Archived Opinion

Completing Waynesville half marathon was a real thrill

op barbeeThere was a time when running was my saving grace. If I didn’t run at least four times a week, I could feel it in my body and in my mood. It was a must for me. I wrote about running all of the time on my blog. I participated in races all throughout the year.

I was a runner. 

Then I was in two automobile wrecks in one year, neither being my fault. The first flipped my car on its top, and both my toddler and I had to crawl out the shattered back window. During the second wreck, I was slammed from behind, which resulted in whiplash, a dislocated clavicle, bruised sternum, and severe sprains up and down my back. I always thought whiplash was a myth until I suffered from it myself. It’s horrible, let me tell you. The bruised sternum prevented me from picking up my boys or doing any type of weight training. 

It’s been very frustrating. 

When all of the core parts of a person’s torso are bruised, dislocated or sprained, pounding the ground during a long run just isn’t an option. It’s been months and months since I’ve felt the glory one feels after a great run. And I miss it. My body and psyche are both lamenting the loss of their favorite remedy. 

Only recently have I started running again (sort of). I haven’t been training or even running as part of an exercise regimen, but I ran a 5K with my little boy on April 16, hosted by Junaluska Elementary PTA. My back started hurting a little so I walked/ran. At one point, my 7-year old asked if I could any faster and I answered, “No, I cannot, sweetie. Just go on without me.” And what do you know? The little monkey ended up winning first in the entire youth category (18 and under).

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In stark contrast, I did not feel like a winner. I was sore for a number of days and realized how far removed I’ve become from being a “runner.” 

And now the Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon is coming up on May 14. I ran this race last year. It’s hard for me to believe it now. A good friend and I decided we were going to run it, despite the fact that neither of us had ever ran a half marathon before. In fact, I’d never run more than 8 miles consecutively in my life, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to run a half marathon.

She and I are both pretty determined souls, so we decided to do it anyway. 

Running the half marathon was an experience I will never forget. We ran the entire 13.1 miles. I’m not saying we were fast, but we only walked through the water stations. Otherwise, we were hoofing it. 

So many components of the Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon were memorable. I loved running my first (and possibly only) half marathon in my own town. It was fun to see familiar faces waving and cheering all along the route. It was memorable running it with a friend. A shared memory is always more meaningful than a solitary memory. And seeing my two little boys cheer for their mommy as I crossed the finish line was the absolute best. 

I felt elated. Even though I was sore for at least a week and didn’t run again for quite some time, the feeling of accomplishment was indescribable. 

As I see the half marathon signs all over town, it makes me want to tie on my running shoes. It makes me want to hit the pavement and remember that feeling one only feels after a run. My back may not be 100 percent, but I need that feeling so badly. 

Little else compares to a true runner’s high. 

(Susanna Barbee is a writer who lives in Haywood County. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

The Gateway to the Smokies Half Marathon is at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 14. It begins on Waynesville’s Main Street and finishes in Frog Level.

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