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Why I’m up at 3 a.m. to run half marathons

The alarm went off Saturday morning at 3:40 a.m.

After one snooze my wife, Amy, and I arose in the darkness from our warm, comfortable bed to prepare to run the Phoenix Half Marathon. We both ate a quick breakfast of toast and peanut butter with a banana then piled into the car as we trekked out to Mesa.

It’s always around this time I question why I am getting up in the middle of the night to go run 13.1 miles. Begrudgingly, I sat in traffic annoyed only a few cars were getting through the red light at one time. I forget how much planning goes into staging these runs.

Once we parked, schools buses were warm and ready, waiting to take us to the start line. There, organizers had a bag check ready with plenty of propane heaters to keep us thin-blooded Phoenicians warm in the frigid pre-dawn 50 degree weather.

The official race start time was 6:30 a.m. The gun sounded exactly at 6:30, with the beautiful Valley sunrise behind us and we were off.

It’s at this moment when my earlier question is answered. It’s also at this moment when it all starts to become worth it. In this race, there were hundreds of people of all different shapes and sizes with one goal in mind: to run a half marathon.

A couple miles into the race, Amy and I were running with a lady who must have been in her 60’s. She was smiling the entire way, having a great time. She even cheered us on as she ran. Then I saw a 10-year old boy running with his mother and sister. I joked to Amy saying, “There’s no way this kid is beating me,” as I encouraged her to pick up the pace.

As we continued to run we passed people and people passed us. Some were in costume, some were struggling, but everyone seemed to be enjoying this early morning run. Even the spectators and volunteers were smiling.

The miles dragged on.

Somewhere around mile nine, I was starting to struggle mentally when there was this lone volunteer on the side of the course. He was cheering Amy and me on. I had never seen him before, probably never will again, but I will always remember those cheers. They gave me a little extra motivation to reach mile 10. And 11. And 12.

That’s when I saw the 10-year old creep up beside me again. I looked at Amy and laughed.

Of course, he took off towards the finish line well ahead of us but that’s why Amy and I get up at 3:40 in the morning to run 13.1 miles through Mesa: Because it is fun.

It is also very humbling because people from all ages and sizes pass by you and cheer you on. But when you do cross that finish line, you know you’ve accomplished something.

Over 13.1 miles we’ve battled blisters, sore muscles, cramps and mental fatigue. At the end you know you’ve overcome it all. That’s what makes it worth it.

That and all the medals now hanging up in our office.