me that it took me a moment to turn around and thank him.
You can look up my official chip time if you want - you know my name and stuff. What matters to me, though, is that the official clock at the finish line told me I had beaten two hours. If I had seen anyone I knew at that point, I would have broken down crying.
But I made sure to smile for the cameras this time. Last year, the race photos made me look like I was about to collapse on the finish line.
Afterwards, Chele, Josh and I went to Daybreak for tasty breakfast.
And then a couple hours later, I played soccer - which I thought would be miserable but was actually great; a minute into the game all the soreness was gone and I was ready to run all over the place! It was like the hair of the running dog or something.
And now it's four and a half weeks to the Pig. I'm feeling good - ready to get back to running more regularly and be slightly more prepared for the half marathon. I'm no longer worried about keeping up with my friends; the goal is to finish. And I can finish.