Mom and Dad came all the way from Jackson to support us. They drove us downtown so we wouldn't have to worry about parking or checking our bags. We were pretty nervous, but more excited that the day we had worked so hard for was finally here.
We both started off feeling great. Our paces were right on target, the weather was beautiful, and the atmosphere was indescribable.
For both of us, running through the St. Jude campus was very emotional. Seeing the kids, the families, the employees that are so genuinely thankful cheer us on is something I'll never forget. There were people lined up shoulder to shoulder for at least half of a mile, and even more groups of people for the next half mile thanking us for helping St. Jude. We both had a hard time catching our breath during that entire stretch as we were trying to hold back tears.
This race was a very different experience. In Chicago, Brandon was with me every step of the way. Here, I was on my own for 11.6 miles. Kelly was a lifesaver, and joined me for about 1.5 miles, just when I needed a little help. She helped me block out everything else, and just run. I was struggling to stay calm and focused. As amazing as all the music, the people, and being in my own city was, it was distracting.
When I run in Chickasaw, I'm in my own little world. My head goes to a place of complete calmness, and my legs just go. I can go for miles and miles with no problem, run up the humongous Tishomingo hill and kick it's butt. But during the race, I just lost focus. I let people's exasperated cries about teeny little hills convince me I need to walk up them instead of run. I got out of my groove, having trouble catching my breath. I was far, far, away from my zen-like state when I run on my own.
I walked for a large part of the last three miles, trying to walk off a cramp in my left calf that I knew at this point was inevitable. I was determined to run across the finish line, so I came into the stadium, limping like a fool, not having hardly any feeling in the lower part of my left leg. Just as I crossed the finish line, I felt it cramp up, and I held onto the rail for support. I finally got my leg onto the rail to stretch it out, and slowly made my way into the crowds. When I found my family, Mom and Kelly both had tears streaming down their faces- they thought something was seriously wrong with me after seeing me struggling! I got changed, some serious hydration, and anxiously awaited the runner tracking updates on Brandon.
Brandon was feeling pretty good about it all until about mile 15, when his feet starting hurting. By mile 17, the pain was so intense, he was reduced to walking. He continued on, determined to cross the finish line, alternating between hobbling and walking. He told me later on that he considered calling me and asking me to come pick him up, but he just couldn't bear the thought of telling me he was quitting.
As Brandon made the corner before the ramp to the stadium, there was a very large man loading his music equipment into his van. He exclaimed, "Man, this is a workout!" Brandon had just enough left in him to find humor in that.
Brandon's first words to me as I met him near home plate were, "I'm never doing that again!" I told my parents I'd bet $50 he'd change his tune in a matter of weeks. Sure enough, that night, he was already making plans for next year. Kelly and I are making plans to start training in March, with baby Anniston in the Bob.