Friday, October 19, 2012

Krista's Fantastic Flyers - Girlfriends Half Marathon 2012





Photo courtesy of J. Carmon Photography

On October 29th of 2011, Krista Jean Maffia - wife, mother of three, daughter, and friend– was released from her pain and her battle against cancer.  We all lost an angel when she died.  In early January, one of the neighborhood gals suggested that we keep Krista’s spirit alive by running the Girlfriends Half Marathon together.  Unified by our love for Krista and moved by our grief to DO something, we jumped on board.

The best part about training for this race was watching woman after woman – many who had never run even a mile before - transform their minds and bodies.  Inspired by Krista’s zest for life, my friends put one foot in front of another and slowly but surely started covering mile after training mile.  They lost weight.  Changed their eating habits.  Discovered their inner strength.  Their beauty.  They became athletes.  It was powerful.

My journey to race day was marked with emotional highs and lows.  I ran a Boston qualifying and personal best marathon in April, but was sidelined by an overuse injury and two minor surgeries.  My attempt at a comeback half marathon was a train wreck.  When I started running consistently again in late July, I was stiff, sore, and slow. 

Typically speed is not the dominate driving factor for me in approaching a race, but I really (really, REALLY) wanted to run faster than I’ve ever run in my life for this race.  My hope was that by some miracle I’d place in the top three in my division, win a trophy, and be able to give it to Krista’s husband.  I tried following a training schedule loaded with speed work, but I loathe speed work.  Midway through the schedule, I dropped the speed work, cut my mileage back, and added in cross training with my husband.  It was a risk but my speed slowly came back the stronger I got.  I just wasn’t sure if it would be enough for me to place in my division.

My friend Danielle is amazing.  She heals the sick for her day job and comes home to a husband and two great kids.  She’s also an endurance athlete and has run three marathons in the past six months.  She spoke these words of wisdom into my life last week when I was worried about my pace.  She said, “Jodi, I’m positive your friend’s husband will be honored with the physical sacrifice and mental endurance you will give in her name during those 13.1 miles no matter what the timer and placing results are.  I think your friend would have wished she could just run, even if it was to just feel her heart beat faster and to feel the fun of accomplishment.  My mantra these days…  Because I Can.” Her wisdom set my mind at ease and I decided to run on race day as fast as my legs would carry me… because I can.

I also studied I Corinthians chapter 9 leading up to the race.  Verse 24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  I knew I would not be the woman breaking the tape for this race, but I needed the reminder to run the entire 13.1 miles to get the prize.   

Eighteen Strong and running for Krista
The morning of the race, eighteen women from our neighborhood proudly wore our Krista’s Fantastic Flyer’s shirts and assembled for a team picture. Donated by Nike and designed by two of Krista’s close friends, the front read,  Never run faster than your angels can fly” and the back said, “Krista’s Fantastic Flyers – in celebration and honor of her memory – Krista Jean Maffia – Girlfriends Half Marathon – October 14, 2012. The weather forecast called for “soaking rain” during the time of the race. Instead, the sun shone through the rain clouds revealing a glorious and perfect morning.  It was like Krista knew this day would be a big one for her friends and she decided to run with us and light the way. 

Carissa and I before the race
I fought back tears all morning and was thrilled to finally release the pent-up emotions on the course.  Caught up in the moment and the spirit of the event, I went out WAY too fast.  (Check out my splits for the full story.)  I cherished the part of the course that looped around and I got to see my friends.  Carissa was in the lead pack and we high fived as she ran past me.  Then I started seeing Krista’s Fantastic Flyers in the crowd.  We cheered each other on and fist bumped the air as we passed each other.  I knew people were reading our shirts and it made me stand taller and run a little faster.  What an honor.

I used up all my adrenaline in the first seven miles and suddenly realized I was tired. Oddly, at that point I was running ALL.BY.MYSELF in a race with almost 3,000 participants.  I ran the next two miles – except the thirty seconds when a girl came out of nowhere and passed me - alone.  It was just me, Jesus, and that Beautiful Sunshine. 
Carissa and I after the race

By mile nine, my legs felt like dead weight and I got passed again.  I was completely irritated that this race was so hard.  I knew if I didn’t find another energy reserve somewhere my chances of hitting my time goal would be shot.  I took my frustrations to Jesus and did a lot of praying.  When I wasn’t praying, I was internally chanting, “Because I can.  GET THE PRIZE!”

Somehow my legs kept moving forward and that blessed “Mile 13” marker came into sight.  I turned the corner into the home stretch and saw Carissa cheering loudly.  It was the encouragement I needed to sprint to the finish.  I couldn’t believe it when I saw my time: 1:36:24!  A personal record (PR) by almost two minutes and 16th place overall.  My time wasn’t fast enough to win a trophy to give to Krista’s husband, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care.  Danielle was right about that.


Setting a PR was great, but the best part about the entire day came after I finished.  I ran back out on the course and found my friend Kristen.  Her story is one for another day, but she is a huge inspiration.  I was able to run the last mile of her race with her and watch her face fill with pride as she slaughtered her previous personal best and finished her second half marathon at a 9:30 pace.   
Kristen and I
My friend Zora was running her first half marathon.  Initially she thought she would walk-run, but she got caught up in the spirit of the event and decided to run the whole way.  She made me promise to bring cowbells to the finish.  When she came into view, she was radiant.  Strong, confident, and beaming with pride, I chased her down the finish chute shaking a cowbell in her face and screaming, “Look at you!  You did it.”  It was a favorite moment for both of us.

One by one, all eighteen of Krista’s Fantastic Flyers came through the finish.  My girlfriends transformed before my eyes.  They came around the corner exhausted and spent, but with head held high and faces filled with pride.  It was like they were realizing something they didn’t know before.  My friends are athletes. Strong.  Healthy.  Capable.  Determined.  Inspiring.  Beautiful.  I’m certain this will be the first of many races for a lot of these Girlfriends.
Krista's Fantastic Flyers post-race:  Polly, Jackie, Shelby, Morgan, Jenni, and Julie
The common theme at the post-race party was the sunshine and the sense that Krista’s spirit was shining on us as we ran.  By the time we changed and headed to our cars, the sky was getting gray.  The rain came in buckets just hours later.  But Krista’s Fantastic Flyers - we had our Beautiful Sunshine.

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My splits for the few people who care and so I don’t have to look them up later…

Mile 1:  6:52
Mile 2: 7:13
Mile 3: 7:17
Mile 4: 7:16
Mile 5:  7:09
Mile 6: 7:14
Mile 7: 7:20
Mile 8: 7:38
Mile 9:  7:36
Mile 10: 7:42
Mile 11: 8:00
Mile 12: 7:50
Mile 13:  7:31




2 comments:

  1. Congrats on the new PR! What an inspirational story. I love that you all did this TOGETHER to honor your friend. That picture of her with her husband and children is precious.

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    1. Thanks Tia. It really was a great day.

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