The Importance of a Support System

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On Sunday, I ran my second half marathon – yes, the one I’ve been talking about all summer, and actually trained for as opposed to the 2015 Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon that I ran MAYBE six miles prior. And I learned that training really helps, seeing that I got a 14-minute PR.

I loved the race; the course was great, the energy was motivating and the weather could not have been more perfect. Want to know more about it? Read my recap here.

What I’m here to talk about today is not my training, the runner’s high feeling or even accomplishing a long-term goal. I want to treat this as my Oscar-winning speech, and thank all of those who made this possible.

Let’s start with when I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon; my parents, boyfriend Dan and two friends Missy and Kourtney came to support me, and even though I told them I walked quite a bit, they could not be prouder. Right then and there is when I decided I wanted to do it again, and run the whole time (I also decided to never run a half marathon in the heat of July again).


Come June this year, I started training. Not only was I set on actually increasing my mileage this time around, but I really wanted to focus on doing some strength workouts to help build endurance. So every week, I’d do two Pilates workouts, do some short runs and go to Busse Woods to do my long run. A few times, Dan came with me to Busse, and just waited in the parking lot until I was done. He doesn’t know this, but that kept me from stopping because I didn’t want him to get bored. He also willingly woke up at 4:30 a.m. and came to a 10K race that I did in early August, which is when I started to feel really good on my runs and excited for the half.

Flash forward to the night before the race: cue the freak out. It was about 9:30 p.m., and Dan and I had just gotten home from his family party, where I ate pasta and a beef sandwich. But in my head, that wasn’t enough, I didn’t train hard enough or drink enough water, and the next day, I was convinced I was going to die on Lake Shore Drive. Somehow, Dan didn’t get annoyed with me, and ended up talking me down. “You’re just jogging for two hours, not racing, you’ll be fine,” he said, and told me to chug some water and make his box of pasta in the cabinet. He had more faith in me than I did myself, and that really helped me get to sleep that night.

The next morning was kind of chaotic; we left with enough time to get there, but didn’t account for the inevitable traffic on Lake Shore Drive. I still had to get my bib and go to the bathroom, but could not find the VIP parking lot for the life of me (hint: never listen to your GPS, and follow the directions on the parking pass). I was so crabby, and because I was worried about other things, I didn’t feel I was actually focusing on the fact that I was about to run 13.1 miles. Turns out, everything worked out just fine, and I got to my corral with a minute to spare. Again, Dan didn’t say a word about my unnecessary mood swings (until after the race), and just helped me get to where I needed to be. I’m so grateful he was there with me.

Missy and Kourtney came to watch me this time too; I knew they were also running late, and didn’t know what their spectating plan was, so I wasn’t sure when I’d see them, but I actually think that helped me. If I knew they were standing at miles four and 12, I may have been more inclined to slack until those parts – but the fact that they could be standing anywhere and I could see them at any time kept me motivated to stay strong and positive.

Although I didn’t see them until the finish line, others cheering along the way were more encouraging than I could have expected. Because my bib had my actual name on it, I kept hearing “Go Holly!” and when I didn’t see any of the three members from my fan club, I realized it was just nice people helping me get through. So thank you, random spectators, you did help me get to the finish line.

As I approached the finish line, I was trying to look for Dan, Missy and Kourtney, but was also more focused on the fact that I wouldn’t be running anymore in about 30 seconds. I picked up the pace eager to get my hands on an ice cold water bottle, when I heard “YEAH HOLLY!” and I knew it was Dan.  Once I finished, I met up with the three of them who were nothing but proud and supportive.

My parents didn’t come this year, but once I got home, they wanted to know everything about the race: how I felt, where I picked up my pace and what my time was. Even more, though, they wanted me to know how proud they were – they knew it was something that I had been working hard for all summer, and I finally did it. As a celebration, we got Lou Malnati’s pizza for dinner, the ultimate prize.

The running community in itself is a very high-energy, supportive environment; as I mentioned above, the amount of people cheering for runners they didn’t know was amazing. There were even members of the Chicago Police Department standing on the course giving racers high fives, and those handing out water at aid stations looked more like cheerleaders than volunteers doing a job. I don’t think I’ll ever not be impressed by the positivity at these events.

I realize that it really takes some true friends to get up early and stand at the same spot for two hours just because they know that it’s a big deal to me – although running is a very individual sport, it’s also a very difficult one, and I sincerely could not have done it without my support system. Had I flown solo through this entire process, I may have just given up, and walked part of the race again. But I didn’t.

 

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Holly's running career began in high school; after being bummed about not making the volleyball team her sophomore year, she decided to join some of her middle school friends on the cross country team. She also did track in the fall, where the 1600 m race was her niche. Since then, she has run several 5Ks, and completed her first half marathon in July 2015. She graduated from Illinois State University in May 2016 with a degree in journalism.

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