I recently completed 8 weeks with FootZone’s Half Marathon Training Group as an alternate mentor and was basking in the glow of earning a PR at the Hippie Chicks Half Marathon on May 11. The following week, our five adult children flew in from various states to compete on “Team Frey” for the Pole, Pedal, Paddle. Though it was heaven to have them all home again, it was an extremely busy, chaotic weekend with little down time. With all of this going on, and no races planned in the near future, I had decided that I could “let myself go” for a short while. You know, stop running and relax. Sleep in once in a while. Reduce the laundry load by wearing only one outfit a day. Splurge on some junk food. Just breathe.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Four days before the HappyGirls Half, a friend sent me a text and asked if I wanted to enter the race. Arguing that I was “out of shape” from not having run for two weeks did no good. “It won’t be the same without you,” she argued. She slapped my name on an entry form and told me it was “a done deal.” I was in.
Panic set in. How do I regain the momentum I had lost in those last 14 days? How do you taper when you’ve not been running at all? And most important, what would I wear??
I could feel the excitement building. A smile appeared on my face again. I realized I had been missing not only the routine of running, but the contentment that came from getting off the computer and out into the fresh Bend air where I always felt stress free and happy. HAPPY!! That was it!! And now I was going to run my second Happy Girls Half. It began to feel just right.
I packed my bag on Saturday night with all the gels and water I felt I would need. I laid out my clothes – a variety of items due to an inclement weather forecast. I charged my GPS and set out my sunglasses. Jitters were starting to set in. This was going to happen, whether I was ready or not.
Arriving early for a team photo, I found our meeting place – the FootZone tent. I was happy to see coworkers Allie and Melanie already there wearing their happy faces. We discussed the impending rain and chilly weather while waiting for the entire team to arrive. The team I speak of is a group of women with whom I’ve trained on Saturday mornings, been friends with for months or years, shared numerous cups of coffee, and discussed all of our fears and challenges, as well as our successes. Our families are intertwined now and we support each other. One after another they arrived, each one more excited than the last, each one shivering and trying to layer their clothing.
Following group photos, and numerous trips to the Port-a-potty, I joined my friends in our own “dynamic warm-up” as we watched the jazzercise ladies lead hundreds of women in a highly charged workout to the invigorating beat of an unknown, but very loud song. By now everyone was ready, laughing nervously, and heading for the start line. Finding our place in the queue was easy, due to the sparkly skirts worn by our handsome pacers holding signs announcing various paces. We hugged, said our “Good Lucks,” and made sure our watches were still working. In a sea of neon colors, tutus, black marker down the backs of some runners’ legs that encouraged us to “Keep Going,” and enough chatter to drive any man crazy, we were off!!
Wearing just a running skort and a short sleeve T-shirt, I was freezing, but tried to focus on the bits of blue sky peeking out of the heavens above. There was still hope.
I chatted casually with my running partner, Nikki Cheney. We tried to keep each other reigned in so as not to follow others who were sprinting those first few miles. We would be smart, we agreed, and keep a steady, slower pace at the beginning so as not to burn out later on. The scenery was gorgeous – the winding Deschutes River, the Bill Healy bridge, dirt trails along Century Drive, and then on into Tetherow, complete with hilly terrain and views of the Cascades. Crowds of men and children lined the course, some with witty signs and cowbells, and many (including my own husband) held cameras to document the day. My favorite moment was when a handsome young man, waiting along the sidelines, yelled out, “Hey, Sweetheart!” and every lady around me looked up in response. It told me so much about the relationships they had with their significant others.
On we trekked into Phil’s Trails, where the fans thinned out, but determination among the runners grew stronger. About this time, Nikki went into her “super runner” mode and left me in the dust. I tried hard to keep up, but just couldn’t do it. The race was getting harder for me and my lack of preparation was showing. Negative thoughts began to creep into my mind. It was then that I saw the mile marker quote: We must do the things we think we cannot do. Perfect. It became my mantra. I made my inner voice say only positive phrases, I pictured my adult kids’ faces as they ran their first PPP the weekend before, each one giving their event their best effort, trying hard not to let their siblings down, and thought hard about the other 1,000+ women who were running that day, each one with their own motive. 1,000+ women were going to go home that night with a story to tell, a sense of accomplishment, and a renewed sense of pride in themselves. Whether running the 5K, the 10K, or the Half Marathon, each woman in this race would feel stronger and more confident. They were all running for a reason. They were all going to be winners.
Inspirational thoughts such as these kept my legs moving, one after the other, until I realized that I was done with the hills and I was heading into the final half mile. I looked ahead of me to see my husband perched on some steps, calling my name, camera in front of his face. I knew I should smile and wave, but I couldn’t muster it. Every ounce of effort was now going in to lifting my legs and getting me to the finish line. I felt someone by my side, but couldn’t even look up. I then heard his voice. It was my husband of 31 years, my confidant, my best friend, and my biggest supporter. He had run down the steps to join me in the last few steps. I wanted to hug him, but decided to wait until I stopped running. We parted ways at the home stretch and I decided that I had enough left in me to sprint to the finish. (Well… it was sort of a sprint!)
I felt a finisher’s necklace being pressed into my hands, said a quick prayer of thanks for staying upright, noticed the sun had come out and blue skies were prevailing, and began looking for anyone I knew. Nikki appeared out of a sea of faces and wrapped her arms around me, telling me she was proud of me and asking me if I was OK. It would only be later that I realized I didn’t really answer her. I needed to breathe and eat something cool and wet. I found my husband who had been detoured by the crowd and the vendors, and he escorted me to find nutrition, water, some of the best-ever-brownies, and a Crater Lake vodka drink. Ahhhh… I felt revived!
Eventually, I was reunited with most of my running partners and was filled with pride when I saw three of them on the podium accepting awards. I snapped photos to later post on Facebook and checked the results board. Turns out I beat last year’s time by 14 minutes and came in 7 places higher in my age group than I had in 2012. I, too, was a winner and felt that renewed sense of pride and accomplishment.
Thanks to all the Happy Girls who ran that day. You inspired me to be a better person, to try harder, to do “what you think you cannot do.” I watched you run, walk, hug your friends and families, smile through the pain, do better than you thought you could do, and find a new part of yourselves - the BEST part!
Run on, ladies, and do what makes you smile.
Terri Freyermuth is a retired school teacher, a mentor for the FootZone Half Marathon Training Group and one of FootZone’s newest employees. Visit Terri at the original FootZone location which is now FootZone’s sister store, OutsideIn Bend. We feel lucky to have Terri onboard and know you’ll love seeing her at more FootZone events.