I first became aware of Bethany a few years ago when my husband swam (and won!) a ten mile open water swimming race in Newport, Vermont. We were hanging around for the awards ceremony when people on the beach began to get excited; one last race participant was coming in. Bethany has since joked about the fanfare she got for being last in the race, but really, I was super impressed with her fortitude. It took her some time to finish, and frankly, most people would have thrown in the towel hours sooner than Bethany did. Me? I’m not even brave enough to get in the cold-ass water.Bethany won a prize at the event (I believe it was for fundraising), and she chose the distance swimming camp in Ireland, a pre-English Channel attempt training camp that would be completely my idea of hell. She also began contact with my husband for swimming tips.
Flash forward a few years, I got to know Bethany through many other swim events, including Bethany crewing for my husband on his own English Channel event in 2013 (I didn’t swim — I just tagged along). In September 2014, Bethany successfully crossed the English Channel. And I was lucky enough to be there to celebrate it with her.
Over the past couple years, I paced a few races with Bethany — a 5k, a 4.4-miler and then her first 10k last November. One thing I noticed about her is that Bethany is someone with a great deal of determination. Honestly, I wish I were more like her. I often conjure her up when I’m struggling with a race, remembering she spent half of an 18 hour swim vomiting and still managed to complete her mission. She is a true badass.
She signed up for the half marathon shortly after she completed the 10k. Because she keeps a kind of chock-full life, including teaching others to swim, travel for motivational speaking, a full time job and applying to get degrees in engineering and business, she didn’t get time train like she’d hoped. But she was ready to toe the line race morning regardless. Truth be told, she was a hella lot less nervous about running her first half marathon than I was when I ran mine two years ago.
We decided to take the race out slow and try to maintain pace as long as we could. The race was small, about 86 people in the half (it also has a 10k & 5k), and most of the runners took off en masse. Like always, the first mile was tough getting into a groove, even for me going at a slower pace. I guess warming up is always a challenge.We saw my husband the first time at around mile one. The sky was overcast and it was a little humid. I think it took just a couple more miles before the sun came out. We hoped for shade along the course, but there wasn’t much. Also, there was some sort of mix up with the water stops, and there was one at mile 2 and another just a quarter mile away… then not another stop until mile 7. Bethany is used to cold water swimming, not sunny, humid running, and she really needed the water to keep her hydrated. I was a little upset as I’d emailed the race to check on the location of water stops. Luckily we’d brought Simple Hydration bottles of our own, but we knew they wouldn’t last the whole race. I fretted that this was a back-of-the-pack thing where the aid stations clean up before all the runners come through, but actually it was just a mistake.
Before we knew there would be a water stop, I texted my husband to please bring us water for the next time we saw him (have I mentioned what a great Sherpa he is?). I’m so glad I brought my phone to take pictures (I normally race without it)!Bethany kept a nice even pace for the first eight miles of the race. Because she is aerobically fit, we were able to easily carry on a conversation and she served as a terrific tour guide of the area as we ran the course. When we got to the water stop at mile 7, Bethany used the portapotty and I went to get our bottles refilled. When the aid volunteers saw Bethany, they asked if she was the woman who swam the English Channel. They were so excited to see her and actually thanked her for running the race. 🙂 I was running with a celebrity! Right after, we ran through Proctor, Vermont, which is famous for its marble quarry. There was a gorgeous marble bridge to run over and the sidewalks were even marble.
There was a pretty significant hill around mile 8 (the course was rolling), and it sapped Bethany more than she’d have liked. But fortunately my husband met up with us and brought her more water. Bethany’s dad was also driving along the course to cheer her on, so it was fun to have either my husband or her dad pop in for support.The next water stop was at mile 10. At this point, she began to really feel the cumulative fatigue from the hills. Unfortunately, they didn’t really let up for the next few miles, but she kept at it. There was a phenomenal cheer station/water stop around mile 12.
I noted that Bethany’s breathing sounded harder — her legs were pretty much toast and her feet had gone numb (she’s been having running shoe issues that I hope we can resolve in the next month or so), but she never stopped running. We ran by a steel drum band, a couple fire trucks flanked by some handsome firemen, then finally turned the corner in downtown Rutland to the balloon arch finish. It was so exciting for me to watch Bethany cross the finish line to her first half marathon!The race medal was a piece of marble from the quarry in Proctor that’s the same quarry they took out stone for the Lincoln Memorial. Perhaps my favorite race medal yet! I really enjoyed this race and course, and except for the water stop mixup, I’d recommend this race. Olympian and Boston Marathon champ Bill Rogers was at the post-race event as was running icon Katherine Switzer, the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon. Katherine was very interested in the whole Channel swimming thing and she gave Bethany a huge hug after the race.
I really couldn’t be more proud of her and grateful that she let me take that journey with her. It truly was like running a half marathon for the first time again (but certainly less painful for me this go around), and it was extremely rewarding to me to be there to see it happen.
Up next for Bethany: the marathon! You can read a little more about her decision to tackle the marathon and taking a break from marathon swimming by clicking on her blog here. She is such an inspiration, and I can’t wait to see her cross the finish line of the Space Coast Marathon in November.
If you’ve never paced a runner, I highly recommend it. I was a really wonderful experience, from the views to the camaraderie. It’s such a great way to support another runner with the added bonus of running a race just for the joy of running.