This race will probably always be one of my top three favorite races ever. As you know, my cousin Martilee has Rett Syndrome. This disorder has rendered her unable to walk, use her hands in a functional way and talk (along with many other complications that effect her daily life). If you've been following along on my blog or other social media platforms, you also know I've ran FOR Martilee before in a few other races, raced with Girl Power 2 Cure and raised money and awareness for Rett Syndrome. But I wanted to do something more for her, to really involve her in the race somehow. So a few months ago I decided to reach out to my Aunt Vanessa to see how she felt about me pushing Martilee in her first half marathon.
Vanessa had her concerns, which I fully understand. Martilee is immunodeficient due to Rett Syndrome (and race weather is hard to predict, especially in the spring) and had been having more seizures lately. Something as simple as a small cold could (and usually does) turn into pneumonia requiring an extended hospital stay. Obviously, her health is the most important factor in all of this.
I went ahead and signed myself up for the half marathon and waited to sign up Martilee (I did reach out to the race director and confirm that I could purchase Martilee a bib and push her in the jogging stroller before signing her up. The race website stated no jogging strollers, but it doesn't hurt to ask! Luckily, the RD gave me permission. Thank you!) until closer to race day. Vanessa gave me the okay, and with that Martilee was about to run her first half marathon!
Race week showed up with rain and cool temperatures in the forecast. Now I started to wonder if this was a bad idea. I know there's nothing you can do about race weather, but I didn't want Martilee to get sick! Vanessa and I started trying to come up with ideas. Do we just try for a different race? Do we bundle her up? What are we going to do about the rain to keep dry? In the end, Vanessa came up with THIS:
Race day showed up just as wet, windy, and cool as predicted. Thank goodness Vanessa is crafty and was able to put this together to keep Martilee dry. Not only that, the shield would block some of the wind so she would stay nice and warm, but be able to see where we're running!
Prior to the race I also purchased some shirts for not only Martilee and myself, but the rest of our family group that would be spectating. We also both wore shwings and skirts from Sparkle Athletic, and trucker hats that say "Running for those who can't" from R4TWC.
On the front: Team Martilee #untilshecan. On the back: gp2c.org #curerettsyndrome.
This half marathon was in Des Moines, Iowa and always takes place the weekend before the Drake Relays. Typically the course finishes on the track, but this year they changed the course a bit. I was a little bummed to not finish ON the track itself since I ran track in college and still watch a lot of big track meets on TV, but the nice thing is that they took out one of the big hills right at the end of the race! Don't worry though, there was STILL plenty of climbing. Running hills are a little bit tougher with a jogging stroller and cousin in front of you!
Back to the race... Martilee and I lined up at the start, to the outside of the race so that we wouldn't be in anyone's way as the race started. I had never pushed a jogging stroller while running so I really had no idea what to expect in terms of pace or how much extra effort I'd be using.
We took off and immediately had a short climb and right hand turn. Martilee's jogger has a fixed front wheel, which means every time we'd turn or have to slightly change our angle I'd have to kind of pop a wheelie to adjust us. Luckily Vanessa showed me how to do this AND use the hand brake before we started.
We made it through the first few miles totally fine. I was getting the hang of maneuvering the jogger around corners and locking my arms out to get us up the few small rolling hills. Martilee had actually fallen asleep just before the race started, so at least I knew she was comfortable, warm and dry enough.
Around miles 3-4 there was a HUGE downhill! Martilee was PULLING me downhill! Fortunately there was the hand brake plus a band I had wrapped around my wrist. If she sped up, so did I! I was able to keep us in control just fine but we were hitting paces in the low 7's. It was nice to stretch the legs and get some longer strides after the rolling hills of the first few miles.
The joy of the downhill was short lived because little did I know Martilee and I had to climb for the next two miles! There was a little bit of walking, but around mile 5 I saw Phil, Vanessa, Parson and Thayne! (Thayne had been riding around the course on his bike and updating our family as to where I was. He also stayed close just in case Martilee had a seizure and I needed help quickly.) They helped us get up that hill and keep pushing forward! Hearing their love and seeing their joy really took the pain out of my legs on that climb.
The next few miles were pretty flat which was just what I needed to keep us rolling. We were cruising just under 9 minute miles and I felt pretty good. Honestly, the cool temperatures were so helpful!
There were a few times that we would come up on aid stations and other runners would ask me if they could help out and grab me a drink so I didn't have to try to steer over to one side of the road and try to avoid cups or other runners. A lot of the runners who passed us also cheered us on and had so many motivating words to share. The running community is so amazing!
Around mile 8 I saw that Martilee must have woken up. She started clapping her hands and I heard so many amazing giggles and squeals (especially on the down hills!) Hearing her really helped me know that Vanessa and I made the right decision. Before the race we had kind of voiced to each other our concerns about if Martilee really wanted to do something like this. With her being non-verbal we didn't know if we were forcing her into something she really wasn't interested in.
I knew around mile 10 there was another decent hill, but it was the last one! Our family was at the top cheering us on! By this time my legs were tired, but hearing them cheer for us kept me running strong. Once this hill was over around mile 11 we were mostly downhill to the finish!
Coming into the home stretch I remember seeing Parson, Martilee's brother, first. He was cheering like crazy and then ran on the sidewalk to the finish line. I was in tears but smiling so big crossing the finish line and really started bawling once I saw Vanessa. She gave me a huge hug and told me Martilee had a big grin when we crossed the finish line. Martilee and I both received our medals and then we kept walking and found the rest of our family hanging out under a big awning keeping dry.
We got our official results from the results tent and found out Martilee took 1st in her Age Group! Way to go, M! Officially, we ran a 1:58:35 (9:04 pace). We took 141st and 142nd out of about 450 women. Not too bad at all!
Even with the hills, cold and rain we had an amazing time at the race. I'm glad our family was able to see us a few times on the cours and cheer us on. Martilee luckily stayed dry and warm the entire time and seemed to really have fun the last 5 miles of the race once she woke up.
After the race we went back to our hotels, warmed up and dried off, then headed to a restaurant to celebrate. I had a great race and really hope to be able to share another half marathon with Martilee again soon, just hopefully with better weather!
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