I joined over 17,000 other runners for the inaugural Rock ‘n Roll USA ½ Marathon in Washington DC last Saturday – my third long-distance race.  
The weather was unseasonably warm and sunny.  I was reasonably nervous and excited.
I didn’t taper for this race at all, since my bigger goal is the NJ Marathon in May.  I simply kept my training schedule and exchanged an 18-mile long, slow run for the 13.1 at racing pace.  My public goal was to use this as a training run to try out a consistent race pace of 10:15.  My private goal was to at least match my first half marathon time; my secret wish was to beat it. 
My wish was granted after 2 hours, 10 minutes, and 46 seconds of pushing my legs along and berating myself about going out too fast.  The logical side of my head argued that I really should just have fun in this race, and that time didn’t matter.  I certainly didn’t want to risk injury and put my marathon training in jeopardy.  The competitive side of my head reminded me constantly of the quote I had tucked into my fuel belt that read:
If you push the human body, it will respond.   ~ Bob Clarke.

What would happen if I pushed myself?  Would I break?  
Then I thought about another great quote by Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

And I decided to go for it.
I did go out too fast, and consecutive hills that seemed to go from mile 6 through mile 11 really kicked my ass.  I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and I was utterly spent by the time I reached the finish line.  I felt frustrated by that, considering how wonderful I felt recently after finishing a 17-mile run, but I learned a valuable lesson about the difference between training runs and competitive racing, even if my only competitor was myself. 
I have been afraid of so many things in my life.  By challenging some of my perceived limitations, I’ve learned that running a little longer than most people believe is sane won’t actually kill me.  Not only that, but pushing through discomfort and running faster than I thought I could brings me extraordinary happiness in the end.
I was overjoyed to learn that I set a personal record for the half marathon among the soft pink cherry blossoms and the majestic architecture of my favorite city.  The pain is a distant memory, and I am ready for the next challenge.

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