"Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you!"
Filled with nerves and anticipation, I put my earphones on and waited for the sound of the cannon. This was it! After starting my jogging journey seven months before and five months of half marathon training, the moment was here. My very first half marathon in Pensacola, Florida!
The cannon went off and the crowds of people around me slowly started to move forward. As my music began to play, my nervousness slipped away and I picked up my pace. We looped through a street and suddenly, there was the sunrise over Pensacola Bay in front of me. As I hit the first half mile, "Revelation Song" by Kari Jobe began to play. It was so perfect! I started this journey as a way to grow closer to the Lord and I couldn't wait to spend 13.1 miles praising His Name!
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. Who was and is and is to come. With all creation I sing praise to the King of kings. You are my everything and I will adore you."
The crowd began to slowly thin out as the faster runners moved ahead. We took a left and moved on toward the Graffiti Bridge. Here it was: my first hill! I took my first "walking break" as I climbed upward. At the top of the hill, I picked up the pace and kept moving forward. Although my original plan was to run thirty second intervals, keeping a steady jogging pace felt surprisingly well.
After a right turn on Cervantes, we passed mile two and hit another bridge. As I crossed the bay, the road began to slowly climb upward once again. As I felt the tiniest bit of panic start to rise, "God's Great Dance Floor" by Chris Tomlin began to play. My nerves subsided and I very nearly danced across the bridge!
"You'll never stop loving us. No matter how far we run. You'll never give up on us. All of heaven shouts: let the future begin!"
From miles two to five, we gradually ran higher and higher. I walked through the water stations and then continued jogging. Two days before the race, my running partner and I drove the first half of the course. At certain landmarks, I said quick prayers in my head for God to give me peace and energy. This was my first prayer circle and it worked! As I passed the cemetery and certain signs I had prayed over, God's peace overwhelmed me. I also couldn't believe how much fun I was having and how amazing I felt! My emotions were so overwhelming that I found myself crying.
After making a left turn onto Summit, we ran through some housing and past the airport. The support along the way was amazing! I was so surprised at how many people showed up to cheer us on! The volunteers at the water stations were friendly and encouraging. I was nearly seven miles in and I was having a blast!
Somewhere between miles seven and eight, "Speak Life" by TobyMac came on and gave me another burst of energy.
"Raise your thoughts a little higher, spread the love like fire. Hope will fall like rain when you speak life with the words you say."
As I passed mile marker eight, I couldn't believe that I had so much energy left. I was keeping a 12/13 minute pace and it was the best "long" run I'd ever had! And then I saw it. Between miles eight and nine, a huge hill came into view. I knew there was supposed to be a hill here, but I was surprised at how large it looked to me. But then "Live With Abandon" by Newsboys came on and I dug down deep to face it.
"I wanna live with abandon. Give You all that I am. Every part of my heart Jesus, I place in your hands."
After making it to the top, I was so relieved. The rest of the course was supposed to be flat or downhill. With just four miles left to go, I was confident that I could finish in under three hours! As I jogged past mile marker nine and moved on toward ten, I couldn't believe what I saw in the distance. Was that an overpass?!
I took one of my earphones out and chatted a bit with an older gentleman next to me. He was so encouraging as we started to walk up the overpass. I realized once again why I love to run so much. Everyone is rooting for one another! There are no losers in a race, no matter the distance. What matters is that you finish! Why can't every sport be like that?
Coming off of the overpass, we passed mile marker ten and the hills were over. I rejoiced inside because I was sitting at two hours and seven minutes. With just 5k left to go, I knew I could finish under three hours!
Unfortunately, my legs disagreed with me. At around 10.5 miles, both of my legs and my left foot started to cramp. I tried to jog short intervals to break up my walking spells, but I just couldn't do it. As I walked along, I watched the time on my watch quickly tick away and I began to get discouraged.
I passed mile marker 12 as I came into historic downtown Pensacola. Just a mile left! My legs were screaming in pain but the crowds of spectators were getting larger and I just kept moving forward. I turned left and there it was in the distance: the finish line! I half walked, half hobbled, to the roundabout, clicking through the songs on my iPod until I found the one I was looking for. "Overcomer" by Mandisa!
"You're an overcomer! Stay in the fight 'til the final round. You're not going under. 'Cause God is holding you right now! You might be down for moment, feeling like it's hopeless, that's when He reminds you ... that you're an overcomer!"
As I came out of the roundabout and hit the last stretch toward the finish, I pushed with everything I had and started to jog once again. To my right, I spotted my wonderful husband and kids as they cheered me through to the finish. I can't even begin to explain the emotion I felt as I received my medal. I had done it! My legs felt like they were literally going to fall off of my body, but I had finished 13.1 miles!
My official time was 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 28 seconds. Although I felt the urge to be a little disappointed that I didn't meet my 3 hour goal, I quickly reminded myself of how far I've come. Seven months ago, God convicted me to get off of the couch. What a blessing it was to obey!