I ran my 30th half marathon yesterday. It wasn't my best. It wasn't my worst. The course was tough as hell. In fact, I've never felt worse in the final miles of a half marathon. The weather was perfect. It started and ended outside the capitol building in my beautiful city. The medal's pretty sweet.
Those are all things. Facts. The pieces of information I'll forget in another couple years as the race tally grows.
But the night before I joined friends for an amazing home-cooked meal. We laughed, we drank wine, we nervously chatted about goals. We met early the next morning outside the coffee shop, full of energy. We slapped high fives and shared smiles and giggled quietly during the National Anthem like assholes, but we couldn't help it. It happens.
I made a new playlist for the race -- full of hip hop tunes from 15 years ago that make me bop my head and laugh at ridiculous memories. Warren G? Snoop Doggy Dogg? Coolio? Come on, you guys. It's amazing.
Somewhere in the middle of the race, I ran past a local race director, who's come to be one of my favorites in the running community. He knows me as "Krittabug," and never fails to address me as such. He had it printed on my race bib once. I waved excitedly and he blew a kiss into the air. Another few miles later, he'd be at the top of an awful, awful hill, and he'd grab my hand and help pull me along. I was hurting, but still smiling, grateful for that moment.
About a mile from the finish, I quit running. Just quit. That doesn't happen often, but I was done. I started walking, silently cursing while being passed by other runners and doing mental math on just how long it was going to take me to walk that final mile. Basically, "dammit" was the answer. Out of nowhere I felt a tug on my hand. No words, just an encouraging pull. I looked up to see the sweet sight of a friendly face. I began to run with her, one of several friends I knew running that day. Together we were miserable. But together we kept running. And together we finished.
In the finish chute I immediately found my friend, who hit the PR she'd been dreaming of for years. I felt awful, but smiled as I hugged her because I know that feeling. I know her joy. Minutes later our other friend finished, feeling about as miserable as I felt. I put an arm around her and we joined the others, bitching about hills, but smiling because it was over.
We took pictures. We drank beer. We sprawled out on the capitol lawn, already talking about the next race.
These are the memories. The friendships. The camaraderie. The facts. The pieces of information that I will remember. This is why I've run 30 half marathons, and why I'll run another 30. Not the numbers. Not the time on the race clock. Not the weather or the courses.
When all is said and done, I'll have my tally of races and my medals, but I wouldn't have any of them if I didn't have the memories to keep me coming back.