Today’s race report come from April Hopkins, who finished the Bakersfield Half Marathon after a years-long hiatus. Today she shares how meeting other BAMRs on the course and remembering the joy of race day was far more important than a finishing time.

A few Sundays ago, I ran my fourteenth half marathon; my first in almost five years. Thanks to some health issues and my official transition into perimenopause, I’ve gotten a lot slower and more injury prone over the past few years. I have been using the run/walk method to take some of the stress off my body. I decided to use AMR’s 13.1 Run/Walk Program to train for this race: The Bakersfield Half Marathon. In my younger days, I would have been mortified to take a walk break during a race. In my head, if I didn’t run the whole race, it didn’t count. 

About a year ago, I decided to try run/walking. I’ve tried everything from 10 minutes of running/1 minute of walking to much shorter intervals: 30 seconds of running/30 seconds of walking. I’ve found that I prefer a 2- or 3-minute run with a 1 minute walk interval. While I’d like to increase my running interval, I’m also happy to be able to run at all.

I got to the race with just enough time to meet up with my friend, Stephanie. We chatted for a bit and then it was time to head to the start. Stephanie is faster than me, so we wished each other good luck before she headed towards the middle and I made my way towards the back. I used to start towards the middle and I would chat people up and wish them luck, but the back of the pack is where the party is at. We know we’re not going to win the race; we are just happy to be there and hoping to finish.

April, in pink, chatting with Stephanie before the start

I took off at the start and headed right to the first whopper of a hill; it happens within the first two miles of the race. After that first big one, there are some mild hills that continue until about mile three. As I ran those, I played leapfrog with the woman next to me. After a bit, I said, “At least we’re almost done with the hills!”  She replied she wasn’t a local;  in fact, she was in the middle of running 50 half marathons in 50 states and had done a race in Nevada the day before.

Within a few minutes, I learned that her name was Samantha, and she was from Oklahoma. I also learned that she was a big fan of Another Mother Runner so we chatted about the podcast, retreats and all the fun things about AMR. She told me that she was also doing run/walk intervals, so we ran together.

Before I knew it, we had run about five miles together. We chatted about our lives, and I opened up to her about things you normally wouldn’t tell a complete stranger. There is just something about running next to someone, filling your lungs up with air that makes you want to empty your heart.

The joy of meeting a BAMR mid-race

Samantha and I parted ways because she wanted to switch up her run/walk intervals. I was alone again but not for long. There was a young woman near me who kept stopping to stretch her feet. She was in pain. I stopped to check on her during one of her stretches and she told me that her shins were hurting. I asked if she had worn those shoes long, because I had trouble with that particular brand during my marathon training. I told her if she went to our local running store, they would help her find shoes that work for her.

She had only been running for a few months and this was her very first race. My eyes welled up with tears. She was such a sweet girl, and I was overcome with pride for her, this girl I didn’t even know. Is that the mom in me? The runner? The woman? I don’t know what it is, but I’m glad to be able to feel those emotions for complete strangers.

She and I stayed near each other for a while, but I eventually lost her. Again, I wasn’t alone for long. I met two hilarious women who were struggling right along with me as we neared miles 10 and 11. We cracked jokes with each other and talked about what kinds of food we’d eat when we were done. I really wanted a burger and an ice-cold Coke!

Since I had taken the first part of the race  conservatively, I had some gas in my tank and decided to finish the last two miles strong. I said goodbye to the funny women and wished them luck.

The last mile of the race was my fastest because I was really pushing myself to get done so I could eat and have that ice-cold Coke! I ran into the finish shoot all alone as the crowd cheered for me and yelled my name. I had a big smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I may have also accidentally said a few curse words to lovely people who were waiting at the end with my medal. Sorry, not sorry.

Big medal and big smile at the finish

After I finished, I walked around to flush out my legs and bumped into Samantha. We chatted again. I also saw the girl who had been struggling with her shins and the two funny friends I spent the last miles with. I congratulated them all and told them I hoped to see them again at another race. I left the race with such a full heart. I used to leave races feeling disappointed that I hadn’t hit my goal or that I had to take a walk break.

No longer. I honestly couldn’t even tell you my official time because I didn’t look. I don’t care. I had fun, made friends and spent the day with this beautiful running community. How many people did I miss out on meeting when I came to races just to PR? And while I can’t pretend that I wouldn’t like to get faster, I don’t ever want to go back to racing just to hit goals. I want to continue showing up to have fun and enjoying the party in the back.