Two Spring Half Marathons: Almost a PR, Followed By the Slowest

When I got the email from Jillian telling me about the Ray Babineau Memorial 5K, I was training for the Blue Ridge Marathon. Last summer I entered a photo scavenger sponsored by RunChat, and I won a free entry. (For the second time, can you believe it? You can read about my experience at the Blue Ridge Half Marathon here.) I was on the fence about signing up; I was so overwhelmed by grief and anxiety and my new job was so all-consuming that I didn’t know if I’d have the time or energy or even the motivation to train for and run an entire marathon. I finally decided to go for it, and hired Denny Krahe, a coach who also happens to be the host of one of my favorite podcasts. I was hoping, and it proved to be the case, that having a running goal to work toward would also help me focus better on work and prioritize and manage the rest of my messy life.

As soon as I realized that Blue Ridge was the same day as Ray’s 5K I immediately went online to look for another race to run. I was in luck, because there was a half marathon in Radford the following weekend, the 2nd annual Highlander Half. Perfect! Radford is my alma mater, and I could stay with my parents in Blacksburg.

The New River, near the start line

Race morning was chilly. The course started at the Donald Dedmon athletic complex, which sits alongside the New River. It runs on roads and in neighborhoods around Radford, ending at Bisset Park by the river. I parked at Dedmon Center and picked up my race packet, and at go time I was surprised to see how few people were running (officially there were 99 finishers). Certainly the smallest half I’ve ever run! Despite that, it was very well organized, and the course was well marked with plenty of water stations, volunteers, and police officers stationed at regular intervals.

This church building was converted into apartments, where I lived during my senior year at college.

I like to use the Galloway method on my runs and when I’m racing farther than a 5K. I set my timer for 2 minutes running, 30 seconds walking. I felt strong, and after the first few miles I started to notice that I was passing runners one by one. I began to play a game with myself that I’ll sometimes do when I’m racing, which is see if I can pass more people than pass me. I don’t remember what my final number was, but it helped motivate me to try and keep a steady pace.

There was some lovely scenery along the course! If I hadn’t kept stopping to take photos I might have gotten a PR…

And the hills! Certainly not as many as Blue Ridge, but there was no shortage of them! I found that running the flat parts seemed more difficult than the hills, even the uphill parts. I crossed the finish line at 2:16:56, only eleven seconds off my PR.

After I finished I recognized a fellow runner from Fredericksburg, Marie. We stayed and chatted after the race for quite a while (truth: we were hoping we’d place in our respective age groups but we didn’t. Oh well.) There was a festival going on that day as well, and next time I’m going to make sure I bring a little cash with me and hit up some of the food trucks after the race! There was shuttle service between the park and Dedmon Center, which was nice!

Oh and get this: when I looked at the results later, I saw that the person who finished just before I did was a fellow teacher I worked with at my very first teaching job! We’re now following each other on Strava, and it’s been fun to see what she’s been doing running wise! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to catch up in person at a future event. So even though I didn’t run the race I had been training for, I had a great time, and almost got a PR to boot!

And the next race? The Marine Corps Historic Half. It was hot, I took it easy, felt strong, and clocked my slowest finish time for a half marathon.

Like I said… it was hot.

The neat thing about running a race year after year in the city where you’ve lived for the past 20+ years is that people you know are everywhere. They’re running the race with you, and you say hello, wish each other luck, maybe chat a little bit. They’re along the course, and you wave and holler their name and high five them. You start to look for certain people at certain points along the way, because that’s where they live. This year was unique (besides the fact that it was the first Historic Half since Ray’s death) because my new teaching job introduced me to so many more people! I saw lots of friends from work who were either running the race or cheering for us.

This is what I wrote on my Instagram page:

I woke up feeling sorry for myself and thought seriously of skipping it. At the start line I was thinking about how I could just run and jump in my car and go home. I’m so glad I showed up and ran. So many of my friends were out running too, volunteering, cheering on runners. Every time I saw someone I knew they gave me a burst of energy and I was reminded of the reason why I run this race. I’ve said more than once it’s the biggest party in town, and even though I started the day not really wanting to celebrate, YOU ALL made it worthwhile. I know my Ray was with me. At the finish I cried a little bit seeing all the people cheering, and realizing that passing from one life to the next must be a little bit like this, with everyone who has gone before you CHEERING, they’re so happy to see you. I thought, Ray was so upset at the prospect of leaving us, and when he arrived in Heaven and saw all those saints and angels there to welcome him, he was at peace and knew we would be OK. I have to believe that too.

Sometimes I just don’t feel like running, or doing much of anything. But when I force myself to get up and move, live, and love, I know I will be OK.

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May I Runfess?

I haven’t done this in a while. (Those of you seeing this one for the first time might remember me from Ramblings of a Runner Cacher. Or not.) Now that I have a new blog I’m kind of excited about jumping back into RunFessions, because these days I’ve been more inclined to share deep dark philosophical thoughts. It’s nice to be a little lighthearted once in a while. So here goes!

1. Some days I just don’t feel like running. That’s always been the case, but if before if I had a plan to run x-number of miles the next day, by golly I was doing it. Usually. Now? Take this morning for example. I had planned to run 10-11 miles today and go for a short trail run tomorrow. I went to bed without laying out any running gear (always a bad sign). When I got up I thought, “maybe I’ll do my short trail run today, and my longer run tomorrow…” Well, no run took place today. Tomorrow is another day.

2. I’m impatient. My new favorite running shoe is the Brooks Levitate. Back in January I bought some on a whim and I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. It’s time for a new pair. Problem is, Lucky Road can’t keep them in stock! I was told that Brooks was coming out with a new model in July. I didn’t want to wait for that so Zappo’s got my business this time around. My apologies to Jeff and all my friends who work in his store. I’ll make it up to ya.

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Top: My first pair of Brooks Levitates.

Bottom: My current pair.

3. Speaking of running stores, we have two of them. A few of my friends prefer one or the other. Personally I don’t have a preference. I suppose I could have looked at VA Runner before going to the big-box online retailer but it is what it is. (Maybe I’m feeling just a teensy bit guilty about that…?) I told my friend Rachel who works there that I’m an equal-opportunity running store patron–meaning, I go wherever I happen to be closest to at the moment. And after all, Zappo’s is just a click away.

4. I runfess I have no idea how many miles I put on that first pair of Levitates. I decided when I got my new ones I’d try and keep track of the mileage. So far I’ve run in them twice, for a total of 13.2 miles. And they’re already muddy. So I can’t return them even if I wanted to. Which I don’t.

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Some photos from last Sunday’s run

5. I haven’t run since Sunday. Tomorrow will be (and I WILL run tomorrow) my first run in almost a week. I’d better get my act together if I want to build up enough of a base to run the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall! I’m working on a post about how training for a marathon helped keep me sane through the winter and spring (look for that in the coming days). I hope that will be the case this summer and fall. I runfess I love the training process, and to keep myself accountable I may be posting more about that here and on Instagram than you care to see!

I’m linking up with Marcia’s Healthy Slice , Fairytales and Fitness, and Running on Happy.  Have a great weekend (and isn’t it cool that we have TWO July 4th weekends this year?)

First Annual Ray Babineau Memorial 5K

I want this site to be about happy things, mostly. I chose the handle “running bereaved” for my Instagram and Twitter profiles, and eventually this blog, because I still want to celebrate (as podcaster Kari Gormley likes to say) The Gift of Running, but I can’t ignore the reality of bereavement. It sucks and it changes my perspective on life. I’m more accepting of differing opinions and lifestyles, but I have much less patience for assholes. I don’t take anyone or anything for granted. And I feel really crappy some days. I’m in a much better place than I was during the first several months but the grief is real and raw and I refuse to pretend that it isn’t. And I want to channel it in a positive way. So read on:

Sometime in March I got an email from the office manager at QRC Technologies where Ray worked for the last several years. She and others at the company were organizing a 5K and 1-mile run in his memory, and to raise funds for Colorectal Cancer Alliance. It was to be a small event, open mostly to QRC employees and Ray’s family and friends, with a vision to hold it every year and open it to the public.

Tom, the CEO of QRC

Jillian, who organized the event

The event was held on April 21, at the James Monroe High School track. The two college boys came home that weekend, along with Matt’s girlfriend Andrea. Ray’s parents also came, as well as many of our friends.

So here’s something good that has happened to me in the wake of Ray’s illness and death. I have made SO MANY friends in the last year, through running and my job. I’ve grown even closer to some of the friends I already had. I was touched and honored at the number of those friends who came out, including people who had never met Ray.

My ultrarunner friend Allison brought her brother to the event!

Some of my friends from Life Runners came out.

Caroline, one of my coworkers, who got married last weekend!

The 1-mile run was held first, followed by the 5K. I did both. There were no timing chips or clocks. The entire run took place on the track. Many people walked. People were encouraged to wear superhero costumes, and there were prizes for the winners.

Ray’s colleagues are amazing people. They have done a lot for our family. They loved him and what better way to honor his life!

This Is Reality

Every few years, as I enter new phases of life, I feel the need to start a new blog. Each time I think, this one will be the one that lasts, the one I post to consistently and indefinitely. The last time I posted on my blog Ramblings of a Runner Cacher was in July of 2017, less than a month before my husband Ray died.  At the time he was undergoing treatment for Stage 4 colon cancer, and things seemed to be going well.  We were under no illusions that he would be completely cured, but we were hopeful that we’d have a few more good years together at least.  I kept blogging about my running and my geocaching (which I don’t really do these days). When he was diagnosed in September of 2016, I felt like I was suddenly thrust into an alternate reality. I could hear the doctor telling us that they had found a huge mass in his colon and that he needed more tests and surgery, but she wasn’t talking to us. It was some other couple in a parallel universe. For about ten months we lived with this cruel new member of our family called Cancer; we fought hard to make it go away, but ultimately Cancer won. Someday I may tell you the story of The Worst Day, July 30, 2017, when he died.  Or not.  And definitely not today.

I am writing this on Father’s Day so I’ll tell you instead about the great husband and dad that he was. Better yet, I’ll show you.

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I don’t know when I knew he was The One (I think I suspected it on the day we met, actually; I’ll tell you about that happy day sometime too). Maybe it was the fact that he was willing to drive 5 1/2 hours on a regular basis to see me. When we first started dating, he lived in Annapolis, Maryland, and I lived in Radford, Virginia, and we carried on this way for two years.  Maybe it was how close he was to his family, and he was ALWAYS, ALWAYS respectful to his parents. As the saying goes, they raised him well and it showed. Ray was confident, knew how to make decisions (I remember being impressed when he told me he was buying a house), and yet humble enough to be dumbfounded that I would choose him. Are you kidding?? I couldn’t believe he had chosen ME.

Everyone he worked with loved him because of his integrity and leadership, and most of all that he treated everyone with dignity and respect. And yet he put his family first. He had many, many friends; they were crushed when they learned of his death. I hope I am able to keep in touch with all of them.

Sadly I am not living in that happy parallel universe where Ray is alive and healthy, where I wake up every morning with him beside me and he comes home at night and we tell each other about our day.  Where we’re planning our next vacation and we’re going to movies together as a family and living out our normal, mundane, happy lives.  He is gone and as crappy as that is, that’s reality and I have to make the best of it for myself and our three sons.

I hope I’m able to update this regularly. Nowadays I have twice as much to do as I used to. My vision is for it to be a place where I talk about my passions, especially my family and running. And the outdoors. And this new companion called grief. And food. (I loved to cook once upon a time, but I don’t do much of that anymore.) And my faith, which has been tested big time in recent months.

Happy Father’s Day.

Dads, hold your kids tight and tell them you love them. Wives, don’t take your husbands for granted because you don’t know how long they will be around. And if you’re blessed to have your father or father-in-law on this Earth, give him a call. I’m going to go call both now.

Until next time, y’all.