I am no longer a first-timer; I am a half-marathoner!

FINALLY! After 5 months, I don’t know how many miles; I have accomplished the goals I set for myself when I started this journey: 1) complete the entire 13.1 miles, 2) have an official time, and 3) enjoy the experience.

I’ve thanked my training group, coaches and pacers numerous times for all of their help because I know that without them I would have stepped off the course at mile 10 when my body said, “I’m done. I’m not going to take another step and you can’t make me.” My mind had all kinds of reasons lined up to agree, “it’s too hot”; “you’re starting to get a hot spot on your left foot”; “you’re peripheral vision is starting to get fuzzy”. But I knew that it was time to call out the reserves. Yes it was warmer than what I had trained in; no that wasn’t a hot spot, my feet just hurt; no that was sweat on my glasses; so time to press on.

And then IT happened. Probably the greatest sight a runner can ever see, outside of the finish line, family cheering you on. I knew they would be there, we had planned that, but I had lost track of where I was on the route. It was just the shot of adrenaline that I needed. Forget GU or ShotBlocks, this was the kick I needed to keep me going. My wife of almost 39 years and my long-distance running daughter had a sign that said, “It could be worse, It could be snowing”. While the sign and their cow bell ringing were appreciated the simple act of their being there and cheering was more important.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 5 months, what I can and can’t do. I’ve learned a lot about other people, particularly runners, both good and bad. I’ve come to appreciate the simple beauty of birds singing in the morning and yes, even in freshly fallen snow. Like most people I am angry over the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon but feel a special anger because the attack was against the spectators not the runners.

It’s been a long 5 months. I am no longer a first-timer; I am a half-marathoner. I’ve thanked my running group and coaches. But for putting up with early mornings, messed up eating schedules, smelly clothes in the laundry and my obsessive nature, there is only one person to mention, my wife Shirley, without whose support none of this would ever have been possible.

— Run if you can. Walk if you will. Crawl if you must. Tim Riley


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