After months of training and complaining, the race day itself was truly magnificent. This post is going to be rather long, because I think the best way to share the experience with you is to reprint the letter I wrote immediately afterward to my supporters.
I love this “action shot” because it manages to make me look almost like a real runner… almost. And I was, for that one day. I was so inspired by the experience, that I am determined to be a volunteer at other AIDS Project Los Angeles events, as well as participate in at least one long-distance walk every year. I much prefer walking to running, and I’ll be able to get most of the benefits of the experience as well as protect my knees in case my genes take me into my 90s…
Here’s the letter:
I did it! I finished the Santa Barbara International Half Marathon on Saturday, and it was amazing! In spite of my grouchy attitude all week, by the time we got to Santa Barbara Friday night and met up with our group for a final pep talk, I was jacked up on adrenaline and could barely sleep. I still worried that it was going to be pouring rain while we ran, but after coming down hard all day Friday and all night as we slept, it stopped just as we were
being shuttled to the start line. I was all bundled up and shed three layers in
the first mile and ran the rest of the race in just a tank top (and pants!) It
turned out to be the ideal temperature for running because it was still overcast
and cool, and the sun came out during the last few miles. We couldn’t have
asked for more perfect weather.
At the starting line, there were thousands of participants, U2
playing over a loudspeaker, and supporters who’d come out to see us off, and
throughout the entire course people cheered us on from the sidelines, some with
signs (my personal favorite: “You’ve been training longer than Kim Kardashian was married”), some with music, many
with their children, and some in a comfortable chair with a cup of coffee.
Several times along the way, musicians were set up and we were treated to the
sounds of everything from accordians to violins, drums, and even bagpipes.
After climbing the only significant hill on the entire route at about the 11-mile
mark, I turned the corner to see the expanse of the Pacific
Ocean and hear the bagpipes playing and cried out for the beauty
of it all. It was a definite “I am alive!” moment. A group of people practicing
tai chi in the park were so gorgeously synchronized, they seemed to be there
for us to enjoy. A flock of pelicans in formation flying overhead, part of
nature’s symphony. The whole coastline of ocean flanked by mountains, almost
too beautiful to imagine. In spite of my entire body stiffening to the point of
a full-body cramp the final mile, all my senses came alive at that moment and
lasted the rest of the day. Everything seemed in sharper focus, from the sound
of a child clapping to the smell of the ocean, as well as everything I laid
The route itself was beautiful, starting on a bike path
winding through trees alongside a creek, passing views of the mountains lit by
the morning sun, and the final two miles along the bright blue Pacific packed
with sailboats. In fact, I had so much fun on the run itself, I wish I actually
liked to run, because I would do it
again in an instant if only I didn’t have to train!
Entering the stadium and running down the finish line with
music blaring and thousands of people cheering was something I’ll never forget.
A non-runner friend who did a half marathon earlier this year said that being
cheered by thousands of people is something everyone should experience at least
once in their life, and I couldn’t agree more.
Our group of about 35 trained for four months and raised
over $100,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. That is money that goes directly to
taking care of people living with AIDS, and I couldn’t have taken on this
endeavor without the support of all of you. Whether you donated $5 or $250, you
were there with me all the way and I was constantly aware of all of you. I also
couldn’t have done it without my brilliant support team, my husband George, who
listened to months of complaining with patience and good humor. He took care of
all the logistics last weekend, and was an absolute champ. I look forward to
getting our regular life back, when I don’t fall asleep at 9pm on Friday and
Part of the deal of training with this group was being put
up at the Fess Parker in Santa Barbara for the night before and after the run, a gorgeous hotel right across the
highway from the ocean. We were also taken on a charter cruise around the bay
at sunset, complete with fancy food and a full bar. It was the perfect
denouement to a marvelous experience. Some people on the team were so relaxed
they fell asleep right on the boat (helped by the generously poured cocktails,
Early on during training, I worried that we would experience
an early November heat wave on the day of the run. When a big storm centered
along the Santa Barbara
coastline was forecast for the weekend of the run, I worried about being wet
and cold. Neither of those things came to pass, and other things I didn’t worry
about did, like my toes cramping up and my chest tightening, things I hadn’t
experienced during training. It was yet another reminder that the things we
worry about almost never come to pass, a lesson I’ve learned many times in life
and should be able to remember by now. It’s always good to be reminded.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your
generosity and for being part of this experience. My running career was short
but sweet, and I’m certain I’ll be back with APLA as a volunteer and for other
events that don’t include running.
Much thanks, love, and hugs,
Readers, if you got all the way through that, please share any fundraising/long-distance running or walking, or any inspirational stories you so desire in the Comments section. Just knowing you read my blog inspires me every day, so thanks to all of you