When the alarm goes off at 3:30am on Sunday morning for me to get ready, drive down to Detroit and run 13.1 miles, I lay there in my bed and wonder whose idea this was anyway?

To have a half-marathon in the plans to run at the middle to end of fall is always a good idea in theory but as the day approaches, and especially the morning of, I really question my sanity in signing up for yet another one.  I get really anxious and very nervous as the clock ticks away and the race approaches.  In fact, all last week with the issues I have had with my foot lately, I was telling people that this race felt almost like a final exam.  There is no pass/fail when it comes to running but for whatever reason I was putting a lot of pressure on myself.

The alarm goes off, I lay and try to figure out what I am supposed to be doing, it hits me that I have a race to run and up I go, out of bed and on my way.  The second challenging thing about a race is to figure out what is the best thing to eat at that time in the morning, my choice this time around is a cereal bar, a Lara bar and a huge bottle of water.  I make sure Choco has time for his business and jump in my Jeep and head down to Detroit.

I have a plan ahead of time about where I am going to park and it works out well.  I am there over an hour ahead of time but it is helpful to not have the stress of a time crunch at the last minute.  I decide to spend a few minutes to sit and visualize the race.  From my seat, I can see the huge flags in front of the Ren Cen blowing in the wind and a bit of a chill every time someone comes in the front door.  Although I am not looking forward to the cold, I have experienced much colder mornings with rain for this particular race.

After a few minutes I decide it is best to make my way to the starting line.  It is a bit of a jog to get to the start but soon realize the perfection of it as my core begins to warm.  From the Ren Cen, it is left on Jefferson, right on Washington and a left onto Fort St where there are 20,000 other runners and their support people, it is a massive sea of people and the energy is absolutely unbelievable!

I walk right up to my corral, enter and move forward to the start and off I go.  Many people do these kinds of races with another person or a group of people, or at least have a support person waiting in the wings at the event.  Not me.  I have chosen to do these races regardless of whoever else may or may not want to do it with me.  This time I realized how anonymous I was in this huge crowd and that is a pretty neat feeling.  Even though I am anonymous, I feel like all of these 20,000 runners are my friends, mostly because they love what I love and they are about to do what I am about to do.  It is a community that one can feel part of and be anonymous at the same time.

My bib is pinned to the front of my shirt with this crazy “20222” number that I am so excited about and my name written in big letters underneath it.  In this huge community of people, you can be anonymous and also have people saying things like “Good job Erica”, “Keep it going Erica” and “You can do it Erica” along the entire course because your name is written right there.

The spectators of this great sport of running are amazing people.  They are dressed in goose down, hats, gloves and boots carrying bells, signs, horns and other noise makers and for hours they sit there and cheer on the runners, people they know and mostly people they don’t know.  The funniest sign I have seen so far in my years of running was just coming out of the tunnel and returning to the United States this time around and it read “WORST PARADE EVER!”  Those of you that know me and my literal humor, could guess that I almost buckled over in laughter…that is funny stuff!

Mile 11 came around and I remember checking in with my body and all of its many sore parts…absolutely sore everywhere, no question.  My pacer on my cyclemeter app on my iPhone was telling me that I was at 11 miles, running 9.40 minutes per mile and that I had 2.1 miles to go.  2.1 miles to go meant that in just about 20 minutes of continuous running I will be done and so I picked up my pace.  I wanted to be finished as soon as I possibly could so better to just suck it up and pound out those last 2 miles than to drag it out any longer.

There is a moment in every long run that I am grateful beyond anything words can explain that my body is capable and allows me to do this.  It is at that moment that life is so grand and I feel absolutely unstoppable.  It is such an incredible feeling and is the “runner’s high” that everyone talks about.  This happens to me around 8ish miles or so and continues to the end of the race.

The last turn down Fort St is something that sticks in my mind and is what gets me coming back to run these streets year after year. The finish line is in sight, there are thousands of people lining the sides of the street, little kids sticking out their hands for runners to give them a high five (and you better believe I take every high five I can get along the way) and cheers of celebration during the last few blocks like nothing you have ever experienced.  In that moment I let my imagination run wild and pretend they are all cheering for me…and then crossing of the finish line, the ever so familiar beep as your chip time is recorded capped off with a beautiful medal that someone hangs around your neck…it is in a dream state that I finish each race.

It is a huge accomplishment to work towards all year and when I get my A+ on my final exam, though 3:30am is early, by a little bit after 9 I have burned over 1,500 calories, shared in that kind of energy…nothing feels better.  Only one thing would make it even better…if more of you will join me next year!  Do you have a half-marathon on your bucket list?  Check that item off by running with me next year!  I am serious…we only get one chance to live this life!  Let’s make it happen!

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