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  • Writer's pictureHeather Simmons

The One With All the Running

Since my last post was a bit of a downer, I thought I'd share the funniest/craziest thing that's happened to me in a while: I just ran a half marathon. By mistake.

It's called the Tallulah Half, and it will forever be one of my favorite experiences. If you've been a part of the tallulah faire journey for long, you know that tallulah is Native American and means "leaping waters". Effervescent, joyous, and bright are all adjectives for my muse, my idea of the girl who's wearing tallulah faire. The Tallulah Half, however, is held in Jasper, AL and finds it namesake in the coy, mischievous hometown hero and actress Tallulah Bankhead. So while we may share different namesakes, the Half is still something I can get behind. Pretty much anything named Tallulah is stellar is my book, and I think I'd be friends with Miss Bankhead if we were alive during the same points in history. She'd be my crazy friend that always caused everyone to blush. We'd probably get into lots of trouble.

My friend Robert told me about the race back in early January, and naturally I was excited. Robert has supported everything I've ever done: he's been to every runway show, every Kickstarter event, every party thrown. He was one of my very first customers (for his sweet momma). He's run, oh nine halves and two actual marathons. Running is his thing. I don't like to run unless something is chasing me. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "runner". I get all red in the face and have shin splint issues from high school and don't particularly enjoy being out of breath. But Robert loves it. Yes!, I thought. It would be such a great way to be a part of what he loves, I thought. I'll train for a half and show him how much I support his goals. Man I'm a great friend, I thought.

Then somehow, through the months of craziness that kicked my bum (see previous blog post) I mentally engineered the imaginary fact that we were only running the 5-k portion of the event. Seriously. I went online and saw that there was a 5-k option. See? I know what I'm talking about. I went to the gym and ran 3.1 miles (in an air-conditioned gym on a treadmill at 0.0 incline) and did just fine. Whew -- no training for me. And by April, when the real s#*% hit the fan, I decided I didn't need to train for a 5-k, since I'd performed quite nicely on the treadmill. There, one thing to check off my crazy never-ending list.

Pre-race photo with my "strength and conditioning" coach Robert.

In mid-May, my calendar reminder buzzed and told me to register for the race. I hopped online and filled out the form for the 5-k. Before paying the fees and officially registering, I texted Robert to make sure we didn't have some silly group name already established. When I attempted to verify that we were running the 5-k, he replied "Yeah. Times four."....

Y'all. I cannot tell you the amount of panic I experienced. You mean to tell me I have to run 13.1 miles in JUNE in central ALABAMA and I only have three WEEKS to train? Hand to God, my next thought was "what am I going to WEAR?!". Bear in mind that I'm an achiever, a winner who thrives on excelling. This little stunt that my subconscious pulled put me smack dab in the middle of loserville. Actually less than loser-- a non-finisher. I wasn't even sure I could finish 13.1 miles without passing out, throwing up, or experiencing severe shin splints. I could quite possibly finish last or not finish AT ALL.

I called my sister and lamented the situation. She laughed in my face. I'm talking emoji with tears pouring laughter. I really think she teared up. Her belly laughs made me crack a smile, and soon we were both laughing hysterically over my predicament. "You mean to tell me your outfit outranked your health and safety as an immediate concern?" she asked. Yep. "You forgot you were running a half marathon? How do you forget something like that?" she mused. And the laughter started all over again.

We decided on the phone that I'd cram in as much training as possible over the next three weeks. Since I could already run -- ahem -- 3.1 miles, I'd shoot for a solid eight. Then I'd walk/run the remainder to the finish line. I'd consult with my dear friend Michelle (who runs marathons like once a week) to see what I needed in the wardrobe department. Then we decided that my goal of "winning" would need to be amended down to the following: 1. To not finish dead last. Surely someone over the age of 65 would be running, right? 2. To not pass out or throw up.

My three weeks of training sailed by in a blur, but they were fantastic. I learned about GU and how you can choose chocolate as a flavor, wicking Nike hats, that apparently you're supposed to size up at least half a size in your running shoes (why had I never known this?!), and that a Nike women's running shirt comes in an almost perfect shade of Tallulah blue. It was awesome. Training wise, I was able to run 5 miles without having to stop and experience a mild heart attack, which I considered a feat. I entered race week feeling I could do my very best, and that was just going to have to be enough.

Race day was overcast and possibly the least humid day of June we've ever had in Alabama. I know-- all the praise hands here. The only tense moment occurred right after we grabbed our racing numbers. A women passed by and asked another woman if she brought her pepper spray. "You know, for the aggressive stray dogs." -- as if this was a well-known fact. I blanched. You mean to tell me I will be chased by stray dogs? Is my rabies shot up-to-date? For the love.

I'll spare you the mile-by-mile breakdown and give you the highlight reel instead. It was actually easy until around mile 6, when I had to I invoke a much more liberal run/walk policy. Mile 7 featured the biggest hill I've ever seen and I literally thought my heart would explode. Miles 10-12 were the hottest (it was 11am by then and getting steamy) but manageable. I did not throw up. I did not pass out. I pushed my body hard, but I never once felt like I couldn't go on. At some point around mile 10 I brushed hair out of my face and felt dirt all over my cheek. I asked Robert if there was something on my face. He told me it was dried sweat that felt like salt crystals. Ewww.

I ran a half marathon with a 15:14 average. Although this is incredibly slow, I'll take it with almost zero time to train. Ten people were straggling behind me, who were all well under the age of 30. One poor runner finished 30 minutes after me. Bless. No shin splints were experienced. Not a single dog chased me. And I got a medal!

I was so proud of myself after finishing the race! I was not the best by far, but I pushed myself and met my goals and finished strong. I needed a win, especially after such a tough spring. I encourage you to do at least one thing this year that forces you out of your comfort zone, that pushes you to the fringe mentally and physically. Set a goal that you have to earn, that has nothing to do with money or advancement in your job, but instead is focused purely on your enrichment and leaves you well-rounded. And if you can, do it with an amazing friend and enjoy the experience together.



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