We signed up for this race way back in early 2013…… I was still recovering from my auto accident, having just stopped using a cane and walking on my own. I knew it was the oldest marathon in Florida, but when I saw the Big Bang Series (all the bling available if I could participate in 3 out of the next 5 years, and 5 out of the next 5 years), I was totally excited to sign up. The deal at the time was that I had to get strong enough and healthy enough to walk this event and if I did, Jane would walk with me.
As most of you know, I ran/walked my first half marathon on October 27, 2013 (the Florida Halloween Halfathon in Clearwater, Florida), so I was very excited for the Space Coast. No one could ever know back then how much healing God would grace upon my body and how much better I would feel eight months later!
We drove over 3 hours to get to Cocoa Beach. Neither of us had been in this area before, so we didn’t know where our hotel was located, where the expo was located and where the actual event was taking place. We had to take two different toll roads to get to the hotel and then once we got there, our room wasn’t ready despite the fact that the hotel called us earlier that morning to confirm that we would be checking in. We decided to go to the expo at the Kennedy Space Center and get our race packets and when we looked at the map, we saw that we had to go back in the same direction from which we came – probably about 10 to 15 miles. We parked using the free parking pass we printed from our e-mail, and as we headed toward the building there was a lady handing out tickets to get through the gate. The expo was cramped and there didn’t seem like enough signage or organization to figure out which way we were supposed to go. We were herded through and were able to get our packets/bibs. We were then directed to go to the back of the expo to get our shirts. I was told later that they had packet pickup at a local running store for most of the week, which explained the fact that there wasn’t a lot of race merchandise left at the expo. We came out of the building and started to head toward the space shuttles, but a couple of security guys stopped us and told us we weren’t allowed to go that way and forced us toward the exit. Apparently all the ticket we were given allowed us to do was go into the expo building and pick up our packets and shirts.
We got back on the highway headed back toward our hotel, and it was once again pouring down rain. We decided to stop for dinner so we wouldn’t have to go back out again. We then went to our hotel room, unpacked, got our clothes and gear ready for the race (took a quick “flat Debi” pic), and went to bed early.
My usual M.O. for out of town events is to lay awake in an uncomfortable hotel bed watching the clock until it’s time to get up. We turned the television on, I watched about 10 minutes of some show I couldn’t even tell you about, and then I was asleep until the alarm went off. I woke up feeling very rested and grateful that I was able to sleep. I had forgotten to bring my usual pre-race pre-packaged protein shake with me and I was afraid I was going to go hungry. We got dressed and headed to the front of the hotel to get on the 5am shuttle bus. The hotel office had courtesy bags that included bananas and muffins, although I never had time to see the muffin, and went ahead and ate the banana right away. We were dropped off and not knowing where to go, we sort of just followed traffic in the dark until we came up to the stage.
I had an opportunity to get a quick photo op with an astronaut. I had wanted to find out where the Half Fanatics photo area was, but I didn’t take the time to look it up before the event, so I just hoped I would bump into one or two of them once it was daylight. We followed the crowds to the starting corrals and proceeded to the back of the group. I wasn’t even sure what our goal was until we started talking about it, so we just stayed right where we were in the back of the group. I was a little worried about whether we’d be able to finish this event, not knowing the course or what the weather might turn out to be. Then we saw this younger-than-us woman nearby who was blind, had never done a half marathon, and had her Seeing Eye dog and her sister with her to do the event. If that doesn’t give you a little perspective on your own abilities, I don’t know what does!
We didn’t cross the start line for almost 6 minutes due to the crowd being packed on a pretty small road, but we did start out at a nice pace and we kept that pace for several miles. I had decided I would let Jane set the pace instead of pushing or trying to make her do more than she was able. She hadn’t trained at all for the race and had only ever walked a little over 7 miles consecutively, so the whole event was a challenge for her as well. I suggested she have some of the Gatorade being offered since I knew she didn’t have much breakfast either, but she said the taste made her sick so she stayed with the water. I’m not sure exactly – I think it was mile 7 or mile 8 – they were sharing vanilla GU’s, which is one of my favorite flavors. I took two, hoping Jane would have one, but she declined not knowing exactly what it was to begin with. I went ahead and enjoyed mine.
The crowds seemed very friendly, people were polite when passing, it was overall a nice course with nice scenery. There was one odd thing on the course though – in a very nice neighborhood with many beautiful homes, there was this one house that had a very creepy mannequin in the top window. The house itself was beautiful, but the mannequin was creepy!
We have all heard runners describe hitting the proverbial “wall” during an event. I had no idea that walkers might have suffer that same plight. Shortly after we passed the flag for mile 10, Jane turned to me and said she couldn’t go on, that everything in her wanted to quit. I didn’t know what to do at that point. I told her the course would be open another 4 or 5 hours and she’d have to sit right there and wait until after the race for me to pick her back up if she wanted to quit, but she kept walking and telling me the whole time she couldn’t keep going. I immediately turned to prayer right there. I prayed out loud for God to give her wings to carry her to the finish line, to give her His strength to finish, and I have no idea what else but I just kept praying out loud and in my head. I probably don’t need to tell you but I will – we FINISHED the race.
We were directed off the main road and onto a sidewalk that we followed in a semi-circle through the cheering crowds and across the finish line! We were finished!
They handed us our bling and our souvenir beach towels and at that point, Jane said she couldn’t move and stayed right there. Unfortunately, that meant no pancakes and eggs, no pizza, no finish line photo ops, and no hanging out with some of the Half Fanatics I had seen near the finish line.
We shuffled ourselves toward the bus to get back to the hotel. Once we were on the bus, Jane started feeling dizzy and thought she might pass out, but fortunately, it passed. I offered to drive home in advance, knowing how she would probably feel and I’m so glad I did. We got back on the toll roads and headed home. About 45 minutes down the road, we stopped for some breakfast. Jane started feeling better and we came home. We hung our bling, showered, and landed on the couch for the remainder of the afternoon.
My final words on this event? I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!