Laugh in the face of challenges

Photo courtesy of Two Cities Marathon

By Diana Giraldo | GFC Editor

Life is full of moments where you can choose to challenge yourself or shy away from new experiences.

Even though I do not consider myself a runner, I have always admired the running community and have been interested in participating in an event.

When the Fresno State Army ROTC presented me with the opportunity of joining them on a half marathon I did not stop and think what it all entailed and said yes immediately. Maybe it was my unfearful youth talking but I chose to push my limits – even though I doubted myself – even if I knew I would be challenging myself in a way I had never before.

I would be running my first half marathon – the Two Cities Marathon and Half, which was a round trip of 13.1 miles – only after a few weeks of completing my first 5K, the Monster Mash Dash.

A month leading up to the race I followed the advice given to me by Scott Forrester, who writes for Get Fit Clovis and is a certified personal trainer. I ran 3 to 5 miles, three or four times a week and trained by running in intervals – starting with 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes walking, until I was able to reach 6 to 10 minutes running with only a few minutes of walking in between. He advised me to use this strategy to pace myself to successfully complete the run.

The days leading up to the half marathon I was nervous but more excited than anything else. The day I went to pick up my packet was when it all finally felt real. I saw dozens of other runners there just as excited as I was to pick up my goodie bag, which included my bib, a race shirt and plenty of information for other runs and possible gear I would need.

I was ready for the next day. I had everything prepared – my clothes, energy gels and water.

When I arrived to Woodward Park the next day, my heart was beating out of my chest – both from the excitement and the final moment of truth – I would be running several hours, a little over a dozen miles and all for my first time, but my mind was ready.

I was determined to finish – that was the only thing I was thinking.

The marathon was broken down into several groups, those participating in the Clovis half were set to leave at 7:15 a.m. A few minutes before, 1,323 runners out of the nearly 3,000 total people participating in the day’s events began to settle in front of the starting line.

As we took off all I saw in front of me was a sea of people with the willpower to complete their objective, whether it was to complete the marathon or beat their personal record. Lining the sidewalks were spectators holding signs reading messages of encouragement, inciting humour and rooting for their friends and family.

From Woodward Park the runners went on to Shepard Ave., turned down Willow Ave. then followed the Sugar Pine/Old Town Trail and looped around when we reached Sierra Ave.

Throughout the run there were water stations where volunteers handed out water, Gatorade and energy gels. Police were stationed in areas to control traffic and look out for any injured runners. A few local bands and DJs also played in open areas along the run.

When I reached about the halfway point I felt my body begin to get heavy but I remembered I just had to walk a little more to conserve energy. Seeing all the signs throughout the run and hearing people’s words of encouragement ultimately was what I feel kept me going. They fed my conviction to continue.

I remember about a third of the way through, maybe even a little more, a little boy was holding a sign that read “tap here for more energy” with a picture of the sun and lightning. He saw me and said, “Do you need energy?” I must have looked exhausted but I did need more so I played along and tapped his sign. He boosted me all the way to the end.

Once we turned back onto Friant Ave. to go back into Woodward Park and cross the finish line I was feeling relieved. The last couple minutes of the race I was astonished with myself. I would have never known what my body was capable of if I wouldn’t have tried.

I ran – not for time – but to prove to myself I was capable. I can now cross this off my bucket list. For next time my objective will be to beat my 2 hours and 37 minute incoming time.

And, yes, I would recommend even non-runners to try, even if you just do it once. Whether you walk or run it, all that matters is you take a chance, take it as an adventure, a step into the unknown. At the end of the day this will be a memory of your tenacity and vigor. You can do it.