I have run over 100 races in my life. Throughout the highs and lows of running, there has been one race that has stuck out to me; the 2013 Nike Women's Half Marathon. I've since run faster races, but at the time, it was a PR.
Throughout the later half of college and into my early 20s, I suffered from both anxiety and depression. I was able to go to class or work, but I had social anxiety and hanging out with large groups of people intimidated me. Particularly during the second half of college, I stuck to myself. Occasionally it would interfere and dictate my running as well. Bigger road races, large groups of people, and unfamiliar areas were all things I stayed away from.
The Nike Women's Half Marathon was a 15,000 person race in Washington DC. It was a large race in an even larger city. Two things I avoided as much as possible. Yet for some reason, I decided I wanted to run. I entered the lottery when it opened and found out I was chosen in November for the April Race. For the next few months, I filed it in the back of my mind. I ran through the cold weather of Upstate, NY.
As the months went by, the race quickly began approaching, and I secretly started regretting my decision to sign up. I hadn't made hotel reservations, I knew nothing about Washington DC, and honestly, I was somewhat scared to run a race on such unfamiliar ground. At the time, I was working in Upstate, NY. My parents were living in Virginia. Since I hadn’t seen my parents in several months, my dad decided he would meet me in Washington DC, and we would hang out. I'm extremely close with my parents, so it made me more excited to run.
About two weeks before, my dad helped book a hotel which solidified that I had to do this. I couldn't back out then. The closer the race got, the more I was getting out of my comfort zone. Without my parents, I don't know if I would have even run.
The race itself was a blur. We got to the start and all of a sudden we were off. I ran my heart out in Washington DC and loved every moment of the race. Running by national monuments, and places I had only seen on the television. I felt great, and I was having the race of my life. As I approached the finish, I realized I was going to place in the top 10 out of 15,000 people. I finished as 9th woman overall, and it sealed the deal for my all-time favorite race. I had reached out of my mental comfort zone, PRed and placed top 10.
I've since run faster half marathons, but nothing will compare to getting out of both my physical and mental comfort zone. The entire race taught me a lot about myself.
I still suffer from social anxiety from time to time and some years are better than others, but that race allowed me to see that I can reach out of my comfort zone.