Running is my favorite way to push the limits of what I think I’m capable of doing. It challenges me physically and mentally. It gives me a sense of freedom. It’s my form of meditation… my minutes of zen.

I love long distance running, and the half marathon is my preferred distance. So, naturally, when I realized my next half marathon would be my 20th, I wanted that race to be at my favorite of them all–the Eugene Marathon.

Why This Race?
In a sense, Eugene is a bit of a homecoming for me. I left my comfort zone to attend the University of Oregon. I was 18 years old, nearly 900 miles away from the only place I ever called home, I knew one person and, like all teenagers, I was discovering who I was without the influences of home.

Eugene is where I started to really fall deeply in love with running. Before I started running for sport, it was just our dry land conditioning workout during crew practice. I started running in college as a way to stay active, but I soon found that it allowed me to discover my new city, and that time on my feet revealed more and more about who I am. I come back to Eugene every spring to continue that journey of self discovery. Plus, I get to take home some pretty cool hardware.

So, How’d the Race Go?
I went into the 2018 Eugene Half Marathon without any expectations, and the weather the night before was helping keep them low. It was absolutely pouring rain. Not your typical misty Oregon rain; it was falling in sheets. When my alarm went off at 5:40am, I immediately checked the weather: 48 degrees, overcast, chance of rain at 11am.

PERFECT running weather.

I went through my usual pre-race routine: coffee, bagel, water, banana. Got dressed, pinned my bib to my tank top, and jogged the 1 mile to the start line.

As I walked to my starting corral, the excitement started to build. I didn’t have a race goal in mind. My only goal was to raise money for a local organization and I achieved that weeks ago. There wasn’t much else for me to do, but cross the finish line on historic Hayward Field healthy and happy.

Let me be honest here. I may say I don’t have expectations, but I always want to best myself. Which is why I positioned myself between two pace groups–one that would be too fast to maintain for 13.1 miles and one that would be a comfortable race pace.

“1, 2, 3 and GO!”

Off I went jockeying my way up Agate St. to claps, cheers, and cowbells. Before I knew it, I’m passing the mile 1 flag to a chorus of watch chimes. As a pack, the runners wind through a neighborhood and start running up Amazon Parkway. It’s a gradual climb and descent that covers miles 3-7.5 and usually where I start to feel the burn. As I started the descent, I popped a Clif Shot Blok (ginger ale flavor, highly recommend) in my mouth and think I’m feeling pretty awesome. Way better than I anticipated.

I get to Mile 6 and look up to realize I caught up with the “too fast” pace group. I start telling myself, “Just don’t pass them. You’ll blow up. Draft them to conserve energy for the last 2 miles.”

I stick with this group as we run up the hill at mile 8 and back past Hayward Field. My right shin starts to ache as we cross over Franklin Blvd. But it always starts to ache at that spot and I always get through the race. “Don’t even focus on it.”

I follow the pace group to about mile 11 where the half and full marathon course splits. “Less than 2 miles to go. Let’s do this.”

Once I got to Autzen Stadium, there’s about a mile to go and I methodically start to pick up my pace. I held back until I saw the flag for mile 26, knowing that meant I had .2 miles to go, so I let my legs and heart do their thing.

Every time I approach the gate to Hayward Field, I start to feel like I’m truly “running in the footsteps of legends” (the Eugene Marathon’s tagline). Those legends carry me to the finish. For .1 miles I feel like I am one of those legends.

I crossed the finish line, got a high five, a medal and the rush of accomplishment. And yes, I always cry just a little. Especially when it occurs to me I beat my personal course record by a minute and was only 40 seconds away from a personal record.

Why I Run
First off, the running community is extremely supportive whether you are crushing it or driving the struggle bus. Shout out to all the friends, family, volunteers and other runners along the course. Your support is an extra boost us runners need.

But the main reason I love running so much is the mental and physical challenge of pushing myself. Every training cycle and race I learn a little more about who I am, what drives me and my reaction to certain situations. I could go into a race after an exceptionally strong training cycle and blow up. Will I quit? No. Will I adjust and recalibrate? Absolutely.

What about you? Do you have an activity you love? Something that pushes you? Share with us in the comments or post on social media @walkertracker. Global Running Day is June 6, 2018, and here at Walker Tracker we’re getting a head start with a month-long Run the World Challenge from June 1-30, 2018. Join today!