(You first met Suzanne a year ago. Since then, she moved across the country and kept spreading the #runlove. Lexy and Suzanne were scheduled to run the San Diego Half two weekends ago but as you’ll read below, sometimes you don’t even make it to the starting line. They ran a half this past weekend in the same heat that affected the L.A. Marathon and did an excellent job adjusting their goals to be safe and still have fun.)
Back in November my friend Lexy and I were chatting about what she wanted to do while her husband was deployed. This was his first deployment and we figured we should have a “deployment bucket list” of sorts. We decided we would sign up and train for the San Diego Half Marathon in March. We paid the race entry and dedicated ourselves to shorter weekday runs and a long run every Saturday. We ran every single weekend. We ran when I had a terrible cold, we ran when Lex could barely put weight on her foot, we even ran when we were on different coasts over Christmas break (Lexy wins the prize for that one – seven lonely miles around a snow covered track in Buffalo, NY). We prepped, we planned, we played around with meals and hydration strategies, we were 100% ready for race day and it was finally here. We had anticipated every obstacle and discussed anything that could go wrong during the race. What we didn’t predict was that we wouldn’t even get to start.
We woke up early on race day excited and nervous for the day ahead. We were on time (for the first time ever) to our friend’s house who so graciously rolled out of bed at 6am on a Sunday and drove us. Everything was going well – we were hydrating, we had our bag ready for gear check, and we were on the road in plenty of time. As we crested the top of the Coronado Bridge, we saw brake lights and came to a stop. Our first thought was that it must be some race traffic – we were only a few miles away from the start so maybe it was backing up a little. It quickly became clear that we weren’t moving at all. The clock said 6:09 when we stopped. At 6:30 we called 911 in case no one had. The dispatcher told us that highway patrol had both sides of the bridge closed due to a possible jumper. Unfortunately, this isn’t all that abnormal of an occurrence on this bridge but it never occurred to us to go the long way off the island just in case. An hour later we hadn’t completely lost hope; we were in a late wave and could still make it into the final wave if we moved in the next couple minutes. We didn’t move. As every minute passed we became more and more aware that we weren’t going to get to the race. We tried to keep everything in perspective; that the reason we were stopped on the bridge was for a far more significant crisis than missing a race. Even though we tried to think this way, we were still completely devastated. At 8:30 a highway patrolman helped all the cars make terrifying three point turns and head back to the island (Google the Coronado Bridge: not a place you want to be in reverse). Lex and I looked at the clock and knew we most likely wouldn’t be allowed to start if we got to the start line, but decided that if we didn’t try we would regret it. We arrived at the start line at 8:45 and there was not a person in sight. As we drove away defeated, we passed the party going on at the Finish Line a block away and started to cry. It was final. We weren’t going to finish our half; we weren’t even going to start it.
What happened that Sunday was so far out of our control that we never could have planned for it. The bridge didn’t re-open until 11am that morning. By that time, Lex and I were out running on the bike path near our house. As we ran we talked about how disappointed we were, how much we could never have predicted this, and how we go forward. We decided that we had to sign up for another half – as soon as possible, regardless of the cost. We signed up for the El Cajon St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon scheduled for just a week later.
We approached this race a little differently. Our goal was no longer to finish the race, but to start it! We did start it (although there was an incident on the course that delayed the start for 15 minutes) and we finished it! It was not an easy race day. San Diego County saw record-breaking heat for March (El Cajon was in the 90s) and the course was very hilly with no shade. We had driven the course the day before and knew there was a hill from mile eight to mile ten. Around mile six we were really starting to feel the heat and knew we still had a huge hill ahead of us. We slowed way down to make sure we could make it the rest of the way and tried to keep our bodies cool by dumping water over our heads at every water stop. We crossed the finish line a little later than planned but it didn’t matter, we were still proud! Although it wasn’t the best introduction to the half marathon for Lexy, she was already strategizing for “the next one” before the race was over.
The El Cajon St. Patrick’s Day Half Marathon was much smaller than the San Diego Half Marathon but it was still well run. The course was hilly and hot but well staffed and there were lots of water stations. There were almost no spectators which made for a lonely stretch but the finish line had lots of people and live entertainment cheering us through the last mile.
It certainly wasn’t the easiest way to run a half marathon but the best news of the last two weeks was that the San Diego Half Marathon deferred our entry to 2016 so we will get to race next year! In the meantime, we’ll keep running here in beautiful San Diego!