My day started with my incredible husband Erick dropping me off across the city bright and early for the race. We'd even put our anniversary celebrations on hold for prepping for this race. He has listened to me talk about this race for months and watched me arrive at work spent from hammering out my workouts.
And then Lisa was there, distracting me from my pre-race nerves, telling me to trust my training and sending me off feeling confident, loved and happy. Coincidentally it was mere meters away from the spot we had a memorable conversation years earlier about racing.
I battled my way up, up, up Hoggs Hollow hill, and chugged down Yonge Street, then Rosedale Valley Road. I trusted in my training. I was pacing slower than I had hoped, but I kept going because this was my race, I'd done everything possible to get here.
Around Sheppherd Avenue I saw Nancy cheering from across the river of runners, and around 12K, she was there again, she saw me, and this time I didn't see her!
My Mum and step dad were at 9K in front of the BMO as they had promised they would be....which, coincidentally was the smack in the middle of a water station! But they stayed planted, because that's where they told me they would be. My Mum said that seeing me and my hug and kiss were worth the multitude of water cups they had flung their way. What they didn't realize is that seeing them put the spring back in my step for the rest of Yonge Street.
Michelle had warned me in all of her pre-race prep that I would feel like I was running in mud when I hit the flats at the bottom of Bayview. She was not kidding. As usual in many of my half marathons, this is where I already struggled.
Alas, Allison knew to be exactly in this spot waiting patiently in the cold for me, with the surprise bonus of Mei and Dan cheering.
After a quick hug, Allison and I started what would be the portion of the race that almost broke me. Allison kept me both distracted and simultaneously focused. While I wanted to stop almost constantly, she reminded me why I couldn't, and threw at me her reasons for why a half marathon was really only 20K (she knew she had a captive audience who had no extra energy to spare to argue). She inadvertently tossed pom-pom streamers at me, yelled at me to "GO!" when I used her shoe tying as an excuse to walk, and told me how inspired she was to be doing this with me. She was also texting as we ran. I figured it was friends asking how I was doing.
Along the last stretch of Wellington near Bathurst I knew I was oh-so-close, yet still so far that I wanted to cry. Allison guided me to the tangents and blocked the wind.
And then out of absolutely no where, was Michelle, with a casual, "Hey babe, let's get this done." Whoa, wait...Michelle is in Ottawa. 'What the what' as she says. But no, Michelle was NOT in Ottawa and had secretly planned this the whole surprise to be here to support me. She'd even apologized multiple times for not being able to be here. I had no energy to figure this out at this point!
It almost felt like the two of them gathered me up and gave me that extra little push down past Fort York, and along Lakeshore. I remember distinctly passing people in this stretch, and seeing people smile as they realized what my friends were doing.
And then, standing along Lakeshore were Erick, Melly and a little pink unicorn (I wasn't hallucinating, it was Melly's daughter dressed like a unicorn) on the sidelines to fill my heart with the energy to pick up my speed and sprint for the finish line.
This was a personal best I doubted would ever happen after three miserable races last year. When I finally found my friends outside the finish, Gillian, Nancy and Jean-Paul were there (I beat JP by the way...let's not mention that he ran double I did!)
A year ago I cried at the finish at Mississauga because of how awful the race had been for me. Today I cried again because it was these people that had gotten me here.
My phone was full of sweet messages from Andrea and Anne and my social media feed already full of congrats from the photos my friends had been posting.
Today my heart is full. My brain is overwhelmed. I got my PB but as cheesy as it sounds, I couldn't have done it without my friends and family, and I got so much more today than just my medal.