I’d been running for less than a year when my best friend, Joy, said “there’s going to be a half-marathon in Kingsport. We should totally do it.”
She was serious.
She talked me into it and we started training together. We had no earthly idea what we were doing, but I printed off a plan from the Runner’s World Smart Coach website and we followed it. We ran in the rain, from my house and hers. We left our husbands with the kids and food for the grill and we’d run and talk and laugh. Those miles hold some of my fondest memories.
In October of 2009, Kingsport had it’s first Haunted Half and Joy and I crossed the finish line together.
In 2010, Joy was in Law School and not training as much, so I ran the entire half marathon and she ran a leg of the relay. This was going to be our new tradition!
In the Fall of 2011, after running together all summer, Joy was working towards her first full marathon. I was pregnant with my third and happily jogging along, still planning on doing the half with her. Then Joy was diagnosed with brain cancer. On the day of the Haunted Half that year, Joy had been in a coma for three weeks. I visited her in ICU just before I headed to the starting line. I rocked my “Run for J Lowe” t shirt and a baby bump and I finished that half for her!
Joy passed away in August of 2012. The Haunted Half that year was bittersweet. Six months after the birth of baby #3 and just over two months since losing my best friend, those were some hard-fought miles. With friends by my side, another one was in the books.
2013 was an amazing running year for me. I stepped up my training and started bringing home trophies. I had my sights on a full marathon in December and planned to use the Haunted Half that year as the tempo portion of an 18-miler. I destroyed that race. I crossed the finish in 1:49:38, collapsed and cried, knowing that Joy was there with me.
I’ve run the Haunted Half since it’s first year, and I will run it every year for as long as I’m able. This year I am in great shape overall, but not the best running shape. It was a tough year, but for the first time since 2009, I ran the entire race with a friend. In all the years prior, I’ve started with my buddies and we’ve drifted along the course…those of us feeling good will pick up the pace, while those not having the best race will hang back. Rachel and I both felt pretty awful from early on. We weren’t even to the halfway point when we decided to stick it out together. Even though my performance was disappointing, I will never regret those miles, because they were miles I spent with a friend…just like I did that very first year.
Now, just so we don’t get too sappy (Joy would’ve HATED that), I’d like to point out Jenn in the pic. She started with us, but she’s a sucker and suffered alone. Ten minutes ahead of us. To be fair, I don’t think Jenn would have been able to handle our whining, so it’s probably good she dropped us. Punk.
For the record, any weekend that you run a half marathon or longer, you get to eat whatever you want. It’s a rule. I hopped back on the healthy food train on Monday and will be posting my food and workout plan shortly.