Monday, November 24, 2014

A Race of Firsts

One of my favorite races, the Girlfriends Half Marathon, is a mid-October tradition.  An all-women's event benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it offers a beautiful flat course across the river in Vancouver, Washington.  When I ran this race last year I ended up with a new PR (personal record) for the half marathon distance.

At the starting line

Having run the Portland Marathon the week before, my body was still in full-on recovery mode.  (I wanted to run Girlfriends, but my quads said "no way!")  However, lots of people I knew signed up, including my daughter Denise.

Denise is ready to run!

Watching me finish the Corvallis Half Marathon last April had inspired Denise to tackle a half of her own.  After I recommended Girlfriends Half, she immediately signed up.  Unfortunately, short-handed at her job, Denise ended up working long days all summer, which didn't allow for much training time.  The race organizers also offered a quarter marathon option, (approx. 6.7 miles) and nervous about running a half marathon on sketchy training, Denise gladly switched to the shorter distance.

What's a race without fun signs?

Also toeing the start line that day was my neighbor and morning running partner Penny.  Plagued by health issues and injuries for the past couple of years, her long time goal was to complete a half marathon (Penny had signed up for last year's race, only to withdraw due to injuries). 

Penney takes on the half marathon!

But now healthy and fully recovered, she'd trained diligently all summer for this day.  I was happy to see Penny here, and excited as she was for her first half marathon.

Loved this lady's t-shirt!

As participants lined up to start the race, I roamed around the crowd with my camera looking for good photo ops - like the message on this woman's t-shirt.

Modeling their pink striped socks

Or this happy group of ladies, all sporting matching striped pink socks.  Because this race was a benefit for breast cancer research, pink was a popular color choice.  I ran into lots of friends and acquaintances from the local running community (prompting my daughter to exclaim " you know everyone?")

Seahawks fans

Before I knew it, the countdown began, a horn blew, and runners emptied out of the starting area.  Standing in a now-deserted street, I felt pangs of sadness.  The competitor in me wanted to be out on the course too!  Usually the runner, it was hard this time to be a spectator.

Loved the pink "hair"

But today, spectating was my job.  Planning to meet my friends on the course, and cheer my daughter as well, I hopped into the car.  Driving the course backwards to avoid runner traffic, I parked a half mile away from the action, and hustled across a busy road to the two-mile mark.  I arrived on the course just as Penny and her friends were passing by.

Darn!  Just missing my running buddy, I hoped to at least get a glimpse of my daughter.  Running on minimal training, Denise had predicted she'd be walking by mile two.

Men of the "pink brigade"

I watched the participants stream by.  Standing beside an enthusiastic volunteer, I joined him in cheering on the runners.  And I grabbed a photo or two of the more unusual costumes, such as the men in the photo above.  Although billed as a women's-only race, men who were able to raise a specific amount of money were allowed to run the race as a member of the "pink brigade."  Hands-down these guys had the best costumes!  (I admire a man who's not afraid to wear pink)

Cyndie and her posse

The runners now past, I scanned the crowd of walkers for my daughter.  But she was nowhere to be found.  When the last of the participants had gone by, I ran back, jumped into my car, and sped to the four-mile mark.  Arriving just as the last of the quarter-marathoners walked by, I realized I'd missed Denise once again.  Hmmm...there was only two miles to go at this point.  I'd better get my hiney to the finish line!

Denise ran a speedy race

So back to the heart of downtown Vancouver I raced.  Finding someplace to park proved to be a time-consuming endeavor, but I finally spied a spot several blocks away.  Pushing my sore post-marathon legs as fast as they would walk, I hustled to the finish line.  And it's a good thing I did.....not two minutes after I arrived, Denise came barreling down the street.

Denise celebrates with the firemen

My daughter finished way faster than I'd anticipated.  What happened?  After Denise picked up her medal and posed with some friendly fireman at the finish, I learned she'd run the entire distance.  I was amazed.....and proud.  Denise seemed to be in great spirits after her run, made even better after discovering she'd placed third in her age group.

April (in pink) finishes strong

After getting Denise some food and drink, we claimed a spot at the finish line and waited for my friends to complete their races.  First came April, decked out in a fun pink outfit.

Adorable little helper

Between racers, it was fun to watch all the activity at the finish line.  A group of local firemen handed out medals to each person.  And a group of enthusiastic cute kids made sure each finisher received a water bottle.  One little boy was absolutely adorable!

Penny finishes her first half marathon!

I kept scanning the crowd for Penny, hoping her race was going well.  Finally, in the distance I spotted Penny and her friends heading towards the finish arch.  Camera in hand, I made sure to capture her moment of triumph.

Finish line celebration

There were cheers, high-fives, hugs, and a few tears of joy (yeah...I misted up a little bit too).  I was happy for my friend - now an official half-marathoner! 

Proud girlfriends

I was proud of both Denise and Penny - Denise for persevering and finishing her race, despite minimal training, and Penny for never giving up, and accomplishing a goal she's dreamed about for a long time.  Well done, ladies!

This year's Girlfriends Half was indeed an event of firsts.  First race for Denise, first half marathon for Penny, and first time I've spectated.  But next year I'll be there, running again (with a new and improved right foot!).  And hopefully Denise and Penny will be right beside me.


  1. Linda, what an awesome series of the event!

  2. Haha, the Channing Tatum sign is great.

  3. I love your posts.. they always make me smile. Your enthusiasm for life is highly contagious.
    Great post, congrats to Denise and Penny!

  4. What an inspiration you are for your daughter to be following in your footsteps. Seems like she might have caught the bug now. Fun photos.

  5. Linda, congrats to your daughter and your friends. I loved all the costumes.. It is a great race benefiting the Komen Foundation. Enjoy your day!

  6. This is one my bucket list - but I remain unsure if the wisdom of such things!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  7. SUPER! You should be very proud of Denise for completing what she set out to do. And it's great that your friend did too.

  8. Hope your 'new and improved' right foot is doing well!

  9. They all appeared to have fun with interesting messages. Congratulations to your daughter and Penny. Thanks for sharing and commenting on my entry.

  10. What an incredible event for a very worthwhile cause! And what fun costumes and signs. Your posts are always so much fun. You have such a love for life.

  11. Well, Denise has caught the racing bug! And good for Penny. I'm a spectator now, but I fondly remember my running/racing days.

  12. What a fun run! Enjoyed your shots.

  13. Wow; Congratulations to your daughter and I truly admire who has talent for any sports♪
    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

  14. I love all of the shots of the runners. all so unique... and have to love the guy in the tutu! hOpe you are having a great Thanksgiving and enjoying letting all do for you. Hope your are recovering well from your surgery!

  15. Fantastic post and congratulations to your daughter and all the runners. I can see that it must have been hard for you to spectate. Hope your recovery goes well.

  16. Nicely done ladies. I'm so impressed with Denise - she takes after her mom in determination.

  17. I don't race anymore but it is fun to see first timers finish!

  18. These events look like so much fun. It's apparently becoming a "trend" for dressing up at these things. That would be fun. I can't run now because of my ankles giving out on me.


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